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10 Common Plot Problems

July 18, 2017

Writing is hard. Just keeping up with my blogs can sometimes be cumbersome. Novels come with their own spate of problems, most of which have, thankfully, easy solutions!

 

 

1.  My whole piece is garbage.

 

You've been plowing forward on this project for a long time. You've invested hours and hours, but it never has felt right. Every time you look at it, you wither inside because you're convinced it's just awful. What should you do?

 

Well, if you're my friend, Dan Heiser, you trash it and start over (haha, sorry Dan!). We've had numerous instances where the author community collectively cringed to learn of Dan's habits. But that's not always a bad thing! If you don't like where it's headed, start over. Sometimes you need to write before you could actually write.

 

But what if you don't want to trash it? You've spent so much time that starting over would feel like failure. The easiest solution: TAKE A BREAK!

 

Sometimes your mind is just on overload. You've been working so hard that you can't see your manuscript's forest for the trees. Set it aside and give your mind a break. Work on something else. Watch some TV. Spend some time with your friends or family. Then come back to it with a fresh perspective.

 

2. I have to cut words.

 

This is hard. I've heard of author's editors/publishers needing the word count cut. The easiest way to find words to cut is to start with adverbs. Do you use words like "excessively", "slowly", "dangerously", etc. in every sentence? It's time to cut them out!

 

You'd be surprised at how many words like these can be axed, and how often they're not needed. That's not to say that a cleverly placed adverb can't spice up the moment, but a lot of times they're just dead weight. Use your dialogue and descriptions to convey what that adverb means.

 

3. My beta readers hate my ending.

 

That sounds like a personal problem, doesn't it?

 

But when you have multiple people telling you they don't like it, there's probably something to fix. If they're finding it lackluster or anticlimactic, add some danger. Or add some romance. Or add anything that will give your ending that zing it needs.

 

On the flipside, don't be afraid to stick to your guns. Only you know where this ship is headed. You're the captain and the navigator. Sometimes the ending needs to be what you've written, even if it is to the dismay of your readers. If you're in such a situation, ask for more readers. Ask for readers outside of your normal group. Get more opinions than just your mom's and your grandmother's.

 

4. I have two pieces that don't fit together.

 

So you wrote a really awesome scene, and then another really awesome one, but you can't figure out how to piece them together. Don't stress!

 

Use a chapter break. Chapter breaks are a great place to have a good, clean stop. The reader knows that the next chapter may not be right in line with how the last chapter ended, and that gives you the perfect opportunity to do some weaving and crafting.

 

Or, just use the magic word, according to Writer's Digest, "meanwhile". Bridge your gap accordingly.

 

5. I have a big plot, with lots of twists, but the twists aren't coming together like they should.

 

The biggest payoff for a reader is suspense. They want that sense of catharsis at the end. Did the boy get the girl? Did the monster get killed? Did the sick person get saved?

 

Your plot doesn't have to tie all of its strings in a nice little bow. Real life is rarely so cut-and-dry, and your novel/plot doesn't have to be either. Just be sure to have an ending that leaves your readers with their main questions answered.

 

And those side questions? Use them for your next novel. Carry them over throughout your series. Your reader doesn't need to have an answer for everything all at once.

 

 

Next week we will visit the last 5 common plot problems. Are there any that you think should make the list?

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