Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Plot Thickens

Song of the Day: Let it Flow by Toni Braxton

   Hello all! I recently came across an article featured on the Writer's Digest website called, "10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems." I thought this was a really helpful article since so many people will be revising their NanoWriMo manuscripts. I've pretty much experienced all these problems, so I've added my comments along the way. Please note, the List of ten plot problems and their solutions were taken from the article "10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems" by Elizabeth Sims. You can click on the title to be taken to the original article.

1. "I'm Missing a Crucial Piece of Information."
    "Ten Minute Solution: If you can't find the exact data you need, get as close as you can and wing the rest."
      This happened in my NanoWriMo manuscript. I had to research an illness, but it was slowing me down. I decided to get a few facts then "wing the rest." It's okay to make things up. We're all writing fiction, the point is to just be convincing.

2. "My Action in this Scene Drags"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Resist the urge to pile it on; rather, tighten what you've got."
     The article suggests turning full length sentences into fragments and going for one-line paragraphs. I've definitely felt my scenes dragging, but I've never tried this approach. I think I'll try it once I begin editing.

3. "One of My Characters is Starting to seem Lackluster." 
    "Ten Minute Solution: Give her an Obsession."
     Several of my characters seemed to be doing this in my Nano Manuscript. But why didn't I think of giving them an obsession? I've done it in other manuscripts, but the thought didn't cross my mind for my novel.

4. "I Have to Communicate A lot of Information and it's Overkill."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Turn Narrative into Dialogue."
     I sometimes wonder if there's such a thing as "too much" dialogue. I feel like there's a lot of dialogue in my manuscript and not enough narration. I may have to focus on the opposite for this solution.

5. "I Don't Know What Should Come Next."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Have a ten minute brainstorm."
     What writer hasn't been here? Here is what Sims suggests:

"Flip to a fresh page in your notebook or computer notepad, check the time and give yourself 10 minutes to write down anything and everything that might come next. Record every idea that comes to you, even if it seems ridiculous or awful. Keep going. If you do this with a feeling of open exploration, you will come up with a good idea of what should come next."

     I'll definitely be doing this in the coming months to fill in any holes.

6. "I've Got a Complex Plot, and All of My Final Unraveling Feels Forced."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Choose some loose ends to leave loose."
    This solution makes sense, though I've never really thought about it that way. I'm always trying to have everything make sense to a character. In life, sometimes things don't make sense, so I guess that's okay for a character too.

7. "I Need a Bridge Between Two Scenes but I'm at a Loss."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Insert a chapter break or use a magic word."
     I've done this one as well. Sometimes I'll even just use a page break.

8. "My Ending Made My Critique Group Go 'SoWhat?'"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Add passion, violence, or both."
     I had to laugh out loud when I read this one. I would be a rich woman if I had a nickel for every time my critique group went "so what?" Not to mention all the times teachers have written it on my paper. Sims suggests "heightening the ending you've already got with passion or violence." According to Sims for romance writers, passion is the way to go. For mystery/thriller, or literary fiction writers violence might be the best bet because it has a tendency to satisfy the reader.

9. "My Agent/Editor Wants Me to Cut 10,000 Words!"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Micro-edit your way to success."
    Okay, I haven't been here, but I wish I had. I'd love to have an agent who wanted me to cut 10,000 words. Sims suggests cutting one word from each sentence instead of going through the entire manuscript cutting chunks. An excellent tip for my own future reference.

10. "The Whole Thing Stinks"
      "Ten Minute Solution: Take a Break"
       If you asked my two writing buddies and sisters Pam and Marquita, they would tell you that I've said this many times. Actually, I've said this about my Nano manuscript when it was just chapter one, and now here I am fifteen chapters later. Sometimes it takes you walking a way for a minute to realize that your work isn't complete crap, or even a compliment from another writer (as was the case for me). Something Nano taught me was that you can go back and revise. So what if it is crap the first time around. Nothing you write down is set in stone. That's why there's a "delete" button.

     And there it is, ten solutions to ten plot problems. I know I'll be using these during edits. What about you? Are you going to use any of these solutions? What common plot problems do you most identify with?


  1. Okay...this is freaking awesome. I am totally gonna print this out and keep it on my desk. I can really use this when I get stuck on stuff. I especially like the one about giving the character an obsession. GREAT post :)

  2. Great tips! Thanks for sharing. I'm in the middle of a first draft but this is something to keep in mind in revisions. :)

  3. I just saw this in my email and saved it in a folder bc it's SO helpful. :)Like Quita, I really like the one about the obsession. I have a character in my NaNo novel that I'm not really feeling, but I think it would be cool to give her some kind of quirk. :)

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone! :)