Elements of Website Design For Authors

Web site design

The matter of website design; it all depends where you’re at. If you just started publishing short stories, a blog would be perfect for you and easy to create. Maybe you have ten best sellers out (congrats, you lucky bastard!). That means your author website must house different sales channels.

This article is only a superficial scratch on the fascinating theme of web page design, but I wrote it to guide you onto the path. Remember that you can always add features and scale your business.

Look At Your Competitors

As with book covers, a bit of industrial espionage pays. Check out your competition and write down the observations.

  • Visual content. What’s to like? Images, the free white space which lets the central elements rock? 
  • Commercial content and plugins: buying her book was super easy! I loved his blog.
  • Mechanisms of interaction: I subscribed to her newsletter with one click. I followed his social media accounts in an instant.
  • The fonts are gorgeous. I want that CSS! (stands for Cascading Style Sheets). https://skillcrush.com/2012/04/03/css/

Don’t worry if you don’t get CSS. Themes come with fonts, and you use them like in a text editor; by choosing titles and default text. Experiment.

Phases To Go Through

  1. Choose your platform (WordPressWix, etc.)
  2. Choose a domain name (no cryptic words, make it easy for people to find you!). Register the www- address.  How to get a domain name 
  3. Install the website builder of your choice. Best website builder software: https://www.thebest10websitebuilders.com/charts/2/best-website-builders
  4. Get familiar with the dashboard of the software. 
  5. Choose a theme: https://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/responsive-theme/
  6. Create a header that consists of a headline and a theme image. Canva is great for making graphic elements. It’s free and offers multiple styles. Choose pictures and a theme that goes with your genre.
  7. Add your core pages. I suggest the following: front/home page, landing page (for offers), books for sale or upcoming books (presale marketing). Additional pages to your liking: short stories, author bio, guest authors (swap for publicity), blog, competitions, and whatever you like.

More information and detailed steps by The Write Practicehttps://thewritepractice.com/building-an-author-website/

Up-to-date Content

Yes, it’s a great idea to have a blog and a newsfeed and social media interaction on your page, but remember that you must keep up with the pulsating beat of updates.

Outdated content from the year 2017 won’t speak for you, to the contrary.

Images

Start with static elements and design them well. Please keep it simple but use high-quality photos. I’ve discussed how to buy commercial pictures in my previous blog post: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/12/11/how-to-design-a-book-cover/

The Main Message

“Authors often make the mistake of thinking that people visit their websites just to read their bio. Are you, the author, important? Sure, but your book is more important. Let people know they’re on an author’s website by making your product the star of the show.”

Source and more information: https://blog.reedsy.com/author-websites/

Tell the potential customers who you are as an author, and advertise your book. Always add a functioning link to Amazon or some other bookstore. Remember that each extra action causes your customers to fall out of the sales funnel. Make buying as easy as possible

Establishing a PayPal account and using the PayPal button has become rather easy nowadays. Remember to count printing, sending the book, and all other expenses so that you break at least even. If e-commerce becomes too complicated, just use the Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Play Books, etc. links with a buy now- button.

Remember to test. Everything on your page must work before you publish it!

An extra puzzle: what would make people come back to your site?

Plugins

A plugin is a mini-application that you can incorporate into your site. Most website builders offer a range of free plugins, but extra features demand a small monthly/yearly fee.

Examples:

Always test that the plugin works before you publish new content! 

Experiment, read DIY- articles and try again. If you fail, log into Fiverr and search for a skilled IT person.

For more information: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/12-essential-free-wordpress-plugins-for-your-writer-website/

Site Speed

If your header image is 15 Megabytes and takes twenty seconds to load, nobody cares if it’s incredible. Pack your images and lose the extra byte size. 

For more information on image formats: https://themeisle.com/blog/best-image-format/

Test your site speed with several different browsers and operating systems. Ask friends and family to experiment. Post a poll on social media and allow fans to voice their opinion.

Scalability

Scalability means that your website theme and the mechanics behind the visual facade adapt to different viewer devices and screen sizes. Open that mobile phone of yours and check your visuals. Ask friends to look at pages and click on the links. Request an honest opinion and have them answer a few questions. The process is similar to the beta reading of your book.

