One of the biggest worries writers have is how much plotting they should do before they start writing.
I have followed plot outlines faithfully and they work. However, I am generally so anxious to start writing that I have been known to begin with only a simple idea or two.
However, all stories need main plots, secondary plots, and plot twists. Here is a great formula. It helps me remember when and where to include all those necessities. You don't have to follow it exactly--just use it as a great base.
CHAPTER ONE: Hero is introduced.
CHAPTER TWO: Villain and his evil plan are introduced. Hero expresses a concern, goal or value he feels is important and wonders how he will achieve it. This concern is seemingly unrelated to the plot but later becomes a key part of the story.
CHAPTER THREE: The villain and his plan are still followed. Hero faces a problem with a matter of heart. This matter of heart connection will continue through the story. It could be romantic or some other situation that pulls at his heart strings. Hero’s problem in chapter two appears resolved.
CHAPTER FOUR: The villain crosses paths with the hero for the first time, though the hero doesn't know it yet. A secondary plot line develops in this chapter and runs through most of the rest of the book. This secondary plot line involves a second character or problem.
CHAPTER FIVE: The hero faces an unexpected problem (plot twist) that casts doubt about the problem resolution discussed in chapter three. Stories with the matter of heart and the secondary plot continue.
CHAPTER SIX: The hero faces problems with the matter of heart and the unexpected problem started in chapter five continues. The secondary plot continues and now begins to directly involve the hero.
CHAPTER SEVEN: Hero solves chapter five's problem but still struggles with the matter of heart problem. In this chapter, a large plot twist develops that tells the hero his problems are bigger than he thought and something ‘evil’ is going on. Hero still does not know the villain. Secondary plot problems continue to grow.
CHAPTER EIGHT: Hero thinks he has solved the secondary plot problem as well as the ‘evil’ problem he discovered in chapter seven. He also enjoys resolution with his matter of heart. Things are fine until the end of this chapter when a new problem (plot twist) surfaces that brings the villain back in a new and more dangerous way. This plot twist also combines both the main and secondary plots into one big problem.
CHAPTER NINE: The hero is shocked to discover the villain and focuses on conquering the him and the big problem that developed at the end of chapter eight. Hero neglects the matter of heart.
CHAPTER TEN: The hero continues his quest to conquer the problem and the evil villain. Danger from the villain increases.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Hero appears to get the upper hand and resolves the problem; but this short-term-victory only slows the villain and does not stop him.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Disaster occurs which threatens the matter of heart. This disaster can be orchestrated by the villain or by natural events.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The hero is distracted from the villain and more concerned about the matter of heart. This distraction gives the villain an edge on the hero.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Because the villain is angry at the hero's interference, the villain’s quest to destroy the hero becomes 'personal'.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The villain starts to systematically destroy everything of value to the hero.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: After suffering an initial wave of losses, the hero re-evaluates his priorities and decides the matter of heart and his personal goal or value (mentioned in chapter two) are the most important. The hero is ready to walk away from the conflict and give up the smaller priorities.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: The villain orchestrates a major disaster that threatens both the matter of heart and the hero's main goal or value.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: The hero must decide between the matter of heart or his goal. The hero chooses the matter of heart and works to save the matter of heart.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: With the matter of heart safe, the hero realizes he can no longer walk away from the conflict. To honor and protect his values and the matter of heart in the future, the hero must now face the villain personally.
CHAPTER TWENTY: Things go physically wrong for the hero and it appears he has lost. The hero makes a sacrificial decision which gives the villain victory. A surprising twist units the hero with the matter of heart or his main goal and value. Using the strength that comes from that union, the hero is able to bring down the villain and win.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: All problems are resolved. The hero is reunited with the matter of heart, knows he has protected his main goal or value, and the book ends with the hint of 'more' coming for the hero. This ‘more’ can be more matter of heart or more danger. You decide!
Good luck this summer!