I know, I already listed my favorite writing books. But I recently went through and sorted my craft books for my own purposes, so I thought maybe it was time to update my list. So here are my favorite writing books that are about (or partly about) plotting and outlining.
First, my absolute favorites.
The Last Fifty Pages: The Art and Craft of Unforgettable Endings, by James Scott Bell. Okay, so it only talks about plotting the END of the book, but it’s a great book for that. I mean, great!
The Heroine’s Journey, by Gail Carriger. I used to really struggle to fit my stories into the Hero’s Journey plot points, and I thought maybe I was just too stupid to figure out. Then I read this book and discovered that I was using the wrong plot structure. I write heroine’s journeys (which can be used for male or female characters). Ta da! Problem solved! If you only write Hero’s Journey stories, don’t worry about this one (though it’s fascinating).
Next, we have a bunch of actual plotting methods.
Building Better Plots, by Robert Kernen
The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, by Noah Lukeman
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland.
Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction, by Larry Brooks
Story Pitch: The How To Guide For Using A Pitch To Create Your Story, by Scott King. Create a plot from a 30-second summary.
Plotting Your Novel, by Janice Hardy.
Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, by James Scott Bell. If you don’t feel like a plotter but think outlining would improve your story or writing speed, try this one. It starts with just three plot points–beginning, middle, and end–and tells you how to write from there.
And then some ways to improve your plotting method, or other “side” information that isn’t necessarily strict structure.
Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan. A glimpse into the mind of a writer as he plots and writes an actual book. (If you haven’t read the book, I suggest doing that first, since this has major spoilers.) I discovered that my plotting PROCESS is pretty similar to Sullivan’s, so this book was a comforting revelation to me.
Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, by Brandon Sanderson et al. Like Dulgath, this is a glimpse into the process of writing & revision.
The Fantasy Fiction Formula, by Deborah Chester. So many tips on how to make your plot have the effect on readers that you want it to.
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon. It really helps set up the conflict that will run your plot.
Understanding Conflict and What it Really Means, by Janice Hardy. Like GMC, it helps you make your plot beats more effective, but it works with any plot structure.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes, by Donald Maass. Like Fantasy Fiction Formula and GMC, this can improve the effect of your plot on your readers.
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, by Ursula K. LeGuin. How to get structure to work for you.
Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward. How to use plotting to increase your writing speed.
The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, by Matt Bird. General story tips to improve your favorite plotting method.
How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat
Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson
What’s your favorite plotting book or method?
Marty C. Lee
© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.