Remember that having no author site is the worst option. Having a 90s feel with everything blinking 100 mph is almost as bad as having no page. Boasting a smooth functioning website is your calling card as a professional writer. 

SEO- search-Engine Optimization

People must find you among a kazillion other writers and bloggers. If you don’t know what the infamous SEO means, check out my previous blog post on the subject: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/03/12/search-engine-optimization-for-writers/

Building An Author Brand

Branding means that you use consistent features throughout your virtual existence. Having the same account name everywhere and using a logo helps people recognize you wherever they stumble upon your content. 

A film-noir color scheme on your website? Great! (if you’re a mystery writer). Use the same header on your social media. After you get the hang of branding, a consistent effort soon becomes second nature.

But, a brand is much more than colors and visuals. You know what a writer’s voice is, don’t you? The brand is your voice when it comes to the web: instantly recognizable and consists of a thousand little things.

“Brand is everything people perceive you as. It’s your personality, every word you write, the fonts and colors you use, the way you make people feel when they read your books or visit your website. Many people wrongly equate brand to a logo or website colors and although these are brand elements, a brand is much more than just these graphic aspects.”

Source and more information on branding your writing career: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/11/10/authentic-author-brand/

Remember that practice makes perfect. 

Landing Page

Start simple and add complicated elements after you master the basics. Create a landing page if you don’t know what else to do. Many website builders and emailing software offer articles and advice on how to create a simple landing page.

A landing page should:

  • House your writer bio (short) 
  • Show off your products = books
  • Engage the customer and keep the conversation going
  • Offer promo codes and discounts (IMPORTANT!)
  • Advertise an incentive to a selected group of customers (give them a VIP-feeling)
  • Gather those precious contact details

Source and more information: https://mailchimp.com/resources/landing-pages-design-tips/

TIP: Think like your customer. What do you value when you look for a book to buy?

Have fun, and ask me if you’re baffled. Request to join my Facebook group for writers to discuss the matter: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527

How to Design a Book Cover

covers

Most books evoke a feeling the instant you look at them. In the perfect scenario, the title whips up the intrigue, and the cover has gorgeous artwork. As you read the blurb and author bio, you become convinced that you must buy this book. 

The surefire elements to use in a book cover are the Main Character and the setting of your story. Most authors choose this scenario. Some book cover artists have a special gift of creating motion, but a static capture of your hero/heroine in his/her natural habitat works. The aim is to inform the customer about the following facts (within a few second’s decision time):

  • genre
  • mood
  • main character
  • setting and era
  • theme 
  • author

If you’re unsure about your book’s title, read my previous blog post about the matter: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/09/27/the-trouble-with-naming-your-book/

Look at other author’s choices. If you find a cover that matches all your hopes, find out who the artist is, and hire him/her. Collecting a set of all-time favorites helps you decide on the critical elements. If you hire a professional graphic designer, he will ask what kind of covers you like.

What you need to decide

It doesn’t matter at this point who will do the cover. Before any of the graphical work starts, you must make up your mind on several matters.

  1. Do you want to feature your main character or characters on the cover? If the answer is yes, you must know what the hero wears and how the heroine loves to braid her hair. What is the Main Character’s weapon of choice? Remember that nobody knows your sassy protagonist like you do. 
  2. Setting/ the background. Do you have an essential place in your book which could work as the backdrop of the cover? Decide on weather, time of day, geography…and so on.
  3. Do you have a color scheme or other preferences? Which matches your idea of a cover style: magical, sparkly, dark, futuristic, dystopian? Bright light or a sharp contrast?
  4. What are the themes of your book? Which genre? Do you want a traditional cover or something which will stand out among your numerous competitors?
  5. Do you have symbols that could make a different cover?
  6. What fonts do you like? What is your subtitle?
  7. Author bio: you need an introduction to the back cover. Why would people read a book by you? Who are you as a writer?
  8. Blurb!! This is important. Why would the readers love your book? Write the blurb for the ideal reader.
  9. Provide the artist a defining moment from your book. Do you want this moment portrayed on the cover?
  10.  If you adore some book cover, define what is so great about it? Fonts, image, design, style?

Symbols

Sometimes, you need to stand out among competitors, and that means choosing a different approach.

