Journey to a Polished Manuscript: February – Structure, Plot Points and Story Beats (RewriteItClub)

Title in white in front of a wooden desk

Following on from last month’s post about my story’s premise and story focus, I’m back again with the February discussion from #RewriteItClub. If you want to know more about the year long project to delve into story, please click here. I’m still working on THE LANDS TOUCHED BY THE GRIFFINS’ WINGS (aka GRIFFINS for short)

As the title suggests, this month is all about the plot! To read the blog post all about plot, and the month’s assignment, please click here.

love plotting – I spend a fair bit of time on it and end up with a very detailed outline written on flashcards (following an adapted version of Susan Dennard’s method). For me, it’s an essential as I write multi-POV where the different story lines all entwine and political schemes abound. I need to know exactly how all the threads weave together, where they meet and exactly what all the plans are.

This month’s assignment is identifying seven major plot points and analysing them. Now, with multi-POV, there should be a set of seven for each POV. Some of these will be the overall book’s main beats. You may be relieved to hear that I am not going to go through them here, as that would take a lot of words!

Overall Structure

I start my plotting from concept, with an idea of where I want it to end up. Then I write out all my ideas on flashcards to work out what threads will make up the main story. I’ll develop them until each POV has a fleshed out story line and I know where the characters will intersect – I am to have them crossing throughout the book and ending together. It’s what engages me most as a reader. They also need to be unified in an overarching goal and theme.

This means I don’t plot to a structure. I’m not thinking “I need an inciting incident” or “there needs to be a dramatic midpoint”. Instead I retrospectively assign these names to different plot points. For GRIFFINS, as there are so many POV on diverging story threads, I’ve managed to spread these “beats” out, so that the meat of the story lines happen over different timescales. If everyone’s main story hit beats at the same point, I don’t think it would be as engaging, as the beats are supposed to act like hooks.

My plotting method also means I have to look back and work out where my act breaks fall, and I do this by working out the most natural ending points for each part. I have ended up with five parts, so it’s a five act book.

The same is true for major plot beats (it’s always fun to write a scene and then go oh, so this is where the darkest point comes, I guess). These are also important moments in the character’s development, so are often the places that need the most work. I find it easier to plot the external plot first and then fit in the character development once that’s secure. One day I’d like to write a book where I figure out the character work alongside the plot, but my brain prefers to do than the other at the moment.

How do you develop story ideas into a full plot? Is it easy to find the key plot points?

Read the other posts in this series:

2 thoughts on “Journey to a Polished Manuscript: February – Structure, Plot Points and Story Beats (RewriteItClub)

  1. I find I am most engaged in well-conceived plots. I love when everything just seamlessly falls into place. I am not a writer (not yet, at least), so I can’t comment on my process. But I loved reading about yours! Will try to catch up on previous posts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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