A Simple Tool to Design Your Plot for Novelists

Plan Your Novel Tip #7 Design Your Plot using the Problem-Solution Tool

Today is the seventh in an 8-post series on plan your novel. In today’s post, we focus on a simple tool to design your plot called, “Problem-Solution.” 

If you missed it, the first step in your novel planning is your elevator pitch and the second step is crafting your story synopsis. The third post to help you plan  your characters is here. The fourth post is here on world building. The fifth post on plot and story building tips is here. The sixth post is a unique way to develop conflict in your story for pantsers here. (All the posts are here. Be sure to download the printable checklist too.)


Keep in mind your genre and review the information you drafted about your characters and your world.

Set aside time: I recommend you spend at least of 20 minutes to do this exercise for your story.

Design Your Plot with the Problem-Solution tool

I wanted to write a novel, but I didn’t know where to begin. So I found the book, The Weekend Novelist, and used it as a guide to write every weekend to get going. One of the tools I really liked was the “problem-solution” tool, helping me design my story plot in a quick way. Plot was so confusing to me. This tool helped me get a handle on it.

Here’s how it works:

Create problem-solution pairs.


What’s the starting problem of your story?

What’s the solution to this immediate problem?

What problem is caused by this solution?

Create a new solution,

which creates a new problem.

This leads to a new solution,

new problem…

etc. until you get to your story resolution.

Design your plot with the problem-solution tool and find your way into your story.

Comments? Questions?

Tell us how it went in the comments below.



Would you like hands-on support to plan and write your novel?


If you’d like hands-on support to plan your novel with your peers and with experienced instructors — Beth and Ezra Barany, then join us for our next course starting October 1st: 30-Day Writing Challenge to Plan Your Novel.

Sign up for the wait list here.

You can join the home study course at any time here.


Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! by Beth and Ezra Barany, Available where all books are sold!


You can also check out our newest book, Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, here!

This book will help you get excited to plan your novel. The tools shared here are designed to spark your muse and give you confidence when you sit down to write your story. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! is for organic writers and pansters who want a roadmap to follow, so that they can let their creativity loose.

“Beth’s book is like plotting for pantsers!”—Tess Rider, Science Fantasy Romance Author



Happily married for over 18 years, Beth and Ezra Barany help authors reach their dreams.

Beth Barany, an award-winning novelist and certified Creativity Coach for Writers, runs Barany Consulting, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to helping novelists write, publish, and market their books. She’s the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, and the paranormal sweet romance collection, Touchstone Series. She’s currently working on a science fiction mystery series.

Ezra Barany, an award-winning novelist and the bestselling author of The Torah Codes series, is also a teacher and mentor.

Together they help authors get their books out into the world.

Tip #8: 3 Fun Videos on Preparing for NaNoWriMo

List of all 8 tips here and download the printable checklist.

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  • This gave me a very simple yet “aha” tool I put to immediate use on my MG WIP this morning — adding just this one element (problem/solution) to each scene in my outline helped my left brain see exactly how my creative right brain has developed the story. It helped me see what I’m lacking in a few muddling scenes that I can now either cut or develop further. Keeping problem/solution in mind will help me increase the tension logically and emotionally as I go. Great tip – nothing really new, per se, but delivered in a concise way so it’s new enough. Perfect!

  • Beth Barany says:

    Courtenay, I am so glad to hear it! So glad that you were able to put to immediate use on your MG WIP this morning. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how the creative mind knows first and then the left brain needs reassurance.

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