How I Plotted #TheProject

So one of the big writing discussions is the pantsing versus plotting debate. Essentially, there is a debate between whether it’s better to discover what you’re writing as you write, to wander through the woods without a map, or if it’s better to track your progress, to plan your way though every nook and cranny. Personally, I see this as a spectrum. Personally, I believe that both of these are perfectly valid ways to approach writing. I used to be very much on the pantsing end, but I found that plotting worked much better for me.

So here, I will share with you how I personally go about plotting. The intention here is not to convince you to plot or to say it’s the right way to do it, I’m just showing you how I personally plotted through the Project โค


The Project grew out of an ideaโ€”superheroes–and although it was an alternate version of our world and not a secondary world, I did find that worldbuilding was entirely necessary. I focused on two main aspects: how do the superpowers work genetically speaking, and how do the entities that run the superhero programs function and find the people eligible. My novel aesthetics, which I was tagged to do on Twitter, is more related to worldbuilding than anything else:


I realized that I had to start with worldbuilding because I didn’t know how to proceed if I didn’t know why the characters were in the situation in which they were, how they had gotten there, or why they were doing what they were doing (or how they were doing what they were doing). I needed a world before I was able to populate it. The establishment existed before the specific people did.


I then spent NaNoWriMo developing the characters who lived in the world. Personally, I have to figure out the characters before I can make the plot work. I use a diamond-style character development form that I found online a few years ago (spine, supporting trait, fatal flaw, and shadow) as well as interviews for the characters to get to know them and begin to understand how their arcs will develop.

Plot / Structure

This is the part where things get a little complicated/detail-oriented. I started by figuring out what my inciting incident and my conflict are. These are the two things that drive the whole story for me.

Then, I start to figure out my outline using the 27-chapter, 9-block, 3-act structure that I found through Katytastic. Her video explanation, her explanation by example, and a blogger’s explanation are all great resources (and clickable, too!). I sometimes do this backwards, so I can see what must absolutely happen for the story to continue forth. If I have difficulties, I do a cause-and-effect outline instead, starting as early as I must to get the ball rolling.

Once I have this outline, I expand upon it through Scapple, which is a mind-mapping software by the people who made Scrivener. I shared this image a bit ago on Twitter, which is essentially when my piece ends up looking like once all the details are filled in:
Scapple OUtline
I also use this stage to strengthen the connections between individual events and to fill in detail-related plotholes where I am able. This is a very informal process and usually has some stream-of-consciousness notes involved, especially notes to self for foreshadowing possibilities.

And THEN… I do scene cards, which are index cards devoted to each separate scene in the entire thing. I shared a picture of the first 6 chapters on Twitter as well:
Scene Cards 1-6
On the blank side, I write a brief note to myself of what the scene is. On the back, I write three things: the purpose of the scene (does it introduce character, proof-of-concept, or a clue; does it develop the characters; does it move the plot forward?), the conflict (in my opinion, every scene should have a conflict, even if it’s really small), and the endpoint or resolution (essentially, in what state do the characters end up?).


And then I finally, finally get to start writing. Officially, the writing will begin next week if all goes well. I’ll keep you updated!

Thanks for reading!
I hope this was interesting for you~
Are you a pantser or a plotter or somewhere in-between?
What do you do to get know your characters?
Have you tried/used any of my strategies?


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30 thoughts on “How I Plotted #TheProject

  1. So cool! I’m not a fiction/novel writer myself, so I find all aspects of the process fascinating. I think I sometimes underestimate just how much work and research goes into creating the books that I love. Thanks for sharing your process!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, the pantsing vs. plotting struggle. I’ve done both, but editing turns into a nightmare with pantsing. I definitely prefer plotting. Your process is so involved and detailed! Wow, that word map kinda has my brain freaking out. I use the notecards method too and totally agree about having conflict throughout. Conflict drives the story and keeps the wheels turning.
    Looks like you’re in good shape. Thanks for sharing your method. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve noticed that pantsers edit and revise more than plotters usually do, though I imagine the total time spent on project is roughly the same. If it helps your brain, the word map was developed only after I had three separate, multi-page handwritten outlines figured xD

      With character comes conflict. With conflict comes plot. It took me a long time to learn that.


      • I feel like my motivation is much better when I plot first. When I do pantsing, the most exciting part is over the fastest (writing) and I’m backpedaling to fix all these things and end up rewriting most of the draft (or the entire draft) anyways.
        Oh wow handwritten outlines. That is no easy task, but I’m sure that helps get things in order for the word map. Sounds like your plot is quite complex. That’s great! I admire those who can make such an intricate plot. ๐Ÿ™‚
        Yes indeed. Also I’ve noticed while reading books that the passages I get bored during and want to skip are all free of conflict *gasp*

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s what I’ve been experiencing, too. I think it’s because I have a road map, or am building one, and so I can see progress and where I’m going.

          My handwritten outlines are not nearly as detailed as the scene cards–they’re by chapter and usually only a couple of bullet points, so they’re not painful to write. I am not the right person to ask about the complexity of the plot xD

          Yes. Cut the boring parts ๐Ÿ˜€ Or infuse them with conflict to make them /not/ boring.


          • That’s true. I like having a road map too, even if I stray from it a bit when I write. It’s easier to figure out scenes if you have a direction.

            Nothing wrong with bare-bones outlines. I type almost everything because I tend towards laziness. If I try to handwrite it all, I end up procrastinating.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Exactly. Now that I have all the scene cards set out, I feel so much more prepared to tackle the projec r and have it really come alive, too.

