How to Map Your Plot

Lissywrites/ January 13, 2014/ Uncategorized/ 0 comments

As we all know, I’m a huge proponent of outlines, lists, etc. including during the writing process. As such, I thought it would be cool to take it one step further and let you all in on a new process a friend of mine has for mapping out her stories.

Unlike me, she is a pantser, one who couldn’t give a crap about lists, especially when it comes to writing. She finds them stifling to the process, and would rather be shackled and chained than to be stifled by a list of plot points. However, she is like me in that she craves organization in her stories, and she’s actually quite good at keeping everything in line as she writes. As such, I asked her how she did it, and this is the “list” she gave me.

  • Write the chapter first
    Despite my need for outlines prior to writing, she demands letting creativity take its course however the characters see fit. Write it out chapter-by-chapter and let the natural plot and characters lead you.
  • Once you’ve completed a chapter, write a short synopsis
    This would be a great time to use my notecard method, especially considering what will be done with the notecards afterward. Once you’ve completed a chapter, write a synopsis for that particular chapter. Mark down every important event, any new characters and any information pertaining to plot movement. Write it down on a notecard, then move on to the next chapter. Do the same for every subsequent chapter.
  • Every time you finish a synopsis, tack it on the wall
    Wherever you do your writing, or if you have a place you come back to, to write your synopsis, go to that place and stick your notecards somewhere they are in plain sight. That way, you’ll have a visual representation of your book. Somewhat of a storyboard, if you will. This will help you visualize pace, plot devices, and major events you have going on and allow you to move forward in a way that follows the storyboard.
  • Use the storyboard for organization and plot editing
    Once you’ve finished writing the book, look at your synopsis wall. Maybe synopsis #2 (Chapter 2) would be better after synopsis #3 (Chapter 3), etc. It makes it much easier to just select notecards and move them about than digging through your document and deciding which should go where.

All-in-all, I think this is a great method for pantsers and planners alike. And while she didn’t want me to use her name, as modest and shy as she is, I will say that all these ideas came from her. I only take credit for my posting of them. Thank you so much, friend, and thank you so much reader for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps you just as much as it has helped me. Anything you see here that you’ve used before? Anything you plan on using? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.


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About lissywrites

As an avid writer and poet, Alyssa Hubbard explores the earthly and spectral talismans that carry us from life to death and back again through her work. As the darkness within makes its way from pen to paper, she finds room for more joyous activities, such as sampling new ice cream flavors, singing in public, and geeking out over the latest anime. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English, works in Digital Marketing, and has been writing (professionally) for 8 years. Her work has been featured in literary journals and magazines such as Adanna, The Coffin Bell, and many others.


  1. For a confirmed pantser like me, this could be a useful compromise. I might try it with my next book.

    1. Good luck! I hope it works for you. My friend seems to find it extremely helpful.

  2. I am a complete pantser as well, but I do something similar to this. After I have completed the story I put it in Scrivener. Scrivener has the note cars feature as well as a bunch of other tools. This allows me to break everything down by scenes and such for easier editing. At the same time I can move stuff around simply by moving note cards.

    1. While I love Scrivener, the notecard feature just isn’t big enough for me. Though a lot of people like to use it, I find the actual notecards work best for me visually.

      1. We all have different approaches when it comes to the story. I know for me, my eyes glaze over when someone mentions outlines. I have no idea how they work.

        Most times I am even surprised when I figure out the ending before it presents itself.

        1. I understand your feels. I, personally, can’t handle not knowing. It’s like a control thing, for me.

          I wish I could write with that natural and raw force, but I’d never get anything done. Just my own personal thing, I suppose.

  3. Great advice! I have always had an idea for a novel with a somewhat complex storyline, and this post gave me a good foothold to begin plotting/writing it! Thanks! 🙂

    1. Glad I could help! Good luck on the novel! 😀

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It’s been a great read and I will keep this all in mind during my writing process.

    All the best 🙂

    1. I hope it all works out! Good luck on your writing!

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