So, the days until NaNo are ticking away and in almost every spare moment I'm considering the plot I will soon be feverishly writing. This, of course, leads me to thoughts about the best ways to plot out a novel. I have a step by step process that I follow to try to get the most out of my plots and I thought I'd share it, and encourage y'all to do the same with your own plotting secrets. :D
1) I start with the main story. I outline all the events that absolutely have to take place for the story to go forward. These may be general, like “So and so finds out about such and such.” They’re just there to form the bones of the plot and give me something to flesh out.
2) I go through each character’s point of view, even when they’re not POV characters, looking at the story through their eyes. I figure out what they want out of this, how they’re most likely to go about getting it, and what lengths they’re willing to go through. This lets me add all of their stories to the bone structure, filling out the general features. These items are more specific, listing the place the characters are in as well as what they’re trying to accomplish.
3) Then I look for areas where these plot lines cross, when two of the characters are in the same place or want the same thing. I figure out how that conflict will affect the story and what it will lead to. How will they react if they see one another? Will the two characters fight it out? Will they pretend they’re there for something else? And which of them is going to get what they want?
4) Finally, I go through the plot chronologically and try to spot any gaps. Does this character not have anything to do for four chapters? Did I tie up all the sub-plots? Is there anything I started and winded up dropping? What are the “bad guys” doing while the MCs are running around doing X, Y and Z?
After all that, I’ve got a pretty filled out plot. I tweak it and move things around, trying out different configurations until I like what I’ve got. What about you?