Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Plotting Tip: Simplify

Novel plots easily become complicated.  First there are all the cool elements that can make the story unique - special objects, amazing talents, surprise connections between characters, an unusual skill or friendship. Then there are the many obstacles needed to create a compelling story: all the threats, break ups with friends, red herrings, things that go missing, thieves or liars -- the list is endless. The trouble is, the more stuff that goes into the novel plot, the more difficult it can be to revise.

I've learned this the hard way.

So my plotting tip for today is to keep the basic plot as simple as possible. It's possible to create a simple storyline but still make the story unique.

Some strategies for keeping it simple:

Keep your character's goal in mind at all times. For my current project, I wrote my main character's wants on an index card and stuck it up by my computer so it's always there to help focus my ideas.

Check to see if obstacles or cool elements fit with the story by asking why. Sometimes I hang onto an obstacle or cool element because I think it makes a story unique, but then struggle to "make it fit" when probably what I should be doing is saving it for another story.

Think about the ending and how it fits with the beginning before plotting out the middle. Once you know where the story is going and what makes sense, then you can figure out how to get there. I find it helpful to work backwards and think about what needs to happen in earlier chapters to set up the ending.

What's your best tip for keeping your plot manageable?


  1. Great tips, Andrea. Also keep in mind your theme. That will help you from straying off course.

  2. I use the post the MC's goal right in front of me technique, too. Something that I like to do is make a simple timeline. This helps keep the days of the week/months in check so I can add details about weather/holidays etc and make sure I'm pacing myself well.

  3. I love it when I read a good book and the plot is simple and yet mind boggling at the same time.

  4. There's only so much I can remember and keep track of. That helps me keep plots simple. :-)

  5. Thanks for the great tips! Usually when I find I've written myself into a corner I can't get out of, I've made things way too complicated. Simple always works better!

  6. Thanks, Andrea. I'm struggling with simplifying my plot right now, so this was very helpful. Getting rid of the cool element that isn't really essential--that's the advice I needed to hear.


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