Wednesday, 10 August 2011

How Thick Is Your Plot?

Here is another fascinating Book Deal blog about ways to thicken your plot.

I said in an earlier post that in revision what I find is generally too much plot. Anyone who's done Nanowrimo will recognise the casually tossed in and incongruous plot twist used to liven things up when your energy level is flagging. I make no apology for this. Writing a first draft is like running a marathon and at times you will try anything to get some momentum going when your ideas have run dry and the characters are standing around looking for inspiration.

But that's the great thing about revision. These things are so easy to spot and easy to deal with, assuming you are ruthless enough. All the daft stuff has to go. I find I can usually remember what I was thinking when I made Dorothy, the one legged trapeze artist lover of Quentin, the Main Character, pull that sabre from her knickers and chop off the heads of all seven of their party guests. I was tired and bored and itching to write something exciting for a change. But let's face it, it won't really play in a Romcom now will it? So the sabre, the party, even Dorothy have to go. Yes, I know it was a week's work, but it's contrived, it deviates from the plot and frankly, it's dumb.

If it means losing a lot of material then so be it. The point is to carve out the excess to reveal the story and bring salient plot points to the fore. New scenes will present themselves - I have a constant struggle to stop myself rewriting nearly every scene. The revision is hard work. It isn't just a bit of nip and tuck.


il_cag said...

I love the sound of the sabre-wielding, one legged trapeze artist - cut her out by all means, but can't you give her her own story?

Sandra Patterson said...

Why thank you, dear. It's food for thought.

Anonymous said...

When critting synopses I commonly find plot devices and characters that have been dropped in by the writer to drive the plot forward, but with no thought as to how to tie it in to what has come before. So when you come to the editing stage, remember to join the dots/stitch the individual story stands into the main plot thread, otherwise it'll start to look like the mc is amazingly lucky to be in exactly the right place at the right time to find the right thing, meet the right person, find the next clue, all the time. And you can't make the excuse to the agent reading the submission 'Ah, um, I had a bit of a writer's block that day, so I thought I'd kill him off'.

- Naomi

Anonymous said...

...I guess the point I'm making, is it's not necessarily too much plot, it's simply disconnected plot.

Sandra Patterson said...

Thanks, Naomi. Good points. Deus ex machina is so tempting but you must plant the seeds early on to pull it off.

Scott M Patterson said...

Deus ex Machina is a minefield of a device, really. So easy to trod on one of the things and blow up the whole story in a cloud of exasperation.

It's one of those elements that has to both rely on the plot and have the plot rely on it in equal harmony. A bit like ball room dancing...or a white russian...mmmm...I digress.

Good post, by the way. I usually end up increasing plot by about 800% in redrafts.