Ten Tenets of Novel Writing: Plot

A series looking at the ten different principles that go into writing a good book. This essay discusses plot.

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There are many elements that go into making a book and each have their own subtleties and intricacies that, when worked on properly, can turn an idea to a fantastic book. All writers will have their own principles which are fundamental to the way they write, or tenets. Throughout this series, I’m going to share my own ten tenets of novel writing. This first essay is going to be looking at my first tenet: plot.

Plot is like a river running through your novel. It’s always there, but sometimes it might not be the main focus. You may even meander off somewhere, perhaps onto a small stream, but you’re never too far away from the river and you will always return to it.

A good plot can be summed up in a single sentence. A family move into a haunted, deserted hotel for the winter. A convict gets drawn into a war between the old gods and the new gods of America. A journalist interviews a vampire. A detective goes on a train journey and a passenger is murdered. A teenager is sent into a fight to the death on live television. This is important because, ultimately, you are summing up the key point of your story. If you can’t condense that down into a single sentence, or two or three at a push, then one of two things are happening, generally. Firstly, you may not have a very good understanding of what the key point of your plot is. If you don’t fully understand it then the reader definitely isn’t going to and it will lead to a messy and confused book that lacks focus. Secondly, your plot might be too complicated. That’s never a good thing. You can have a complex story, but the key point of it—the basic plot—cannot be complicated.

There are different ways that you can go about developing your plot. Some people like to spend a large amount of time before they write anything, working out every intricate little detail; others, like me, like to start with that central idea and see where that leads. Whichever way you choose to construct your plot is fine, as long as it remains central throughout the entire book.

Your plot is one of the most important parts of your book. It’s the bedrock from which everything else in the book grows. Fortunately, it isn’t actually that difficult to come up with a good plot. Turning it into a good book is much harder, but it becomes a lot easier if you have a solid understanding of your central point—your plot.


Next: Characters

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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