Symbols

A modern dystopian example of symbol usage is The Hunger Games trilogy. George Orwell’s 1984, a classic, has worn several famous book cover designs since the first edition in 1949. This evergreen dystopian has spawned famous words like “Orwellian.” The ever-watchful eye featured in many a cover of 1984 has become the icon of Big Brother.

Another dystopian example is Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s Tale. We all know what the red hood means. The books mentioned above (and their movie/tv-series adaptations) have become so famous that their imagery is part of our subconsciousness. If your story has a central theme or a potent symbol, why not use it. 

Doing It By Yourself

An e-book cover for Amazon is the easy part. But if you plan on publishing a paperback and a hardcover, not to mention an audiobook, you must know the exact dimensions! Printing a book with an error in the trim size becomes expensive. If your book comes out in several formats, I suggest you hire a professional designer.

Amazon KDP paperback templates: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834230

You need to know in advance:

  • Operating system (Ios or Windows)
  • Trim size: the most common trim size for paperbacks in the US is 6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm), but you have several trim size options. If you’re unsure which size to pick, find books with content similar to yours to get an idea of what readers expect.
  • Language
  • Page count which affects the trim size
  • Remember to leave room for the barcode on the back

Choose a Cover Image

The easiest way to start is to choose a photo from an image bank, download it to Canva or some other graphic editor and start experimenting. If you’ve got excellent image manipulation skills up your sleeve, combine two or more images.

Each image bank embellishes available photos/illustrations with keywords. You can find the spitting image of your MC by listing physical descriptions. Reserve time for the search. The cover is your book’s face and one of the critical components of buyer decision making.

“This should go without saying, but your picture should match your genre. Could you imagine if Stephen King’s It had a cute puppy on the cover? The reader would surely be in for a surprise. Now, that example may seem a bit extreme. But there are too many authors out there who don’t get specific enough with their picture. And remember, your photo shouldn’t just fit your genre. It should also support your specific book.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-ideas/

Image Banks

The services mentioned below rank their stock in different categories. You should always check the license of a particular image before you use it on a print product. Each company offers various pricing and payment methods. You can buy a single image or several each month.

IStock: https://www.istockphoto.com/

Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/

Getty Images: https://www.gettyimages.fi/

123RF: https://www.123rf.com/

Design Tools 

Canva https://www.canva.com/create/book-covers/

(Free and Pro versions have different characteristics.)

Adobe Photoshop: https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html

Adobe Illustrator: https://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html

Adobe Spark: https://spark.adobe.com/make/book-cover-maker/

Font Choices

“Fonts are unquestionably one of the most important things that appear on a book cover – often being the “make or break” factor. The type of font you should use will largely depend on the genre that your book is written in. A recommendation that I made in my previous blog posts is to always look at the bestselling book covers within your genre.”

Source and more information: http://inspiredcoverdesigns.com/the-best-fonts-to-use-on-a-book-cover-by-genre/

Factors to consider:

  • Layout
  • Sentence structure
  • Direction
  • Color

“A study from an MIT psychologist found a direct link between a poor layout and negative emotions in readers.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-typography-font/

Hiring a Professional Graphic Designer

Decide if you’ll settle for a premade cover. The process is easy, the artist replaces the Lorem Ipsum text with your author name and book title, bio, and blurb. But you won’t get a unique book cover.

Example: https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/

If you want the designer to make an exquisite cover, start by looking for professional illustrators and artists:

Fiverr

Reedsy: https://reedsy.com/#/freelancers

Choose category design.

Or Google for book cover designers. Ask other authors about experiences working with a particular artist.

How to Make Sure Your Readers Love The Cover?

Publish different versions of the final cover on social media and ask your followers to voice their opinion. Cover reveals work as pre-release marketing. You can even design a campaign or contest around the cover reveal.

If you need help, ask me. I also design book covers.


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Do You Study Character Actors When You Plan Your Next Story? – You Should!

Glam retro diva

Do you struggle with creating characters that feel like real people? You’re not alone. The job becomes harder when you have multiple books up your sleeve. Variation is tough work, and as humans, we are tempted to repeat models which worked in the past. Beware of the cookie-cutter character!

Character or Plot-driven?

If your writing style is plot-driven, you develop the three acts and the key scenes first, and characters develop after that. Maybe the first thing you envision is the historical era or the fantasy setting with intricate maps and systems of magic?

