How do you plot your stories?

Once I have a character I like, I can progress into forming a story for them. Before I start this phase, I like to decide which genre they belong to, who my target audience is, and what length story it will be (flash fiction, short story, novella, novel). If I intend to plot out a full novel, the word count will depend on the audience. I like to aim for an average word count for the genre and audience as stated by several agents and editors online, for example, if I want to write a middle grade fantasy novel I will aim for around 50-60k words, whereas if I wanted to aim for young adult realism I might look more towards 80k words. Numerical targets are important to me when plotting my work. I like to decide how many words, how many chapters, how many words per chapter, etc. before I begin to plot the story itself.

Once I’m ready to start writing the story, I begin with a brief idea (maybe a few lines or a paragraph) of the plot. It could be something as simple as ‘X (character) wants to find the missing Y and leaves the safety of Z to adventure to find it’ – assuming I had decided on who ‘X’ was already and developed his character, and that it was going to be, say, a fantasy adventure for middle grade readers.

I then ‘snowball’ this into a synopsis with a strong, definite beginning, middle and end. From here, I can flesh out the synopsis into a chapter-by-chapter plan of the whole story. I need to know exactly where I’m going and where I want to end up before I begin the journey.

At this point, I finally begin to write.

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