Monday, December 15, 2014

I'll Make it Fit: Why Cramming Things Together is a Bad Idea

Having finished the second draft of my WIP, I've thought about my editing process, and what I learned from this past go-round. A lot of things came to mind, but the most important was the consequences of molding the story into something it wasn't (and having to back-track when that didn't work).

We've all been there, I'm sure. When revising the heck out of Plot A, Plot B comes along and says, "I'm the real story here. Plot A can suck it." So I cut too much to accommodate Plot B, and ended up having to re-add it back in (thank goodness for previous saved drafts).

The trick is to marry Plot A and Plot B in a way that doesn't feel forced:

"I'll make it fit!"
When we try to force story, it gets stifled, and turns into something it isn't meant to be. If you're encountering this, take a step back and see what your characters are doing.

That's right--I said characters. Not plot. Because the "making it fit" phenomenon happens when I'm trying to tell my characters what they're supposed to be doing. Making them speak, instead of letting them speak.

If you find that your novel is feeling forced, ask yourself the following:

1. Am I letting my characters discover their true selves, or am I adding unnecessary frills and forcing the story?

2. Does Plot B contradict the characters' actions that led up to the current scene? Or is there a way to tie it together to what will inevitably happen?

3.  Am I going wider? Or deeper? (Hint: Go deeper so the puzzle pieces fit, but don't feel forced.)

Once I found my villain's true motivation--simple, with no frills attached--Plot B finally said, "Oh! That's what you're doing. Okay, I can fit in this way..."

And because my villain's no-frills motivation was directly connected with my protagonist's inciting event, it let me see what was supposed to stay (and what needed to be cut). And at last, I saw my way to the end.

So what about you? What do you do when things don't fit?


Angelica R. Jackson said...

Yes, I run into all kinds of problems if I don't listen to my characters, lol

J Lenni Dorner said...

It's great when it finally all comes together!