If you’re character-driven like me, you see the characters in your dreams. You hear them talk and envision them in different scenarios. I speak the dialogue out loud and practice the expressions of my heroine in front of a mirror. I form the MC and the villain first. The conflict brewing between them becomes my main idea, and their backstories take form later on. But a character with little to do is… yawn. Many writers elevate the characterization over the plot, but if you don’t get on with the story… wham! That’s the sound your book makes when the reader tosses it to the corner and shall never pick it up. 

Which type of writer are you? Examine your preferences. 

 “It doesn’t matter how “interesting” the character is if you cannot create an antagonistic environment that chisels and defines that character. Even an awesome plot that takes the reader on the most mind-bending twists and turns will fall flat when depending on the strength of one-dimensional character. No matter how you approach storytelling, remember this: your story needs both character and plot.”

Source and more information: https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/

Emotional Identification

Let us return to the process which actors and actresses go through as they layer their next Oscar- nominating role. Yes, they have their work cut out for them, like the screenwriters who wrote the part which snatches the attention of Anthony Hopkins or Angelina Jolie.

Method acting means a technique in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a role. Method acting was developed by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg in particular and is associated with star actors such as Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman

“Method actors have this amazing ability to not only get into character but live through the character and bring an unsurpassable depth. What I love about Method Actors is that they don’t appear to be acting, they appear to be living; they know how to get into character so well that you believe they ARE the character. Lots of method actors are very humble about their work, but when you see them on stage or screen, it is electrifying, to say the least.” 

Source: http://www.standbymethod.com/how-to-get-into-character/

As a practice, compile a Pinterest moodboard of your favorite movie actors in their most bedazzling roles and compare them to their photos taken on the red carpet. The difference between the person and the character is striking! Great actors and actresses take their roles seriously. Whatever they do, whether on stage or screen, will be forever etched either onto film or in the minds of their audience. They move hearts and will live on in the souls of their fans. The mechanism of transferring emotional identification is your aim as a writer.

Watch a clip of Meryl Streep On Accessing The Characters Within:

https://youtu.be/phv85MERpLw

If you write from personal experience, you have an array of intimate emotions at your disposal, but you might struggle with transferring that emotion to the inexperienced reader. The actress uses her director as a mirror. Who do you use? Duh! Beta readers, of course. Remember to ask if they felt the emotional fireworks. This is important because the book lives or dies via Showing, Not Telling. The audience experiences what your Point-of-View character senses with his eyes, nose, ears, skin, and so forth.

Remember that the reader must also understand the villain on some human level, and you are responsible for making that happen. A character actor villain has what’s called a presence. When he steps on the stage, he rules the scene. How does that happen? You’ll feel the tingling on your skin and the chills down your spine.

Ruining Your Favorite Movie

Warning: using my method might ruin watching movies for you. Like when you started learning the craft of authorship, which spoiled the enjoyment of a great book. That’s because you know how the chassis works and cannot see the beauty of the Ferrari sportscar anymore.

Watch clips of great method actors in their star roles. Choose characters that resemble your own. The clips help you construct body-language and subtle expressions because method actors are rarely flamboyant—unless the role demands precisely that. Think of Joker in Batman: he’s a showman, which means he knows how to get the audience’s attention big time. Admire how Heath Ledger breathes life into the iconic villain.

The age of the internet has made extensive research more accessible than ever before. You have libraries of movie clips to watch. See how Anthony Hopkins or J. T. Walsh animates a bad guy. Who is your favorite hero? How has he aged and changed? Remember that the nature of characters is perpetual motion. Does blind idealism fill your favorite heroine, or does she come from between the-rock-and-a-hard place?

angelina

Do your characters age?

Image source: https://www.fashiongonerogue.com/photo-shoot/angelina-jolie-peter-lindbergh-wsj-2015-cover/

However, this method doesn’t allow copycatting. You shouldn’t copy a movie on paper; its a copyright infringement and punishable by law. Watching great actors at work can be compared to moodboarding: seeking material for inspiration.

