12 Days of Planning Your Novel: Story vs Plot

It's important to know the difference when it comes to story vs plot in novel writing. Here's what you need to know.

Here we are at day (or step) number four in my planning your novel series. I hope you’re getting excited to start creating a story involving the characters you created in step three. Today I want to discuss the ‘big picture’ when it comes to your novel so I’ll be discussing the difference between story and plot.

If this is the first post you are seeing in this series, you can get caught up here:

Step 1: What Will You Write?

Step 2: Research, Research, Research

Step 3: Character Development

Story vs. Plot

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought story and plot were the same thing, but they really aren’t. Your story is the big picture. If you were to pick out the main points in your novel, such as the introduction, the rising action, the climax, and the resolution, these are the elements that make up your story.

But your story isn’t complete without the plot. The plot contains all the juicy details of your story and is made up of individual scenes that include different settings and characters. Where the story is the main backbone of your novel, the plot is what can make or break your story.

Main Genre-Specific Scenes

Thinking about the genre you’re writing, jot down the main things that tend to happen in those types of stories. I’m working on planning a historical romance so I’m going to have things like boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl can’t be together for whatever reason, and boy and girl find a way to live happily ever after or boy loses girl forever.

All of these ideas I’ve noted for my story are ‘big picture’ events. The plot is where I start figuring out the where, how, and why these events are happening as well as each of the characters motivations. Here’s where the character back stories you created in the last step will come in handy.

Did you know that story and plot aren't the same thing? Here's what you need to know about story vs plot when it comes to planning your novel.

Your Favourite Scenes

A great tip I got from my writing coach, Kevin T. Johns, is to think about some of your favourite scenes in books and movies. Why do you like these scenes? Do you want to include scenes like these in your novel?

Lots of my favourite scenes involve the death of a main character. At first this made me wonder what was wrong with me, but I realized the reason I love those scenes is because of all the emotion behind them. Because my historical romance is taking place during World War II, you can bet there will be one or more scenes about death.

There you have it. Today’s step is pretty simple.

In the next step, you’ll be mapping out your story based on the traditional conventions of the genre you’ve chosen. You’ll take the ideas you’ve generated today and start positioning them in a rough outline as well as consider any major scenes you may have missed. This will give you a great starting point.

What are some of your favourite scenes you plan to include in your novel?