Tag Archive - plotting

Keys to Moving Your Plot Forward

I tell writers often they are failing to “advance their plot.” What does that mean, and why does it matter?

I keep seeing novels that “land on my desk” that start off with a great situation but then veer off into the hinterlands. Other novels don’t even get out the gate. The opening scenes seem to have nothing to do with the premise of their story. I’ll go back and reread a synopsis and shake my head. Where is the premise setup? Who exactly is the protagonist?

This is such a problem that I’m going to share some points from a post I wrote two years ago on the topic.

If your scenes aren’t “advancing the plot,” you have a serious problem.

Each scene should reveal some new information, but not just anything—the information needs to help move the plot forward. The bottom line? Every scene must have a point to it or it shouldn’t be in your novel. Continue Reading…

What Writers May Not Know about the “Required” Three-Act Structure

I’m going to spend some weeks on tearing apart novel structure. I’ve hesitated over the years to get into this.

Why? Because there are tons of books and blog posts that cover story structure, and a lot of great ones too, so why should I add my two cents to the mix?

Because the longer I thought about it, the more I realized I have some unique approaches and twists to the standard three-act structure. Well, let’s just say I’m not always a team player on this court.

And, as well, I want to share with you a method of building your novel’s framework that I’m playing with. I call it the 10-20-30 Scene Builder. The purpose of using a “staged” or multilevel process is to help you flesh out that basic story idea you have. And one thing I’m excited about showing you is my special way of layering subplots. Continue Reading…

How Writers Can Benefit by Outlining Their Scenes

We’re been taking a look at outlining scenes these last couple of weeks. Using my scene structure checklist, we’ve been seeing what elements are so necessary in scenes to ensure their structure is sound and they have all that’s needed to engage readers.

We’re in an age of “show, don’t tell,” and that means scenes are going to be packed full of action and dialogue and, well, showing instead of telling.

While many writers like to wing it, just writing off the cuff and creating scenes will only make revision harder in the long run. Scenes are the building blocks of a novel, and those who “pants” their way through scene writing will end up with a novel that is flawed structurally. Yes, this is just my opinion, one that I share with the top writing instructors and bloggers around. And I feel passionately about this.

You might argue that some very successful novelists, like Stephen King, are pantsers. But keep in mind, authors with decades of experience in writing dozens of novels usually have scene and novel structure hardwired into their brain. Just as with playing pro ball or snowboarding, once you become an expert, you don’t have to remind yourself what to do.

I’ve edited and critiqued countless manuscripts. I go through more than two hundred partial and full manuscripts a year. Most of them need a prodigious amount of work to get the structure solid. And most of those manuscripts have been carefully plotted and/or outlined. You can imagine what the unplotted manuscripts are like.  Continue Reading…

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