Two Sides of The Same Coin

“The best and worst specimens of humanity are two sides of the same coin. Heroes and villains are not categories that are divided by the expansive sea of morality never to have their shores meet. On the contrary, both the most exalted heroism and diabolical villainy are manifestations of a human spirit that has become capable of great things. And great things need not be good things.”

Source: https://rightreason.typepad.com/right_reason/2013/04/good-evil-and-human-capability.html

What differentiates good from evil? Point-of-view. Yes, sin is relative, and you can use this in your writing because humans are a social species. Skillful actors mud their characters layer by layer, and they mirror themselves on other people. One of the best tricks you can throw at your readers is to let someone else reflect the bad guy. Describe how the military villain’s subordinates act when he enters the room. Show a conversation between the hero and his sidekick about the dark one. 

If you want to dig deeper into the depths which a character actor would use, show the villain’s first crime: when he wasn’t yet a developed killer. 

The sides of the coin are the reason why the same brilliant actor portrays heroes and villains with incredible authenticity.

More advice on designing your Villain/Antagonist: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/01/04/give-evil-the-central-stage-groundbreaking-villain-moments/

The Trouble With Naming Your Book

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Your book is the calling card of the professional writer. You’ve spent years polishing the sentences and ridding each page of typos. Perhaps you’ve hired the quintessential artist to create the cover but remain unsure if the chosen title wins the hearts of readers. Have you aligned the title with the genre and the central theme? Is the subtitle absolutely necessary?
Some writers decide upon the name at the beginning of their first draft. Others have their finger hovering over the publish- button and still wonder if another title would cut it better.
Want to read a serial-killer mystery with a reptilian twist? Buy your copy of Romance Kills from Amazon.

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Do Google

My best advice for any novelist is this: Google the titles you have in mind. If another author has published with the same title, what consequences can follow? I’m sure you’ve heard about the CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE controversy? Tomi Adeyemi and Nora Roberts used the same name for their books which ignited a fury on social media.
“Regardless, you can’t copyright a title. And titles, like broad ideas, just float around in the creative clouds. It’s what’s inside that counts.” —Nora Roberts
For more information:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelkramerbussel/2018/12/01/nora-roberts-tomi-adeyemi-title-plagiarism-accusation/#6ab566414f51

Using Popular Names

A small deviation from a popular title looks like a solution.
For example, the word “Lycan” returns thousands of books on Google, and so does “Vampire.” Depending on how you handle your SEO (search engine optimization), you can drop to search result page 1001 or earn the first headlines. If Amazon has several other books by the same name as your brainchild, readers get mixed up, and the social media marketing (which you worked your butt off to create) loses a percentage of its impact.
Go for Lycan if werewolf heroes fill your plot, but a surprising point of view makes all the difference. Work with your title and invent a fresh twist: The Lycan Queen, Path to The Lycan Zone, The Lycan Plague… twist and turn, add the setting and spiritual question… and Google if someone has already used that.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a namesake, with between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. And that’s fine.
There might be movies and videogames, and comic books by the same title and their themes differ from yours. If you write about religion, do you want the search result to include a game which features demonic assassins? Again this depends on your audience and genre.

Title Worksheet

Use my Worksheet on Book Titles to turn your book’s name around. (Download files from the Internet at your own risk.)
Before I named my post-apocalyptic spy thriller, I went through a hundred options. I considered the MC, the theme, and setting, but you can add your own angles.

The Subtitle

Be specific and bold if you need to add something through a subtitle. Sell your product to the masses, but your caption must follow the Amazon rules:

  • No claims of a bestseller, or rank or anything of the sort
  • No claim of deals, discounts or reduced price
  • You can’t reference other books or any other trademarks
  • No reference to other authors
  • No advertisements

“Subtitles are where an author can hone in and pack a punch with an artful turn-of-phrase. The subtitle has a distinct role apart from the primary title. While your book title clearly tells readers what the book is about, the job of the multi-faceted subtitle is to speak to the precise benefits readers will receive from your book.”
Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/how-to-select-a-subtitle-that-sells/

Keep it Simple

The Internet houses an abundance of quizzes and statistics to find out the best book titles of the 21st century or the top-notch of entire human history. Agatha Christie and Philip K. Dick were the masterminds of name creation, but remember that fashions change.
More information: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/276.Best_Book_Titles
Although some of the most memorable books carry complicated and quirky names, it doesn’t mean you must use the same method. You’re not a classic writer who belongs to the reading program of each college, are you? If you want your customers to remember the name of your book as they open their laptop and start browsing, don’t over-complicate things.

