Organizing Your Plot Structure

Flowcharts
Another great tool for organizing your plot is through flowcharts. Some scenes can really make you stumble. You can’t decide exactly what the outcome will be and that can really hang a writer up.

Flowcharts not only help you organize your entire plot, you can also create alternate outcomes to see how that would affect the overall story. You can then evaluate the flow of the story based on both scenarios.

Using the same scene in the previous example, a flowchart with several possible outcomes might look like this.

This flowchart was designed using SmartDraw flowchart software. The company offers a free, 30-day trial version of the complete software package.

Download the 239-page manual if you want. But this flowchart software is extremely easy to use without it. You’ll be up and running in a matter of minutes. In addition, SmartDraw is also equipped to make forms, timelines, maps and floor plans you can use for your writing venture.

There are a wide variety of shapes, colors and fonts available within the software. And when you’re ready, you can even print your flowchart.

If you want to keep the software after 30 days, you’ll have to order a copy from SmartDraw’s Web site. The manufacturer used to offer the software for $49 but the latest edition, as of this writing, will cost around $200 USD.

¬†Patton & Patton Software Corporation offers flowchart software as well. A free, 30-day trial version is also offered for this software, known as Flowcharting PDQ. If you want to buy it after that, you’ll have to part with about $150 USD.

Writing Software
Whether you enjoy writing on your computer or prefer the connection of pen to paper, writing software can be a valuable asset. Most programs allow you to print out your work so you’re not bound to your computer if you don’t want to be.

Take Writer’s Blocks software, for instance. Authors like Wes Craven and William Diehl use this package.

The program works in a similar fashion to index cards and even flowcharting. You can give “blocks” different colors and type your scene information or other important notes. If you want to move them around, just cut and paste them wherever you want in the story.

Highlight blocks that pertain to each other and you’ll be able to analyze the structure and pacing of your story. Visually linking related scenes is also an advantage of using Writer’s Blocks.

A free, 30-day trial is also available for this software so you can evaluate the product risk free. If you decide you’d like to keep Writer’s Blocks on your computer, you’ll pay about $150 USD for the actual software.

Say you’re typing along and you suddenly realize your main character is actually a cold-hearted womanizer. Rough Draft allows you to type notes right in the margin. When you come back for revisions, there’s your reminder to draw out those character traits in your writing.

This software is completely free and works wonderfully for every type of writer. Special modes are available to accommodate novelists, screenwriters and playwrights.

When you’re ready to submit your manuscript, this software will generate a cover page with word and page counts for added convenience.

Say you’re typing along and you suddenly realize your main character is actually a cold-hearted womanizer. Rough Draft allows you to type notes right in the margin. When you come back for revisions, there’s your reminder to draw out those character traits in your writing.

This software is completely free and works wonderfully for every type of writer. Special modes are available to accommodate novelists, screenwriters and playwrights.

When you’re ready to submit your manuscript, this software will generate a cover page with word and page counts for added convenience.

Complete screenshots and download information are available from software creator Richard Salsbury’s Web site.

ScriptPerfection Enterprises offers a really unique writing software package called Power Structure. Examine your story/theme view as well as an interesting view of your characters. Characteristics like desires, goals, faults and physical traits are just a few of the areas to help flesh out your cast.

See how conflict is moving along throughout your plot using Power Structure‘s graphical interpretation. Watch how the conflict you’ve injected evolves, peaks and is resolved.

Download the free trial version to test drive this package. All of the same features of the $199 Power Structure are available with the exception of the thesaurus and limitations on file size.

Part 3 of this special series takes a look at the paper factor. Sharpen your pencils and get ready to see a completely new resource of organizational tools.

Your Computer
Hard drives are packed with more gigabytes of storage than most of us will ever need. So use your computer to organize your story.

Create new folders for each chapter. Just like you would do with paper folders. Place all of your computer files relating to that chapter in its respective folder.

CAUTION – A word to the wise
Back up every single file or print out a hard copy as you go.

CD-writers are very affordable and you can take your CD anywhere you are for convenience. Of course, you can look at files on your CD from any computer with a CD-Rom drive. But if you’re altering the file, you won’t be able to save the new version on your CD unless the computer has a CD-Writer.

Zip drives are highly recommended for quick storage of all sorts of files. The price has come down considerably since it was first introduced. Most zip drives have more than enough for your entire novel.

Flash drives
are super-portable and are even offered inside pens now. They’re also very affordable so you can take your novel with you anywhere you go. When you’re ready to work on your novel, put your flash drive into your USB port and there are all your writing files.

Organization doesn’t have to stop your story before it even gets started. Adapt any of these methods to your own personal needs and you’re well on your way to completing the next bestseller.