            I honestly don’t know how I managed to stay handwriting so much. It feels like an accomplishment. Maybe it was the drive to actually use the beautiful notebooks that I collect xD


          • I’m working on plotting for mine and most of it has been on my computer. But… I got these new pastel-colored notecards and I started using them to plot out scenes, color-coded by POV character, of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

          • It’s been working out well. Mostly I’m switching POV between two characters, but I’m using a third color for scenes which could be told from either POV. When I lay it all out in order, I should have a better idea of which POV to use for those parts. (Hopefully! Otherwise, I’ll just write it from both and see which I like more.)

            Liked by 1 person

  3. For years I thought I was a plotter, because I’m generally really organised and I can never just sit down and write without knowing where I’m going, but the more I write the more I realise I’m more of a pantser with a plan ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I started a new project last week, and before I began writing I had a general idea of my MC and her background, as well as the overall premise. That’s it. I know, for instance, that there is an external threat, but I still haven’t even worked out if it’s human. And I’m about 3k words in and my MC isn’t behaving at all as I had anticipated …

    Of course, when I get to revising and rewriting, THEN the index cards and plot maps come out. I kind of plan my second draft after having written enough to work out things like character and plot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve done that with essays I’ve had to write–taken the messy first draft and figuring out what I have before doing some surgery on it–but never with a novel. That sounds really intense!

      For me the big difference is that I would hit 3 or 5k in, and have no clue what do from there. Not having a plan made it really easy to just do something else. How do you push past that?


      • Yeah, uh, there’s a reason I’m on my eleventy-first draft of my high fantasy and it’s still not done ๐Ÿ˜› I mean, I’ve had a 2k-ish-word blog post sitting on my computer for the past week that is SO CLOSE to what I want to post but it needs work and I can’t quite figure it out. So, yeah, I hate revising, but it’s kind of a necessity of the way I write.

        I do sometimes get a few thousand words in and then get stuck, though I’m starting to find that either means the story isn’t ready in my mind yet (I’ll come back to it later after letting it marinate a while) or it’s fundamentally broken. I actually find when I try plotting that I get partway into the outline and don’t know what happens next; I need to write it in order to figure it out!


        • Have you considered asking someone to look at the unfinished blog post for you? A second pair of eyes might be able to help you figure it out :3

          That makes a lot of sense. I know part of my issue was not knowing the overall arc or conflict, which I think counts as fundamentally broken xD


          • Hmm, I might do that. I think I’m a little too proud to (I know, I know, critique partners and all), because it’s basically like all those essays I wrote at uni so I *should* be able to do it without help. Okay, maybe I’m just stubborn XD

            Yeah, the overall arc is generally one of the first things that comes to me, along with a general idea of the main character and his/her journey, so it usually gives me plenty to go on.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Heh, you’re right, it’s been over 4 years since I last wrote an academic essay XD I’ll give it another wee prod and if it’s still not working out I’ll ask someone to take a look at it.

            Out of curiosity, if you don’t know the general arc/conflict when you start, what DO you know? It’s such a fundamental part of starting a story for me that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around NOT having it XD

            Liked by 1 person

          • Best of luck ^^

            The lack of fundamentals is why I can’t continue xD I used to just start writing when I had an idea for a main character, or a cool way to do magic, or hey what if this saying came from that, or an opening scene or context I really want to write.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting process. I’m always interested to see how other people outline their novels. I’m currently trying out the Snowflake method. Heard a lot about it. But what has worked for me is generally a 75/25 method of pantsing (I think it’s funny they call it that lol) and outlining. I will create a basic outline, but it might not be complete. I generally like to know the ending though but that does not always happen. I do agree that you MUST do world building FIRST if that is required in your genre, but that’s not in the genre I write in so ‘shrugs’. I also agree that character building is important but I have discovered a lot of character building (for me) occurs as I write. They take on a life of their own. Is this method of 75/25 more effective? probably not LOL. Now the snowflake method is definitely not the way I am used to doing things. It’s kind of a wholeistic approach. You go from thinking about the novel/story as a whole, and then dig deeper, breaking it down as you go. interesting process so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting~ I can’t seem to develop a functioning conflict if I don’t understand the characters. I’ve tried and failed xD Therefore, although I find the snowflake method very interesting, because it jumps straight into the plot and conflict, I don’t think it would work for me.

      I figure if it works for you, it works for you, and matters of efficiency are entirely up to personal tastes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree completely. Many people use a variety of methods. Everyone works differently. We all wouldnt want a thousand of the same style MS anyway. I am trying something new. I think it’s always a learning process. Although I do love doing those long character worksheet things but sometimes I can’t answer all the questions until I’m in the thick of writing the story.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Is it working out for you so far? Or, are you at least learning interesting things from it? :3

          Character worksheets are a lot of fun. I’m tempted to do one of those now, actually. Maybe if I get stuck while writing/revising my story… -strokes chin-


          • Hmm well I’m using it to try and figure out what in the world I should do with an old YA action adventure MS I wrote a few years ago. I like the holistic approach it uses, where you think about the story’s big picture first. But really, I just started. I’m kinda just playing around with the method but I like being organized and my previous methods are so not organized soo I wanted to try something new. I think I lost a whole bunch of character sketches too for this YA MS. Probably on an old flash drive somewhere…But hey, I could keep you updated. Are you on twitter? Every method promises to be the best. Psh. The best method is your own combined method of your choosing IMO.

            Liked by 1 person

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