2 Bestselling Novel Tips: Plot Ideas For Novels Readers Buy

2 Bestselling Novel Tips: Plot Ideas For Novels Readers Buy

Do you find plotting fiction challenging? Plotting is a basic skill for novelists, and seems complicated, but you can learn how to do it easily. Today, let’s look two tips which will help you to plot ideas for novels.

Many authors’ biggest challenge is that they’re not sure what a plot really is, so they tend to mistake ideas for plots.

Here’s an idea. A young woman is hired as a body double for a celebrity who’s been getting death threats. The young woman has the same hair, body shape, and facial features as the celebrity, so she’ll act as a decoy.

That’s just an idea. You can develop it into a plot if you wish. Consider plotting this way: look on PLOT as a verb, as something you actively do, rather than as a noun. When you look on plotting as an activity, you know that a plot takes a lot more than a single idea.

Plot ideas for novels that readers want to buy: 2 essential tips

We’ve just published the third ebook in our Selling Writer Strategies series, Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way, because plotting seems to be the single biggest bugbear for new (and established) fiction authors.

I’m fond of telling my students that plotting is simple: all you need to do is ask yourself for plots. Your mind knows how to do that. You “plot” constantly: you work out how to do stuff, and you assess the world around you for threats and opportunities every day.

There’s an entire worldwide industry based on plotting… the insurance industry. Your car insurer plots the likelihood of you crashing your car, or someone crashing into you. Your home insurer plots the likelihood and ways in which your home could be damaged or destroyed.

You know how to plot. Tell yourself that, and play “what if” games, just like the insurance companies do. 🙂

Here are two essential tips for plotting great novels.

1. Develop a plot from a word: go from a basic idea, to an interesting plot, fast

There are any number of “basic plots” books. Mostly they’re useless. However, they can be useful if you have an idea in mind, because you can free associate with them.

Here’s an example. Ronald B. Tobias, author of 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them offers you 20 “master” plots.

To show you the range he provides, here are ten of his master plots:







The Riddle




How to develop a plot, using a word…

His “plots” are just words. However, they’re evocative words. If you’ve already got an idea, you can play “what if?” with these words, and can develop a fascinating plot.

Let’s say you want to develop a plot about a woman; she won a lottery for a million dollars. The money will change her life. She’s 22, and has recently been fired from her job. Your basic idea is one of transformation. It’s an interesting idea. You could slot a novel stemming from this idea into any number of genres: romance, mystery, fantasy, paranormal etc.

You enjoy reading mysteries, so you decide that your lottery-winner novel will be a mystery.

Getting back to Ronald B. Tobias’s Master Plots, how would you apply the word QUEST to this novel? You could do it very easily. What if your main character was adopted? She now has money and power. She goes on a quest to discover her birth parents, and discovers that they were murdered… Her new quest is to find her parents’ killer.

Staying with your mystery genre choice, how could you apply the ADVENTURE trope? Your heroine has money. She could choose any number of adventures:

  • Around the world in a balloon
  • A voyage to find a lost Spanish treasure galleon
  • Climbing Everest…

You can spin off a single word of Tobias’s Master Plots into a hundred plots, as long as you have a basic idea.

2. “Once upon a time…”: if your novel isn’t about transformation, it’s about nothing

Fairy tales are universal stories. Fairy tales make excellent plot templates; countless romance novels are based on Cinderella, and many movies too. (Pretty Woman is based on the Cinderella template.)

Reread a few fairy tales, and think about them, especially if you’re a new author.

Here’s why. New authors, and some experienced authors who are in a slump, lose their nerve. You can find dozens of one-star reviews of bestselling authors’ books of which readers complain that “nothing happens”.

Unfortunately, it’s VERY easy to fall into the nothing happens trap. It’s horribly easy to do. We create our characters, and we love them. So we want to be kind to them — and before we know it, our so-called plot is a whole lot of nothing.

If your novel isn’t about transformation, it’s about nothing.Click To Tweet

I have a sticky note on my monitor, with FAIRY TALES! written on it, to remind myself daily that: if your novel isn’t about transformation, it’s about nothing.

When you’re building your plot, and musing on ideas, remember to plot for transformation. “Nothing happens” is the kiss of death for you if you want to sell lots of copies of your novels.

What to do now: think up plot IDEAS for novels, and plot your next (or current) novel

If you’re all at sea with your fiction, the above tips will help.

You can build wonderful plots from just about any idea — and the skimpiest ideas often yield the most exciting plots. Just remember that the word PLOT is a verb. 😉

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

5 Fiction Writing Tips to Help You to Pay Your Bills

5 Fiction Writing Tips to Help You to Pay Your Bills

Since I wrote the bulk of this article in 2014, fiction writing has become a viable career, and a well-paying one, if you put some effort into it. I’ve changed the introduction to reflect that. Today, many of my writing colleagues have made the switch to becoming authors. Many/ most are making reasonable incomes.

