Monday, July 16, 2018

5 Reasons to Write with Plot Flexibility + A mom moment

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5 Reasons to Write with Plot Flexibility

Sometimes, we run into a wall of frustration. We have to step back and re-read previous scenes, check our plot points, re-read character profiles, look at our plot map or sticky notes, gaze at our Pinterest board and just ask ourselves: why am I stuck? Is it me? Is it the theme? Is it the characters? Is it the plot? 

Sometimes, it is the plot and we have to change it to move forward.

1. If the plot points aren't lining up with what you're really writing. 

Have you ever written out a 5 to 25 point plot outline and then, after two months of draft, you realize you've drifted far away from your plot outline? 

I know I have. Sometimes, we need to revise the draft, but most of the time, I think it's best to see what the good parts are the page and adjust the plot, instead.

2. If the characters are refusing to do what you want them to do. 

Your character refuses to take another step.

 Every scene feels awkward. You can't write that kissing scene or that sword-fight scene or that intergalactic space battle. The characters just seem to keep slipping out of your grasp and doing everything but what you planned for them to do.

This means it's time to step back and think about what the characters are telling you as a writer. 

Yes, I know they don't really talk, but they are figments of our imagination and maybe, unconsciously, we really want to write a different book than we put in our plot outline. If the characters are being difficult, that might be the case.

3. If showing versus telling seems to involve the minutiae of life.

Readers like fast-paced novels. Although we may want to stop and explore the gorgeous castle library from one book to the next, most readers want a brief description (unless there's a murder weapon or a secret entrance to an underground lair in the library or the love interest is giving all the books to an MC who loves books). 

We also don't really want to know what they eat every meal, unless it's a foodie-based book or a food-centered saga, or if there's poison. One of my writing teachers, Pamela Goodfellow, used to say, "Don't include food, unless you plan to kill someone with it."

Don't include showers, unless you are writing steamy romance or it involves a Bates Motel type scene. 

Take out those minutiae plot points unless they reveal plot or character points. (In the rough draft, they are okay because we might be telling ourselves something about the character that we need to know before we can write more.)

4. If the tension has deflated like an old party balloon.

It's time to figure out why there's no "oomph" to the plot. 

Are the stakes high enough? 

Are the plot points of high tension too far apart? 

It might be time to tighten up the writing and shorten or cut the plot points of "rest."

5. If there is pointless dialogue.

This is similar to point #2. When characters are not doing what we want them to do, we often find ourselves writing pointless, somewhat pouty dialogue. 

Or, maybe we want the characters to interact, but we lost the tension while they were talking. It might be time to cut the dialogue and make them do something while talking in short moments between hurdling over hedges, kissing heavily, fighting for their lives, or sharing a taxi awkwardly with a wild driver careening through the city.

Reason for me to write this post: I recently had problems #1-5 all at once with my current WIP. I decided the book really wasn't hitting the right points for me as a writer because I want the characters to be older and able to handle some grittier stuff. I needed to include villains in nearly every scene (even if they are hidden in the background somewhere, waiting to be revealed later), and my characters were definitely having pointless dialogue in scenes with the minutiae of life on full display, including lots of meals in a non-foodie plot, although I am hanging onto Gran's cookies because they are essential to her character and how she attempts to deflate tension. 

So, out with an attempt at Middle Grade fiction, and onto Young Adult Superheroes (and Villains) with baggage. Same characters, similar, but with a different timeline. So far, my changes have breathed new life into a novel that had lost all forward momentum in draft #2. So, yes, this looks like another major revision/rewrite, but I'm actually excited about it. 

Do you write with plot flexibility or do you have an iron-clad plot outline? What reasons might you have to change your plot?

More plot posts are coming in August!

Mom Moment: My youngest daughter was featured in a news video about Olympic Hopefuls who were training in Oklahoma City for Olympic Hopes, an international regatta for teens:

Summer Sales:

99 Cents for Champion in the Darkness and Champion in Flight for Kindle readers until July 31st.

Smashwords Sale Items until July 31st.
FREE - Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry
FREE - Dynamic Writing 1: First Semester E-book
$1.50 Champion in Flight (I couldn't get it to 99 cents and put it in the sales catalog, probably author error).

Don't Forget #IWSGPit is Tomorrow!

Two of the images are free from


L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful your daughter was in the video.

I love the bit about not including food unless you plan to kill someone with it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great interview. Congrats to your daughter. She's a good speaker. I adjust my plot points all the time.

M.J. Fifield said...

It's amazing to me how often my characters refuse to do what I want. I mean, I go to all this trouble of carefully plotting out a novel, and they barely even look at my plans before they go off and do their own thing. Yeah...I have to write with a lot of plot flexibility.

Congrats to your daughter! That's awesome!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Diane - Thanks! Yes, that's one of my favorite "criticisms" from a writing teacher. :)

Susan - Thanks!

MJ - Yes, I knnow what you mean. It's kind of crazy how things change from outline to actual novel.

Heather R. Holden said...

Great list! Even though I'm a plotter, I still try to leave a little wiggle room in my plans, since I find myself needing to make changes sometimes. (Usually for the sake of pacing, but there are other reasons, too.)

And hurray! Glad to hear changing your WIP from MG to YA was exactly what you needed to feel excited for it again. Hope the major revision for this goes smoothly for you!

Mark Noce said...

I especially like point #3. Sometimes there are no hard and fast rules, simply striking a balance between showing and simply moving the plot along.

Lori L MacLaughlin said...

Congrats and best of luck to your daughter with her Olympic aspirations! I never do much plotting ahead of time because my characters always seem to have their own story in mind. I'm just along for the ride. :)