Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secrets to Fix Your Novel's Plot

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Secrets to Fix Your Novel's Plot

by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Of all the necessary components to a well-received NOVEL, plot is among the top three. Should your PLOT sag at any point, you'll find the entire novel lacks the intensity needed to make it onto the best-seller lists.

There are three major areas that tend to drag down your plot. They are:

1. The Beginning is Too Slow.
2. The Middle drags.
3. The Ending is Predictable.

Let's look at solutions to each of these common problems.

The Beginning is Slow.

If your plot, those events that happen to your major characters, stutters from the outset of your novel, it's probably because you've set too low a standard for your characters. There's nothing to hook your readers.

To fix this, think of how you can make things worse for the major character. What will cause him the most angst? Try a bit of mind-mapping or, as they called it in my day, brainstorming. Just allow those nefarious ideas to ramble around into your mind and see if anything jumps to the fore. The more ideas you conjure, the better the odds the best idea will appear.

Keep this first section simple. Incorporate lots of conflict but not too many people. One character is good, two are ample.

Make this situation self-explanatory. If you spend a lot of your word count to bring people up to speed as to what's happening, it'll make your opening drag. That is, consider a great deal of action and dialogue. Descriptions aren't necessary and don't add much here.

Another method by which to pump up the start of your novel is to begin with or create a new motivation for your hero. What causes him to do the things he does? That might get your reader's blow to flow.

The Middle Drags.

Should your novel suffer the dreaded sagging middle, the general secret is to interject additional conflict, more confrontation. Just be sure you add conflict and not just action. (Conflict is your character's emotional response to action.)

You might also add a plot twist. Take the story in a new and unexpected direction.

You can also introduce a major, yet unexpected, character. Just make sure he's logical and necessary to the story.

Another technique to prop up your sagging middle is to introduce additional motivation. For example, if at the start of your novel your hero hates woman, in your sagging middle your reader may find he actually hates women with tattoos. They also need to find out why he hates this "brand" of woman.

The Ending is Predictable.

The third typical problem is when everyone sees the trees long before they come upon the forest.

You can fix this issue in a number of ways. First, like the method with which we fixed the sagging middle, add a new twist. Brainstorm a number of potential endings then pick the one that feels best to you. Be sure to insert this twist far enough back in your novel so it works into your plot with ease. If you just plug it in at the end, it'll look contrived.

You might also survey your ending to see if you've spent too much time explaining loose ends and the like. This often leads to too much narrative and not enough excitement.

You may wish to ensure there are no coincidences at this part of your novel. Your ending must follow that trail of crumbs you left in the preceding parts of your novel.

With a little planning, most plot errors can be corrected. Spend some time with an outline and see what happens.

Did any of you have plot issues with your novel? How did you fix them?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. Good post! Throwing it in to our Friday round-up of best articles for writers. What would a Friday be without you?

    Best wishes,


  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 22, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    What would my Friday's be without you, Martina.