There are as many ways to plot a novel as there are, well, novels. Anyone who claims there’s one way to do it is lying, or very confused, or possibly selling you something. Fact is, once you have the premise the rest is just coming up with a reasonable series of steps that take you from the beginning to the end. Like life, a novel is just one goddamn thing after another.

Okay, okay, it’s a little more involved than that. How to work out a plot is one of the most common questions I get, which of course led to the whole concept of Plantsing (a hybrid approach combining the best bits of Plotting with the best bits of Pantsing), but sometimes you need to get a little more granular, and sometimes you have to just get nuts. Sometimes, for example, you get stuck. You’ve boxed yourself into a corner and can’t see the way to the next plot point. There are a lot of ways to handle this, but one I like to use from time to time is a lot fun: I hit the Insanity Button.

Pick-a-Path

You can look at your novel as a Choose Your Own Adventure, in a way; at the end of every chapter or sequence your characters are in a certain situation, and must make decisions that drive the plot. Now, in any scenario there will be decisions that could be classified as rational, and then there are decisions that could be classified as Pantsless Crazy. For example, if I’m sitting in a restaurant and I realize I’ve left my wallet at home, I can discretely call for the manager and work something out, or I can take off my pants and feign food poisoning, loudly threatening to sue.

Why do my pants have to come off in this scenario? If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

You can try this in your plotting, too. If you’re stuck, if you have your characters in a spot and can’t see how to move them forward it’s possible you’ve unknowingly restricted yourself to rational decisions. Consider something crazy. Something self-destructive. Unexpected. Irrational and maybe even inexplicable.

If it works, your plot will suddenly rush forward, pushed on by this crazy energy you’ve unleashed. It will take your story in directions you didn’t foresee. If nothing else, it might entertain you and divert your brain long enough for a more sensible solution.

If it doesn’t work, in my experience there is always heavy drinking. It will never let you down.

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