Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Plotting and Pacing a Romance

on November 17, 2014

This month, I’m working on plotting and pacing my current work-in-progress romance novel. Up until this point, all of my romances have been short, (5K-8K romance short stories), which means the story is about the moment the hero and heroine realize they are the perfect match for each other, and this does not involve a lot of elaborate plotting and pacing.  But, now I am writing a full-length novel, which at the moment I am targeting to the category markets.  Category lines have specific word count requirements and when reading some of the books, the stories are broken down into chapters ranging from twenty-two to about twenty-six chapters.

Within the specific word count and chapters, I need to develop an external plot with internal conflict for both characters as well as create a romance arc to a satisfying happily ever after moment.

So how to accomplish all of this pacing and plotting?

I started with figuring out the key scenes using Blake Synder’s Beat Sheet. I was first introduced to this handy little plotting tool when I took a Writing the Chapter Book series of classes from Anastasia Suen. I highly recommend this tool for plotting any story–from children’s through adult.

Since I am writing romance, I wanted to make sure I hit all the key moments of the romance’s arc. That’s when I turned to Autumn Macarthur’s Blake Synder Beat Sheet for romance authors. The thing I like best about her helpful chart is she maps out how many words the story should hit at each key plot point in the story. I have found this to be extremely helpful for pacing. Here is her Blake Synder Beat Sheet for romance

Looking at that same writing tool page on Autumn’s website, she also has a great sheet for character development that really dives into the heart and soul of a character–including their wounds and how those wounds affect their choices. You can find the Identity to Essence Character Chart here.

Jami Gold has also developed a romance plot sheet for writers–hers is a for books a bit longer at the 110,000 word count. You can see her romance plot sheet here.

Jami Gold also has a wealth of information on her website and you can see all of her plot beat sheets as well as other workshops including a business plan for writers here.

Okay, so after I spent time working on the pacing and plotting using the beat sheets, then it was time to take it to a visual storyboard. At the Seattle RWA Conference, I attended Seven Ways to Plot Your Novel by Darlene Panzera and Debby Lee where they talked about making a story board dividing it into grids on a large piece of butcher paper. Each grid box represents a chapter. The part I liked best about this was when you set up your grid, for a twenty-chapter book, the fifth box, tenth box, fifteenth box and twenty box are aligned and each of those correspond with a key plot point moment.

For example:

Chapter 5: First turning point

Chapter 10: Second turning point

Chapter 15: Third turning point

Chapter 18: Black moment

Chapter 19/20: Resolution

Using the grid method, you can also see your subplot points. For example on the same grid mentioned above, you can see:

Chapter 3: Subplot first scene

Chapter 7: Subplot second scene

Chapter 11: Subplot turning point

Chapter 14: Black moment moving to the resolution for the subplot, and this connects right into chapter fifteen which is the third turning point moment for the main plot.

If you’d like to see a visual of this method, download Robin Perini’s Seattle RWA Layering Handout here and turn to page 4 and 5 in the handout.

I’d love to hear how you plot your novel and make sure it’s on pace to a satisfying finish.


3 responses to “Plotting and Pacing a Romance

  1. Jami Gold says:

    Thanks for the shout out! Just a note that my Romance Beat Sheet (and all of my Beat Sheets) can be used for any length of book. If you change the word count at the top of the form, all the page count and word count numbers will automatically adjust. 🙂 (Auto-math is the only way to go–LOL!)

    I just have the word count set that high on the example so people can see how the math works. That is, at 110K, a book is ~400 pages, which means we can see that Act 1 is 1-100 pages, Act 2 is 101-300 pages, and Act 3 is 301-400 pages. It’s just easier for people to visualize how the math works with easy 25% chunk breakdowns. But all that automatically adjusts for your real word count. 🙂

    I figured I should point that out so people didn’t avoid the form because of that detail. LOL! Thanks again for the shout out!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Jami! I’m glad you clarified that all of your Beat Sheets can be used for any length book!! This is very helpful to know!

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