Author Topic: How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)  (Read 1786 times)

The Masked Scrivener

How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)
« on: January 31, 2020, 05:59:03 AM »
I am a plotter. Through trial and error I developed a detailed outline system that helps me plot out my chapters. I combined the Hero's journey, Save the Cat, KM Weiland's Creating Character Arcs, and Dan Harmon story circle. It sounds like a mess, but it works. I plot 50-60 chapters and can just write out the words to tell me story.

Every time I try to plot out a short story/novella (10k-20k words) I end up with another 80k-150k novel. I need your help!

Do you write short stories/novellas and are a plotter? Can you share some advice on handling story structure with so few words?

My plan is to write a serial like the Green Mile by Stephan King, but based in an epic fantasy world. I would like to release a 10k-20k word book every month or so. Thank you in advance.

Ronn Munsterman

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Re: How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2020, 06:11:13 AM »
Perhaps you could plot the entire serial, or at least some large % of it. Then break it into your smaller separate serials, remembering to have a great hook or hanger at the end of each.

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Re: How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2020, 06:36:10 AM »
Story Circle and Hero's Journey both work fine for short stories, so they'll be fine at novelette length too.

(We'll ignore the concept that you're better off writing this as a novel or novel series from a financial standpoint and that you're taking this on for reasons other than optimizing financial success.)

One common problem for writing long is too many characters/POVs. There's a certain amount of groundwork that comes with extra characters or changing POVs. Limit each episode to a single character/POV and a plot arc for them.

From there, you budget yourself 5K words for each act with a 3 or 4 act structure. This should be plenty of words to get to each major plot point. (If it's not, you're not starting as close to the plot point as necessary. Cut or condense more of the setup to that point. Look at movies for examples as they hue very close to the kind of pacing you're after for novelettes and how every scene is compact and often does two things at once to move the narrative forward.)
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Re: How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 10:12:53 AM »
I'm a short story writer and a plotter. My trick is to start as close to the climax as possible.
Practice tight writing. Poetry. Make every word count.
Good luck!

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Re: How To Plot A Short Story/Novella (Need Help)
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2020, 04:09:03 PM »
I like to use Blake Snyder's Save The Cat beat sheets to plot a story. One of the things the spreadsheet does is breaks down the story into scenes and I have spots for eighty scenes in a full novel. If I were doing a short story, I would cut that down to 7-10 scenes.

Scene number one would be starting in the thick of the action. Don't go for some long set up to get the reader acclimated to the story. Let them figure out the story as it unfolds around them.

Place your main character right in the middle of the problem they are fighting, but within 2-4 scenes of coming to the conclusion. You don't have time for The Hero's Journey. You need to get right to the Storming Of The Castle.
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