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  • Holly Brunnbauer

How to plan a novel: Part 2 - Plot

Ploughing through your story without a clue where it's heading?

If that works for you, great. Keep going.

It doesn't for me.

I winged my first novel and paid dearly during editing. I swore never again.

Since that painful experience, I now spend an entire month planning my novel.

There's a myth floating about that if you know how your story ends, it's boring to write. Not true. Well, not for me. The real magic happens on the page, not in spreadsheets. It's orgasmic to see it all come together.

Ready to give planning a whirl?

First things first, have you read Part 1 - Character? Go on, I'll wait.

How to plan a novel: Part 1 - Character


Genre isn't just a category your novel sits under, it's a promise to your reader.

If you're claiming your story is horror, scare them. If it's romance, sweep them off their feet. Because if you don't, you'll hear about it on Badreads.

Genre (and sub-genres) help set reader expectations. Failing to deliver on the genre promise, is false advertising.

Before plotting, figure out your genre and find out what beats you need to hit.

Example: As a rom-com reader, I expect:

  • Meet-cute - The love interests usually meet in a fun/quirky way in the opening chapters. If they haven't by chapter three, I get twitchy.

  • The third-act breakup - Destroy me emotionally and make me believe all is lost.

  • Happy ending - The no. 1 rule of romance, the love interests end up together. If they don't, heads are gonna roll.


Characters are the people in your story and plots are the events.

When it comes to storytelling, events follow a particular order. Key moments are supposed to happen at certain times and in specific ways. Yes, you can play with this (there are no rules), but it's a good baseline to start with and return to when your story is off and you can't work out why.

There are many different plot structures to help you work out your sequence of events. Some are also genre-specific.

I tend to find plot structures are like shoes; always try them on before you purchase. If one's a bit tight or too loose, keep going until you find the perfect pair.

My go-to's are:


Romancing the Beat (Gwen Hayes)


Novel Plotting Academy (The Plottery)

Story Fundamentals (Libby M Iriks - Romance Book Coach)

Blog posts

What I love most about this step, I can see the plot holes before I start. Instead of wasting time writing/rewriting, I fix them. Much easier to do this in my little spreadsheet than a full manuscript.


Once I've got my plot structure nailed, scenes come to life in my head like a movie.

Some people write their scenes on cue cards, then stick them on a wall like they're leading a criminal investigation. Seems fun, but doesn't work for me. I'm a spreadsheet kinda gal.

My scene list includes:

Title - No need to get fancy. Keep it brief (e.g. The First Kiss)

Location - Where it takes place. (e.g. Swanky bar)

Date - Previously, I didn't do this and then kicked myself when it took nearly 3 hrs to work out my timeline.

Description - This might surprise you, but I don't go into detail here. Just a few lines that sum up what'll happen. When I sit down to write the first draft, that's when I get into the nitty gritty.


By publishing basics, I'm referring to:

  • Synopsis

  • Blurb

  • One-line pitch

Whether you plan to self-publish or take the traditional route, having the basics prepared before you start writing, can help you understand your story better. Also, future you, will LOVE that it's all ready to go once you've finished your novel.

Resource recommendations:


Simply Synopsis (Michelle Somers)


Book Blurb Magic (Jessie Cunniffe)

P.S. I'm yet to find a person who enjoys writing a synopsis or can easily sum up their story in one sentence.


You now have the tools to get that story you've been dying to write, out of your head. All the best.

If you found this useful, share it far & wide in your newsletter or link to it on socials and tag me (@hollybrunnbauer) so I can thank you.



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