So… as many of you know… I’m a writer. Within the writing world, I’m what’s known as a “pantser”, meaning, I’m not big on plotting out an entire story before I write it. I’ve tried it that way and have lost all the excitment of putting fresh words and ideas onto the page.

There was one method I truly enjoyed, though, and that was the storyboard. I’d taken an online workshop with Shelley Bradley and it was amazing. You can be an avid plotter or a simple pantser and still use her method. What it does is organize your thoughts. As they come to you, you jot them down in as much or as little detail as you want (on a post-it) then slap them onto the storyboard in the spot you think they will fit. Of course, there is more to it than that, but after a while, it seems that easy. It’s also fun to see the post-it’s pile up. They’re color-coded, too, so that makes it a super visual tool.

Here’s one of my completed storyboards – ain’t it purdy? 🙂


Another exciting method I learned, use and highly recommend, is the W-Plot. What an amazing tool. Karen Docter gives that workshop, and I can’t say enough about it. Basically what it does is help outline (don’t shudder at that word, it’s not really an “outline” but more like a “highlight” of…) your plot using only nine major plot points for each main character. It’s much easier than I’m probably making it sound, and it is so very worth it.

A finished W might look intimidating at first (even second and third) glance… BUT… I can’t stress enough how simple it truly is. Of course, it forces you to think, but the panster in me stuck around for the entire process without one fainting spell. Truth!

Now, prepare yourself…

Here’s what a finished W looks like with all the plot points (36 total – 9 for the Hero, 9 for the Heroine, 9 for the Villain and 9 for the romance) highlighted in a different color.

Completed W-Plot

See how each plot point in it’s proper place makes the story flow?

If you have the opportunity to take either or both of these classes, I HIGHLY recommend them. Of course, I’m a workshop junkie, so there are many more workshops I can tell you about. Until then… check these out and tell me what you think.

What about workshops you’ve taken? Which ones do you have safely tucked into your writer’s toolbox?

9 Responses to Plotting

  • Wow. I’m impressed. I am going to take Karen’s W plot thing in April and am really looking forward to it. One of the best workshops I’ve taken recently was by Connie Flynn on the Fatal Flaw and the Shadow. It was really great for helping me figure out what my character needed for his growth in a story.

    Another good one I took a long time ago (at least it seems a long time ago) was Tips From Madison Avenue:The Selling Synopsis by Laurie Schnelby Campbell.


  • Oh! Laurie is one of my FAVORITE workshop instructors. She’s just fantastic. So is Mary Buckham and I can’t even recall how many of her workshops I’ve taken, there have been so many. I did send her my synopsis for her one-on-one workshop. It was phenomenal. A link to her website is on my homepage – – if anyone is interested.

  • Debora, thank you for sharing your methods for plotting. I use Diane Pershing’s Three Act Play method with the Dark Moment just before the conclusion. However, I’m open to new ideas. I learned that if I don’t know where the story is headed, it will wind all over. Now I write tight.

  • Debora-
    I am a new writer so I haven’t really taken any workshops but I have several books that I have studied. Basically I write a scene by scene outline with points I need to hit to move the story along. Then I write the synopsis to help me work out any holes/gliches. I am a half pantser and half plotter. I am also a jotter, I have note pads that I use to organize everything from characters attributes to locations.
    I am very intrigued by the post-its but I have to say while the W looks cool-it looks like a LOT of work to me.
    I know some writers who love to research, I only do as much as I have to to get what I need. See, I’m not much for giving myself MORE work. I will check out Shelley Bradley’s workshop, it sounds like it’s right up my alley.

  • Kathleen, since you’re open to new ideas, I HIGHLY recommend the two workshops I talked about. If you have to choose only one, I’d go for… hmm… they’re both excellent, it’s hard to decide… I suppose the W-Plot. It’s a fantastic tool that kept me wanting to write even after I’d filled it all in. The excitement was still there because the plotting part wasn’t overdone. As a pantser, that’s vital. The storyboard can also be done minimally, but the W-Plot is about plot points rather than full scenes. I’d love to know what you think about the class if you take it… or another (says the workshop junkie. 🙂 )

  • BETH! Don’t let my picture of the W-Plot scare you. It might look like a lot of work, but it truly isn’t.

    Each of the notes you see are simple plot points for the characters, nothing involved.

    There are nine plot points for the Hero – starting from the moment he recognizes his story goal, following him as he’s tortured by you, the author, and then finally given his hard-earned happily-ever-after.

    The same flow goes for the Heroine. Just nine plot points and they can be as simple as… “she looses everything”. No detail necessary, just an idea of the ups and downs of their throughlines (ups and downs like the lines of a capital letter “W”, hence the name, W-Plot).

    There are also 9 plot points for the villain and, in the case of romance, 9 plot points showing the growing attraction and conflict between hero and heroine as lovers (or lovers-to-be).

    I think I should post another blog about the W-plot. I’d hate to scare anyone away from it. It’s THAT good and too good to miss.

  • I’m really into organizing and plotting. So, I think this workshop would be right up my alley. But….that W-Plot does look scary.

  • When I first saw the W I couldn’t figure out how to get 9 points out of the letter. Then I saw the two straight lines on the tops and it made more sense to me. I like seeing the points in color for each of your 4 plot lines. Stepping away from the board it is easy to see that you are tending to each plot line regularly and not forgetting someone along the way. Great idea!

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