And I’ve noticed that there is something missing on the plotting side of the discussion.
I’m an unabashed plotter. I need to have a pretty good grasp of what I’m going to write long before I write it. I regularly spend more time in the planning process than I do writing the first draft
But here’s the thing: plotting for the sake of plotting is all well and good, but if you’re not plotting to a structure, I’m not sure what benefit you’re gaining.
And no, plotting to a structure does not make a story formulaic. There are rules to story telling. We humans expect a certain structure, a certain beat, a certain rhythm. We instinctively know what feels right, and what doesn’t.
This holds true for any genre.
It may be that this “instinctive” feel may well be the result of decades of brainwashing, but the simple fact remains – miss the structure and you’ll have a story that doesn’t “fell right”.
And here’s the best part (if you’re a beginning writer): the structure is straight forward. An introduction. A plot point at the 20% – 25% mark that sets your hero on their journey, the core essence of the story. This can be something as overt as a cop discovering his prime witness pointed out a fellow cop as a killer (Witness) to something a lot more subtle, like Summer hesitating before expressing her love for Tom ((500) Days of summer).
A middle point, which one of my writer friends calls the “OMG point” because, when done well, it reveals something that makes the reader got “OMG” (OMD in France). A new piece of information, a parting of curtains letting our hero see the true story.
An all is lost point near the 75% mark where the hero appears to be defeated. (For some inexplicable reason, Hollywood stage these “all is lost” moments in either fire or flood.)
Then, at about the 75% mark the final clue/tip/reveal that proves to be the final piece of the puzzle for our hero. He and/or she knows what is required of them (the reader may not have a clue, yet) and it’s just a matter of time and perseverance for the hero to succeed, battle obstacle along the way.
This is a simplistic view, but it is still a ton more than no structure at all. And I guarantee you that even if this is all the structure you follow, if you do it properly you’ll end up with a much better story.
More detail, and links to even more can be unearthed here.
Happy writing. And make the time you spend plotting count.