Hooking The Customer

I look at the cover and the title in conjunction: to find out what the book offers for me. The process of naming a book reminds cover design. You feel compelled to add each detail which interests you as the author, but what hooks your potential customer while he or she browses your product (title, front cover, blurb, info about the author, etc. ) to asses if it’s worth the price? Will your book stand out, intrigue people if they have thousands of other books to choose from?
“Titles are essentially short hooks that advertise your book using the fewest words possible. It’s also what readers look for first when they discover new books, and can take less than 5 seconds to make a decision.”
Source: https://self-publishingschool.com/book-title-ideas-choose-perfect-title-book/
Form a mental image of your reader: who is the one browsing your book in the bookstore? What would catch his attention?
Elements of Title Generation:

  • Genre: General Fiction, Western, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Non-Fiction. Even if your style is a hybrid, you should be able to elevator pitch it. Explore genres: https://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/genre
  • Important location of the story.
  • The theme: the underlying message, or ‘big idea.’ What critical belief about life do you convey? This idea must transcend cultural barriers and should be universal in nature.
  • What is the oppositional force in the story? The antagonist/a force of nature/ the evil within? Some book covers and movie posters feature the antagonist, and the title can do the same.
  • What’s at stake in the story? The fate of the world or the survival of a revolution? A warrior’s honor? A doctor’s career amidst a foreign war?
  • Where does the conflict stem from? Your book features a perpetual struggle which dates from time immemorial or your MC faces a threat from outer space?
  • Occupation of the protagonist?
  • Main characters goal? Can the customer see the intention from the cover or read it from the title?
  • Positive traits of the protagonist: a man on a mission, a woman of courage.
  • The negative trait of the main character: does his weakness pose a challenge, what will she sacrifice to win, can something threaten the MC’s goal? Self-doubt, fear… and so on.
  • Symbolism: paint a colorful scene or include the familiar spirit of the MC. A metaphor allows readers to visualize complex or challenging subjects. For example, Harry Potter’s scar is symbolic of his bravery, a badge of honor.
  • The sidekick or the mentor: if you’ve written a killer sidekick or a significant part of the plot depends on if the MC heeds the wizard’s advice. You have a colorful posse of YA heroes who combat an authoritarian ruler, and the close-knit group could feature in your title.

Book Title Generators

If you cant think of anything, turn to title generators. They direct you around a different corner even if the generated result isn’t exactly what you looked for.
https://blog.reedsy.com/book-title-generator/
https://www.listchallenges.com/the-greatest-book-titles
http://www.adazing.com/titles/use.php
My advice is to write the whole first draft and rethink about the name. Nothing stops you from writing down versions of your best choice each time inspiration strikes. And there’s nothing wrong in learning from others. Gather fifty titles and choose the best.
Want to read a serial-killer mystery with a reptilian twist? Buy your copy of Romance Kills from Amazon.

Using Scene Trackers and Plot Points to Plan Your Story

Beautiful woman in the magic forest

You might wonder what to insert into my Scene Tracker Template or Plot Point Graph. If you’re a pantser, you know your story by heart and use the tools of plot-weaving instinctively as you go. You might strip needless elements and refine your story as you reach the editing phase. But if you’re serious about being a professional writer, you must study your beloved craft and recognize plot points, character arcs, and other tools of drama.

Here are my methods of outlining:

Scene tracker model (Microsoft Office Excel).

PowerPoint Plot Graph Template (Microsoft Office PowerPoint).

Download files from the Internet at your own risk.

The files make it easy to analyze the dramatic arc and structure of your story.  If you don’t want to plan your draft one meticulously, use my templates as a refresher of your memory before you start revising your second draft. You don’t have to include all the crucial plot points, and your arch can curve up and down several times to surprise your readers.

Think of each significant event in your story as a sequence which consists of:

  • setup
  • complication
  • crisis
  • resolution

Your book is one instance of continual transformation which composes of smaller events (acts), which in turn comprise of chapters and scenes. I like to know my word count, and that’s why I included it in the Scene Tracker. I also keep track of days and months which pass in my book, just to stay level with continuity issues.