Some are making more money than they made as freelancers, but most are not. When I suggested to a writer that she could be making more money putting her creative energies into a blog, and other forms of online writing, she said: “My fiction is an investment. Jane Austen’s still selling, and she’s been dead for a long time. Every word I write and publish can keep earning for me indefinitely.”

You can’t argue with that one. She’s right. 🙂

Fiction writing: keep writing, and keep selling

Let’s look at five tips you can use today, to help you to ease into a fiction writing/ money-making mindset. Over the past two years, since I first wrote this article, it’s become obvious that you can make a lot of money as a commercial writer of entertainment. (That’s what fiction is, after all, entertainment.)

You CAN pay your bills writing fiction; many other writers are doing it, so you can too. If you’re worried about competition, don’t. If what you write is entertaining to you, it will be entertaining for others – people pay for this stuff. 

A tip: I’m not suggesting that you can write an instant bestselling novel. Years ago, I heard one writer suggest that it takes around four years to learn how to write fiction. Looking back, in my experience, that’s about right. Your  very first novel may be a bestseller, but it’s highly unlikely. That said, it may sell, and sell well. Today, you can make a good income with fiction without ever writing a bestseller.

1. Write short stories to acclimatize yourself to making stuff up

Did you know that Lawrence Block (long one of my writing heroes) got his start by writing erotica, specifically, lesbian romances? As did Donald Westlake, who immortalized his pulp smut career in Adios, Scheherazade, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

I mention this because new fiction writers tend to think that if they write smut, they’re not “real” writers, or that they will always be forced to write smut. Not so. Smut helps you to pay your bills while you’re learning to write fiction. Why not earn while you learn? (No one needs to know you’re writing smut, unless you choose to tell them.)

So write short stories, and if you can, write erotica short stories – smut SELLS, and sells well. A few years ago, you could write ultra-short erotica, and make a great income. These days, focus on erotica romances. Aim for 20,000 to 30,000 words. Use a pen name for this stuff. You can write under whatever names you choose.

2. Kickstart your imagination, daily. write snippets

I spend 30 minutes a day dreaming up ideas for fiction. I think about unusual characters, either based on people I’ve met, news stories, or character traits. I dream up scenes I want to write, one day.

All this material goes into my Journal notebook in Evernote. Not only does this daydreaming help me to write my current stories, it feeds my imagination. Your mind is a wonderful tool. Forcing yourself to come up with ideas is a workout for your imagination. It makes all your writing easier. Try it.

3. Watch for ghostwriting gigs for fiction

I’m seeing lots of fiction ghostwriting gigs on the outsourcing boards. Don’t sell yourself too cheaply however. Remember that once you’ve completed your ghostwriting project, and get paid, you lose all rights in your words. However, a ghostwriting gig or two can help when you’re making the switch to fiction.

The income helps. It’s also perfect training for you. I’m trying to cut back on my ghostwriting, so I can build up a couple of pen names, but the income is tempting. 🙂

4. Build your publishing catalogue: amazon will help you to sell

The more ebooks you have on Amazon, the more you will sell. We talked about writing romance novellas:

Romance novellas sell, and you can write them quickly. Your romance novellas may never get into the top ten in any genre, but that doesn’t matter. You’ll nevertheless make money. A couple of my students who write erotica are making five figures a month, and are looking to make more, once they start selling bundles.

Short stories and novellas build your publishing catalogue (the books you have listed under a name – your own or a pen name – on Amazon.) Aim to publish something at least once a month. Then you’ll appear on Amazon’s Recently Published lists.

5. Get a writing buddy, so you can trade scenes

When you write fiction, you’re entertaining your readers. You’re aiming for an emotional effect on them. Fiction is written in scenes, and it’s just about impossible to gauge the effect of a scene on someone else. It’s like telling a joke to yourself. You need someone else to read your scenes, so that they can tell you how they felt.

Way back before the Web, I was a member of a fiction writers’ group on CompuServe. Bestselling novelist Diana Gabaldon was a member, and posted scenes from Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber. She wanted to know the effect of the scenes.

So, get a writing buddy. Trade scenes. Your buddy needn’t write in the same genre as you do, as long as you’re both writing.

