Having an idea for a novel can be exciting, but plotting makes things complicated! You might already have your world and characters perfected, but just don't know how to get your story from A to B.
So, how do you plot a best-seller?
Why does your story need to be told?
At this point of planning your novel, you probably have a good idea of what you want to say through your story. Maybe there's a theme or message you hope to portray, or a character you want to introduce to the world. Maybe it's a fictional world you've loved inventing or a story you've never seen before.
Whatever the reason for your story is, you need to ask some initial questions to get an idea of your plot, such as:
What is your main conflict, and why will it interest readers?
What drives your main character?
Where does your main character fit into your world?
How will your character develop throughout the story?
What has already been done in your genre, and how can you make your story unique?
What are readers of your genre asking for?
Now you have these answers, consider how you might put these aspects into a story with a beginning, middle and end.
The first part of your novel is all about introducing your characters and conflict. This is where a reader will decide if they'll continue or not - if they aren't intrigued now, they might put the book down!
When planning the beginning of your story, you want to consider how you'll give readers the information they need to understand the story. Will you use flashbacks to explain what background readers need to know? Or will you weave the information into the story, slowly revealing things through conversations and conflicts?
The beginning has to both create mystery and answer questions. Start the first page with action - a scene that tells readers the stakes of the story and who the main character is. Within the first 10 pages, have the reader hooked. They should already feel a connection to the main character, and any worldbuilding that needs to be described for understanding should be told.
By the middle of your story, at least one minor conflict should have happened, so now the story is in full gear. Your characters will begin developing, chasing after their wants/needs, and new information and plot twists will occur to progress the story.
Consider how will you make this middle section - the biggest chunk of your story - lead to the ending.
For some authors, this is a journey the MC needs to take to confront the villain. For others, it could be getting through the school year and finally taking that big exam. Maybe it's the MC getting to know their love interest, so they can finally declare their love for each other at the end.
Whatever it is, the journey must be interesting and purposeful, and include several minor conflicts to keep the reader engaged.
Now you're at the end of your novel, ready for the big conflict to occur and the subsequent resolution.
Does your MC win the battle? Do they find happiness? Or is it a tragic ending, where they die in the end or lose someone they love?
It's almost always best to have a wrapped-up, satisfying end for your characters. The reader will want to feel good after reading your book, and not like they've missed out on something, or read an entire novel just for the conflict to remain unsolved. (Unless, of course, you plan to write a series.)
You'll also need to consider if an epilogue is needed. Many authors add this final bonus chapter at the end to show their characters after the conflict is resolved - how are they dealing with their changed lives?
Within your major plot that carries the beginning, middle and end of your story, you'll have several sub-plots that keep your audience engage, building throughout the story.
Your sub-plots could be a bit of romance, an underlying mystery that needs solving, a task that the MC needs to complete, or any other plotline that is separate from the main story, but is still relevant.
Sub-plots are great for keeping your readers engaged through the middle section of your book, as they'll create the smaller conflicts and climaxes.
What little stories might you weave into your novel?