Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Help! My Plot Doesn't Work!

It’s no secret that I’ve got a deadline approaching in three weeks. It’s tax time, my day job is insanely busy and I’m finding it hard getting up at 4.30 AM every day to fit in my writing.

The finish line is in sight but I just couldn’t get past a certain scene in my book.

I have spent two weeks trying to figure out why. Last night I had a sickening epiphany.

My plot doesn’t work. It is too complicated, convoluted and just a muddle. In an attempt to be clever, I wrote myself into a corner and it’s just too confusing.

To say I’m panicking, is putting it mildly.  So what to do?

I gave it to a trusted friend who suggested taking out an entire story line. But taking out a story line is like playing Jenga. The entire structure could collapse! However, he was right.

So what should I do?  Give up or dig in? I found this handy check list and wanted to share it here: 

  • Give your m/s to a trusted friend (already did that – surprised he’s still talking to me) and be open to suggestions. They could spark new ideas.
  • Ask yourself - does your plot make sense for your book?
  • Read the entire m/s as if it belongs to someone else—preferably someone you don’t particularly like so you can really relish looking for flaws. Do not edit or make notes at this stage.
  • Read the entire m/s at least twice more and notice where your attention drifts off or you get taken out of the story.
  • Plot out the entire book again, scene by scene.  See what you can delete or add.
  • Roll up your sleeves and jump right back in, sentence by sentence, page by page.

Any other suggestions would be gratefully received!


Susan Elizabeth said...

I've picked up a similar tip recently:

When reading over the manuscript, if you find yourself constantly skimming over one specific section, that section probably needs to go or to be edited. You can't bring yourself to read that section (or even paragraph) because subconsciously you know there's something amiss that you're avoiding addressing.

And it's definitely hard to "kill you darlings," but maybe they'll find a home in another story somewhere down the line. Good luck with the editing!

Norma Huss said...

I've just found a new on-line critique group, and I think it's going to help.

Hannah Dennison said...

Thanks so much for stopping by - I don't feel so alone! That's a great tip Susan. There ARE chunks of scenes I have to brace myself to read. Perhaps I should pick a different color pen to kill those darlings ... red seems so final.

Hannah Dennison said...

Norma - where did you find the on-line group? Was it via a referral?

Susan Elizabeth said...

The red pen is fun, but definitely harsh when deleting things!

I keep a second word doc for deleted scenes, so that I have them all in one place in case I want to put them back in there (which usually doesn't happen). said...
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Hannah Dennison said...

Yes - I love the deleted scenes folder. Always a good idea!

Aline Templeton said...

Are you sure this isn't just mid-book panic, Hannah? I usually have a spell when I'm convinced the ends won't meet and have to keep telling myself 'Trust the story!' So far that's always worked, along with a hard-eyed look at the stuff cluttering it up. Good luck!