Fiction writing is fun, and profitable too. Looking on your flights of imagination as a way of paying your bills may seem strange. Soon, you’ll learn to write both fiction and nonfiction with ease; you’ll discover that you can compartmentalize… and that the more you write, the more you can write. 🙂

Article updated July 28, 2016.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

3 Tips For Editing Fiction: Edit Your Novel Like A Pro

3 Tips For Editing Fiction: Edit Your Novel Like A Pro

The most popular posts on this blog are about writing fiction. I’m thrilled about that, because I started out my writing career as a novelist. I wouldn’t give up my stable of copywriting clients for anything, but fiction is huge fun. What’s not to like about making up stories? Editing fiction is challenging, however.

Let’s look at how we can make it easier and less stressful.

A digression… editing is something an author does. Yes, there are editors you can hire: developmental editors, substantive editors, copyeditors — the list is long. However, before you hire anyone else, you must edit your own novel. Then you can pass it on to another editor if you wish.

You are your own best first editor. Only you know what you’re writing, and only your name is on the cover.

End digression. 🙂

Writing fiction made easy: first draft, edit, final polish and PUBLISH

Currently I’m coaching several Team Up students through their first novels. They’re finding editing a real challenge.

Believe it or not, editing is EASY… If you separate your writing into several tasks/ phases:

  • First draft;
  • Editing;
  • Final draft/ polish;
  • Publishing.

Editing is just as important as drafting your novel. I’ve long talked about the writing/ drafting phase of writing a novel as “making mud” — you can do whatever you like in this phase. All that concerns you at this stage is your creativity. It’s VITAL to keep your left-brain editor out of the writing phase. Editing comes later.

Consider what goes into making a movie.

The movie’s shot. The actors do many takes of their scenes. The director shoots many scenes, more than he needs. He knows that some scenes won’t be in the final cut. When the shoot is over, the movie’s cutting and editing phase begins. Editing usually takes longer than the shoot.

Similarly with your novel. You can only edit what you have. So it’s best that you allow yourself total freedom in your first draft. Ignore your inner editor. He’s just a pest in this phase.

To repeat, EDIT LATER… 🙂

Let’s look at some editing tips.

1. Time solves everything: before you edit, write another novel

I’m totally serious.

Before you edit novel number 1, write novel number 2.

The longer you can leave your novel before you start editing, the better. You want to clear your mind of that novel completely. Your aim is to read it as a reader would. This is impossible, of course, but do your best.

So, write another novel NOW.

2. Back to novel 1: read it, and decide what it’s about (in a sentence)

Here’s an excellent article on editing your novel:

You’ve had a break, and you’re looking at your novel, wondering how to get started on your edit.

Read the novel first. Just read it — preferably on an iPad, or your phone. You want to get away from looking on your novel as the author. Don’t make notes yet.

Once you’ve read your novel again (with any luck, it should feel unfamiliar to you), make notes.

Next, write a one sentence summary, stating what your novel’s about in a nutshell:

  • A burned out drunk detective tracks a serial killer when the killer targets his family;
  • A socially-awkward female surgeon exposes deadly corruption in a big city hospital;
  • A newly-widowed lawyer discovers her late husband’s secrets; her daughter is kidnapped to prevent her revealing them.

Your one-sentence summary is essential. Please create it before you do anything else — you can’t edit without this sentence.

Once you have your sentence, you can carve your novel out of your first draft.

3. Cut, cut, cut, then outline your novel, and write, write, write

You’ve got your sentence. Notice that in your sentence, you described your main character with an adjective or two? You need to show (not tell) that your main character is a “socially-awkward female surgeon” or whatever in your scenes. Show her operating on a patient, and show her being socially-awkward. You MUST show your characters being who they are. 

Read one-star reviews on Amazon. When reviewers talk about “thin” characters, and authors who label their characters as “strong” when really they’re TSL (too stupid to live), this is what reviewers mean. The authors didn’t bother showing their characters’ personalities.

PLEASE (I’m begging you) don’t skip these kinds of scenes: readers will forgive you anything, if you write great characters. Moreover, your novels will sell.

You show in scenes. Make sure that you create a character who can execute your plot. For example, your surgeon might be horrible with people, but she’s strong enough to handle corrupt hospital administrators — SHOW that.

Your aim in this phase of writing your novel is to carve away everything which doesn’t support your summary sentence. Be ruthless. 🙂

When you’ve finished cutting, outline your scenes.

You’ll be able to spot holes. Write fresh scenes and narrative to fill in those holes.

Read your outline again, to make sure that your plot makes sense, and as this article suggests, check your timeline.

When you’re editing your fiction, you’re shaping and building your story

Everyone hates cutting when they’re editing their first draft. I hate it too… but it must be done if you want your novel to sell. Check your one-sentence summary, and delete everything that doesn’t relate directly to it. You can keep your deletions in a “Junk” file, if it makes you feel better.

Have fun, and take heart. Once you develop your write/ write something else/ edit workflow for writing your novels, not only will you write better novels, writing them will be easier too.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.