Keeping Track of Scenes

Scene= “a part of a play or film in which the action stays in one place for a continuous period of time.”

A scene means a small section of your novel where your characters engage in action or dialogue. They are mini-stories with a beginning, middle, and end. A chapter contains one or many scenes. Usually, the scenes within a chapter are related to one another. If you change location, or the clock of your manuscript moves forward, give the reader a pause in the form of moving into the next scene or chapter.  Scenes are like pearls in a string. Each story consists of these pearls, some small and ordinary, and others big, shining ones which surprise the reader.

Both templates let you add cells/boxes for your key scenes and plot weaving mechanisms.

Great scene beginnings include:

  • Put unusual events in motion
  • Tone-building scene setting
  • Intriguing backstory
  • New, interesting viewpoint
  • Introduce uncertain factors

More information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-scene-beginnings-grab-attention/

Great Scene endings:

  • Cliffhanger – place your protagonist’s life is at risk or produce some other threat which forces the reader to turn the page and begin a new scene/chapter
  • Revelation –something changes the course of the story
  • Setback– one of your characters should be frustrated about the latest event
  • Reveal a secret–a full secret or part of it to keep the mystery going
  • Question left hanging –teasing the reader
  • Unexpected plot twist –keep the reader guessing.

Character Arcs and the Three Acts

“A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character throughout a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different kind of person in response to changing developments in the story. “

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

Your protagonists and antagonists evolve through character arcs. An excellent way to build conflict is to make the main character unable to overcome an opposing force at the beginning of the story because he/she lacks skills or resources. The main character must change through learning or achieving new capabilities. Let the MC interact with the environment or produce a threat or a charismatic mentor. At the heart of your story lie conflict and change.

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts

“Aristotle plotted in three acts, and almost every story comes with a beginning, middle, and ending. Act One makes up 25% of a storyline, with Act Two taking up 50% and Act Three, the final 25%. The story is divided in half as well, with the midpoint squarely in the middle of Act Two. The first half of a story involves introducing characters, themes, motivations, settings, conflicts, and important elements. In the second half of a story, all its threads untangle.”

Read more about The Six Key Scenes of Aristotle’s Incline and source of the above snippet: http://livewritebreathe.com/how-to-plot-a-novel-in-three-acts/

Plot Points

A plot point is an incident which impacts what happens next. A plot point:

  • Moves the story in a different direction
  • Impacts character development
  • Closes a door behind a character, forcing them forward

Plot points form a whole, each piece informing the event before it and after it.

Seven-point

Image source: https://blog.reedsy.com/plot-point/

Examples of plot points:

Hook: A story must start off strong to keep the reader reading. The Hook is the point that pushes a novel into motion and sets it apart from others.

First Pinch Point: The middle of the story consists of the character reacting to the Big Event and its respective consequences. Pinch Points put the character under pressure.

Midpoint: Perhaps the most crucial plot point occurs near the middle of a story. The midpoint is a critical turning point that forces the protagonist to stop reacting and start acting.

Final Pinch Point: For the second half of the middle, the protagonist experiments with the agency, taking different approaches to overcome the conflict. The protagonist reacts to or acts on pressure and conflict, with middling success.

Final Plot Point: Going into the third act (or the beginning of the end) there is one Final Plot Point. This shows the protagonist at their lowest, having taken a profound misstep among their newfound actions, which drives them directly into the Climax and Resolution.

Resolution: A great story will end on a Climax, Realization, and Resolution, a series of events that bring the story and character arc in full circle. Usually, these revolve around a choice presented to the protagonist.

Source and more information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/what-is-a-plot-point/

How to Design Plot Points

  • Draw them from your central idea or theme
  • Show desires, motivations, and setbacks
  • Place plot points at crucial structural junctures
  • Create points of no return
  • Create and arrange summaries of each plot point

Tension

Tension is a product of uncertainty and the resulting suspense we feel.

“To take the analogy of watching a tightrope walker, we know they are moving from an A to B of safe ground. Yet between these two points, how things turn out depends on many variables. Their balance, focus, and how they place their feet. And how swiftly they correct any stumble.”

Source and read more: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-a-scene-that-engages/