Story Beats

It’s no secret that I have problems plotting a novel out. I attributed this to being the kind of writer who usually thinks in characters rather than story events.

Well, frankly, I’m tired of stalling on my projects/being a slow writer/not getting how to plot/or how to pace out a plot.

I mean, it’s weird. I recognize a plot when I’m reading. I can see the steps the story takes as the tension builds toward the climax. I’ve just always had a hard time replicating your basic plotting pyramid thing in a longer piece of writing (over 30, 000 words). I’m horrible at mathematics and I’m not strategically-brained; to some extent, plotting a novel and pacing it well is organization, applying a formula, a pattern, strategizing how and where things will happen.

For some reason, I feel like I flail around a lot while trying to plot.

Plot: definiton: the events that happen in your story.

First of all, I don’t think the plotting pyramid is accurate. You know the one. You’ve seen it in high school English class:

Freytag’s Dramatic Structure

If the climax happens in the middle of the novel, what am I reading the back half of the book for?

I prefer this one:

I’m outlining my next story–a novel–in order to head off my inevitable mid-manuscript meltdown and, hopefully, to help me skirt my Shitty First Draft process.

But as I was typing out abbreviated scenes in my outline and thinking about how to pace events (the plot) so that I could build to the high point of the story, I found myself a little lost on what needed to happen to get there.

I wasn’t sure which story beats I should have to build into plot points.

My story’s a romance, but romances really have two plots going on at once–one is the external plot (Hero and Heroine are on a road trip. Hero and Hero are in an army unit together fighting a war. Heroine and Heroine are detectives investigating a case.)

But to be a romance, there needs to be the internal plot–of the characters slowly but surely changing and falling in love in incremental steps.

But how to show those incremental steps when I’m sitting here looking at the above graph like, “Is this scene exposition or rising action? Does this scene have a point? How do I get these people from plot point A to plot point B?” was my quandry for a second.

Story beats, guys. And specific to romance–I raced through the very short Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes, which is already proving very helpful. I’m in the Act Two portion of the first story in my new series idea (I’ll tell you about the whole idea at a later time).

6 thoughts on “Story Beats

  1. I've never thought about how analytical skills help with plotting, but it makes sense. You know, I tried writing a paranormal romance a few years ago, and I ended up wrecking the paranormal side of the plot due to lackadaisical planning. Sounds like things are going well for the secret project! ^_^ I'm glad you found something to help you along.


  2. It can be hard to keep the right flow. After I totally missed this in a MS a few years ago, I turned to the Save the Cat beat sheet. I even have a hand-written large version hanging on my wall in my 'writing room' and break down each story accordingly to see if they kind of make the mark. Oh, not that I write my stories according to it…it's more of a guideline when I'm doing revisions to help notice any plotting stumbles and such. Some of us need all the help we can get ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Romacing the Beat mentioned Save the Cat actually! I want this story to be a solid outline before I start writing because there are three other stories after it taking place in the same \”world.\”


  4. Yeah, I'm finding the same flaws as you in that first graphic. The second one is much better!And I hear you on the romance + other plot challenge. If I ever come up with a really good solution to that, I'll let you know. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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