Tips for Plotting Your Novel - Part 1: Percolate Your Ideas

Fiction authors are often asked, “How do you come up with your novel plots? Where do you find these ideas?” As a Canadian suspense author, I am often asked these questions, and my answers will usually include something about letting ideas percolate and ferment.

I know―it sounds like I’m brewing coffee and making homemade wine, but in reality I’m creating what I hope will be a fast-paced suspense novel that will be enjoyed by readers worldwide. I think that percolating a novel plot is the perfect way to describe how my mind processes information that will eventually end up in a novel.

What do you think of when you see the word PERCOLATE? Do you picture a stove-top percolator brewing some strong coffee? That’s how I think of writing a novel. Basically the percolation method in relation to writing means that I will think on an idea until it begins to take hold. Then I’ll think about other ideas and just allow the ideas to bubble to the surface, until I have the skeleton of my novel plot.

Most often I’m thinking of everything from the perpetrator’s mind. How does he commit his crimes? Who are his victims? Why does he choose them? What’s his motive? Who else might be a suspect? How can I mislead my audience? How does he finally get caught?

After I have the percolating part, I’ll make just a few notes. I’ll open a file on my computer and write a prologue or first chapter. Once I start thinking of the basis for the novel, I’ll almost always have a scene come to mind that usually throws the reader into some kind of action. I like doing that; throwing you into something unexpected in the first few pages.

Not every writer will plot a novel like I do. Many will use an outline; they’ll often write it out first, thinking of ideas as they go. Some authors won’t start writing until they have a completed outline. I’ve tried working this way, but it doesn’t work for me. So I use the percolation method.

As you think about the novel you want to write, ask yourself: who is the story is really about and what is the story about (in 30 words or less)? Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details yet. That’s what fermenting is for. You can read about that in Part 2.

©2008 Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Author:.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a Canadian suspense author who draws on personal experiences (either her own or others) to tackle sensitive questions and terrifying scenarios. She is also an energetic and motivational speaker at writers' conferences, presenting often on the topics of "shameless" promotion and book marketing, in particular online marketing. She has appeared on television and radio, and in newspapers and magazines in Canada and the US, and online. Visit Cheryl's website at: http://www.chery...

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