Are You Lost Plotting Your Novel?

Photo by Brad Chisholm

There are enough things to worry about when you are writing or revising a novel. Here is an easy method to keep track of your plot, spot gaps or identify where exposition is needed and manage the flow for maximum drama.

You can do it in a notebook, a word doc, or, if your story is complex, I suggest recipe cards. The only rule is you have to think of your story in scenes or events rather than chapters.

Write a line or two summarizing each scene, with critical detail only:

Probably you will have a B story, maybe a C story. I suggest you summarize them individually, then you can combine the cards for the overall flow. Then you can mess around, moving cards is a lot easier than cutting and pasting and making alternate versions and then reading over the whole section.

Now when you read my little narrative, you will realize that you will want to cut 13 — Joe buying the pizza. It’s far more dramatic if you see the car lights and don’t know if Joe is still in his psycho jealous mood. When I read it, I decided to add the cops in the pizza shop, just for fun they know each other.

By working this way you don’t get distracted by narrative or dialogue or typos. You can read the entire flow of your story and make sure it works — and if it doesn’t, you can pretty easily see where the gaps are, or things you need to cut/replace, events you need to set up earlier (maybe you want a scene where Dick and Jane meet at their office). Also I left a mistake in the summary, see if you can find it.

While I don’t believe that plot is the most important thing in a novel (Chandler said that a good mystery is one where the ending is torn out and you would still read it.) it is still important enough to get it right.

K-Town Confidential (legal thriller, 2018) won Maxy + Pencraft awards and Kat & Maus (drama, 2018) won a Pencraft Award. Dash & Laila was published by Black R

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