Monday, November 3, 2014

Plot running astray?

The second draft of my novel has gone in so many unexpected directions, it feels more like a first draft, and I wish I could do NaNo WriMo with the rest of you wonderful people.

In my revisions, I built an ever-increasing word count that bordered on gluttonous, and it eventually ran my story into the ground. Kind of like this:

For days, I hemmed over how to jump start everything into gear. The answer came when I helped a student hone in on her research paper thesis. I told her a mantra from my own papers: "Stick to your thesis like glue."

I realized my novel's thesis was my synopsis and query, and I hadn't stuck to them at all. Notes and changes were spread across multiple documents, and there was a story thread that didn't need to be there. That's what was blocking my path.

Here's how I got myself untangled:

Step 1: Revised query and synopsis to reflect new story directions, and stuck to it like glue

Step 2: Condensed proposed story changes into a manageable to-do list

Step 3: Sliced out extra story threads that didn't belong

So far, I've been able to subtract 4,000 words, and I now have a clear path to the end:

I hope, whether you're doing NaNo WriMo, or if you're buried in revisions like I am, that you can stick to your query and synopsis (or outline, if that's your preference). Especially if you find your plot tangled or your story stalled. Letting go of what you don't need makes everything a ton easier.

Your turn: What are some ways you've tamed your unruly plots?


  1. Cutting, cutting, cutting. A lot of times I find myself in a scene where I think, "Don't I have this scene already?" While it's not usually exactly the same, it often functions in the same way, which means one of them can usually go. I often also find myself in the midst of backstory, which is helpful to me in understanding the characters, but doesn't necessarily move things forward. Goodbye!!

  2. Excellent point, JeffO. I also find that character backstory serves me in first draft stages, but it's like an iceberg--readers only need to see the top. Great point about scenes serving the same function too--I'll be sure to scour my manuscript for those as well.

  3. Semi off topic-- for a moment I thought you posted a pic of the street my parents live on. And then I looked closer. "Oh, no, too many leaves still on the trees, and the fallen on isn't big enough. No, that's not their street after the last hurricane."

  4. Oh no! Sorry to cause momentary panic. The photos are from


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