Plotting in a Circle

Some people are organized, detailed and methodical with plotting out their stories.

Others, like me, are not.

That's why I found this plotting tool so very helpful. It allows freedom for the story to take different turns and twists, all while keeping a strong structure. I found this on Karen Harbaugh's site a long time ago (the article about story structure).

Basically, there should be four major decisions that happen in your book. The first two lead up to the third, which brings about the black moment (or the climax). The fourth decision leads to the resolution (or the HEA).

I actually draw a circle, just like Karen recommends, and mark the four points and what my character's projected decisions may be. Karen's article is great and I really encourage you to read it, especially if the middle of your book seems to fall flat or get boring.

How do you outline your stories?


Kristen Painter said…
I don't outline. I'm a pantser. Outlining scares me.
For the most part I don't outline either. I've heard of people doing plotting boards, ugh! That makes my brain fizzle.
Anonymous said…
Hey Jessie, thanks for the link to the great article! I'm going to have to try that circle method.

I usually plot by just writing out the skeleton of my story ... most often a two page write up. But this is very loose plotting, and lots of kinks still have to be worked out in the actual process of writing, which means going back to the beginning and middle when I've reached the end and strengthening my foreshadowing and tightening conflicts, etc...

I'm part pantster and plotter. I guess you could call me a literary mutt. :-)
I'm not an outliner, so this is great! I've drawn the circle and made the appropriate notes in my notebook. Thanks, Jessica!
I TRY to bring structure to my writing, by my brain won't work like that - I've just learned to be the kind of writer I am - just let those thoughts come out of a black hole somewhere....

thanks for stopping by the eazy cheezy site and commenting *smiling*
Anonymous said…
I'm definitely an outliner. I always get ideas ahead of the point where I'm at in my story and have to write it out.

Generally I start out with a very basic summary, then before I start writing I compile a rough chapter outline. It's generally little tidbits and not everything that happens in the chapter. Also, I find that they are very loose guidelines, for many times events change or are added/deleted when I'm actually writing the chapter. But it helps me keep my thoughts moderately organized, even if it changes from what I had originally (I'll at least know the direction the story is going).

It's funny because this is probably the only aspect of my life I'm moderately organized in--my office and my house is pretty disorganized and often looks like a tornado came through.
LOL Anita. Literary mutt is a great term. That's cool how you can write up the general idea. You probably don't need the circle method since your main points are mostly likely covered in the write up.
Janna, I'm glad it helped you. It sure did me.
Kathryn, I loved reading your interview. You have such a strong voice!
I guess we're opposites Dara! LOL My house is pretty organized, neat and spare. My writing... not so much.
Your method sounds pretty cool. I'd bet you'd be interested in doing a plotting board. There's an article somewhere in the Seeker archives.
So far I've always been a panster with just a general outline in my head. But I've got to say, I'm really wishing I did some major planning ahead for some of my stories. Way to many rewrites are required.
I'm not an outliner. My story usually happens like a fast forward movie. I'll jot down a few notes, but my characters lead me where they want me to go and most of the time my stories end up like the original fast forward movie!
Eileen, I'm with you. Well, I wish I could do an outline, but I really am not good at it and don't enjoy it at all. Like you, my stories require extensive rewrites. Grrr...
A fast pace sounds good to me! :-)
Sarah said…
Great tool! I'm a pantser, but it's worth a shot!
Hi Jess -

I'm a pantser, but wish I could outline at least part of a story. I think it might be nice to know where I'm headed. LOL!

Susan :)
colbymarshall said…
I usually have a very loose outline, just know certain scenes I'm going for, but for the most part, it's organic for me.
Sarah, it's a great tool. I don't really plan things out too far, but it helps me to know at certain page numbers that my character needs to make some sort of big decision. And it's great for leading up to the black moment.
Susan, I took Camy Tang's synopsis class. It was both phenomenal and torture. I actually had to make a synopsis for a wip that I'd just started. Ugh! It was so hard, but in the end, it did help me know where I was going and made for a more focused plot. :-) Not everyone can plot ahead, but if you can, you'll be better off (I think).
Hi Colby,
I know what you mean. Most of the time I know the beginning chapter, what the character's conflicts are, and sometimes I see the black moment and resolution scenes. Otherwise, the rest is a dark and twisty path. LOL
Thanks for stopping by!
Jessie Oliveros said…
The last book I outlined refused to be written. Although I know the general plot of my current project, I am letting myself discover the details as I write. Being more random in my writing method this time, I'm anticipating major rewrites when I'm finished.
Hi Angie and Jessie,
Thanks for coming by.

Jessie, that's interesting and one of the reasons I don't like to outline. It takes the fun out of learning what happens next.
Hope you're pleasantly surprised with you wip and have no major rewrites. :-)
Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog!

Good luck with your book!
Rita Gerlach said…
I don't outline either. But I do have a three-ringed binder that I hand write scenes, notes, etc. into.
This helps me more than anything I've tried. I have an article on Stepping Stones Magazine about Rapid Writing that you might find interesting.
Anonymous said…

Hi I'm Jessica. :-)

I noticed your comment on Amy Deardon's blog, so I thought I'd see what you were talking about over here.

I outline, character sketch, write on the fly, map the scene out in my mind first...basically anything it takes to get to the end product. I stop revising when everything "feels" right...
You know, I actually have a notebook too. Don't write much in it except at the beginning, like my blurb, conflict, etc. If I think of it. I don't just sit down and try to think it up though. It has to be brewing already. :-)
Thanks for stopping by! I imagine you must be pretty busy right now!
Hi Jessica,
You've hit it on the nose (sorry for the cliche). Anyways, your way is what counts. Whatever helps finish the story and make it the best it can be. Interesting though, that you can do all that. You must be a literary mutt like Anita. LOL

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