Friday 18 September 2020

Planning Book 13 - A Bullet-Point Plot & Three-Act Structure


As I said last week in my 5 Point Pitch post, I'm a MASSIVE plotter. And that 5 Point Pitch is only the very beginning of my plotting. It forms the base of what is to come next:

  • a synopsis
  • a bullet-point plot
  • a detailed three-act structure

Last week, I used an example of the short pitch I created for The 12 Christmases of You & Me:

Once I have this, I expand the pitch into a synopsis: 
How does she travel back in time? 
What happens when she finds herself in the past?
How does her time-travelling affect her present? 
I expand on the history repeating itself and explain how she embraces living in the present, ending up with around a page of plot.

And then the real work begins.

With my synopsis, I start to divide the plot up into bullet points, expanding the bare bones into what will later become chapters and scenes. This is usually a sentence or two (or maybe a few more) of what is happening to move the plot along and filling in the gaps (using The 12 Christmases of You & Me as an example again, I will have mentioned Maisie's time-travel, but I won't have detailed each one). It'll be fleshed out during the first draft, so there's still plenty of room for creativity, and there will always be changes that will be made throughout that first draft. This bullet-point plot and the three-act structure that will follow (because yes, there's more planning to be done. I know lots of people don't plan at all, but this is how I roll and it works for me) isn't set in stone.

Once I have my bullet-point plan, I can start to divide it up into a three-act structure. I use Alexandra Sokoloff's Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors as a guide, but the main parts I'm looking for are the opening scene, the inciting incident, the midpoint, and the final battle.

Some people use a whiteboard or squillions of post-it notes to plot their structures, but I simply use an excel document, with tabs for each act. (I would love to do the post-it note thing, but I have limited space and I'm not sure a wall full of post-its would work in my living room.)

With the main plot points copied and pasted into my excel document, I can then transfer the rest of the bullet points into their relevant places, giving me an overall view of what each act - and the entire book - will look like. I'll expand even further at this point (I told you I'm a massive plotter) and then, finally, I'm ready to start writing...

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