A few weeks ago, I was at the half-way point of my first draft and having trouble with my plot. After ten months of steadily pounding away at the keyboard and chipping at the word count, I was increasing asking myself “what the $#*! happens now?” Although I knew what was going to happen at the end of my story, I didn’t know:
- how I was going to get there, or
- how all of my subplots were meant to tie in.
And frankly, it was driving me batty.
What I wanted – really, really wanted – was some sort of spreadsheet where I could chart what had happened so far, both in the main plot and the subplots. Somehow, I came across LizWritesBooks where Liz refreshed my memory regarding the beat sheet and, more importantly, introduced me to the 7-point plot system, a beat sheet for pantsers.
The 7-point system is ridiculously helpful, not to mention easy to use, especially when it comes time to integrate your subplots with your main one. I won’t attempt to explain how it works here (Dan Wells, the system’s almost-creator, does a much better job than I could) but the concept of layering (which you can learn about in the aforementioned YouTube lecture) was the revelation that solved all of my problems with plot (for the moment at least). I’m not sure how it will work when it comes time to analyse my first draft for plot holes, it may be too simplistic, but as a starting point it’s the best.
Like any good system for improving your plot, 7-points comes with a template to make your life easier. Below is my take on the template. It’s the same as the original, with a little more information about each of the seven points built-in.
10 thoughts on “Beat sheet to the rescue, pantser-style”
Thanks Belinda, this is really interesting. I haven’t used the 7-point plot system, but it looks helpful so I’ll fill it out and see how my novel fits!!
Glad I could help 🙂 I’d love to hear how you go with it.
This is great! Really appreciate the clarity of the explanation.
Thank you for your clear and comprehensive beat sheet. This will be a big help.
I tried to follow the links to LizWritesBooks and the 7-point plot system, but the website it goes to says that the domain is for sale. Is there anyone else who can explain the 7-point plot system for me?
Hi Steve. Thanks for letting me know about the broken link. You can learn more about the 7-point plot system in this series of YouTube lectures by Dan Wells.
As a fellow pantser, I appreciate this! Thank you for posting it!
Hi! The PDF for the presentation slides says error when I click on it. Do you still have the slides? Thanks!
Thanks for letting me know! No, I don’t have the slides. My guess is that they’ve been taken down recently.
I would try searching for “Dan Wells 7 point plot system” and see what you can find.