From Hardcore Panster to Chapter-Outline Plotter
So, this follows my evolution from a seriously pantser (discovery writer) to a beat-sheet lovin’, chapter-outline plotter. First, let, me clarify that I don’t believe this is the best way to plot. There is no such thing. All writers must find their own way, and this is mine.
It all started with Dan Wells’ seven-point story structure, which is detailed in a YouTube series as well as plotted on a standard beat-sheet (links below):
After I got a taste of plotting, I realized I could use even more structure than the 7-Point plotting system. Enter, Save the Cat. Based on the book by Blake Snyder. This beat sheet is designed for screenwriters, but works for novelists as well. I applied it the first time following the drafting of a novel, so it worked as a revision tool.
Streamlining my efforts, I decided to create a beat sheet containing plot points I valued from both methods, since neither was accomplishing what I needed. I used my own Frankenstein worksheet that I fondly refer to as the Dan Cat Beat Sheet to plot my fourth novel which was ultimately submitted to my editor for approval.
Interestingly, when that same editor sent me my first edit letter, it was based on the 3-Act Story Structure, which is generally broken down as follows:
- ACT 1: Setup
- ACT 2: Confrontation
- ACT 3: Resolution
Twice I’ve used plotting resources to revise my novels, proving that many of these tools can be used throughout the entire writing process.
My Most Recent Plotting Experience
First, I brainstormed (a bright and shiny idea that had been percolating for MONTHS!). This is best demonstrated in the follow photo essay:
Working from my brainstorming efforts, I plotted the novel using my Frankenstein Dan Cat Beat Sheet, and then, because I was excited to drill down to more detail, I created a chapter outline.
Other Plotting Resources
This whole idea of creating your own Frankenstein Beat Sheets only works if you browse different methods and find those that work best for you. Here are a few resources you might be interested in:
- Hero’s Journey
- Snowflake Method and condensed sheet
- Michael Hague’s 6-Stage Plot Structure
- James Scott Bell’s Writing from the Middle, book and interview
- The Beat Sheet Calculator
- Cool Beat Sheet Resources (including excel spreadsheet)