Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Plot Your Roadmap to Success

One of the most essential things we look at when we are evaluating a manuscript for publication is the plot. We want to see that the writer can sustain the plot all the way through the novel, not get side tracked, and forget to tell the entire story.

The plot of your novel is like a map for a road trip. If I am driving from my home in Texas to Florida, I'm going to map out my journey ahead of time. I may take a few detours if there are some points of interest on the way, or if I want to visit a friend or relative, but ultimately, I will end up in Florida. Not only that, but by the time I get there, I will have covered all the ground in between. I will have driven through Lousisiana, Missisippi and Alabama, unless I take a mighty strange detour. I won't skip Mississippi on the journey because I have to go through that state
to get where I want to go.

Your novel works the same way. It is extremely important to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Does that mean an outline? Possibly. Writers all have different ways of plotting their books. I'm anal so I do a flow chart type of system. I know of another writer who uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his plot lines. Some writers never write anything down, but they have the entire plot laid out in their heads.

One of the most frequent problems I see is writers who get in a hurry. They are so eager to get to Florida that they skip over the states in between. When I see this, I tell them to slow down and write the whole story. I can really relate to them because when I am writing, I am always very eager to get to the end, and I often wish I could just skip over all the middle stuff so I can get to the climax of the novel. If I wrote the way I want to, all of my books would go something like this: "I find a dead body on the floor of my living room. A lot of stuff happens. Finally I figure out that the postal carrier killed my pet sitter, and there is a thrilling scene where the postal carrier tries to kill me but I survive by hitting him in the neck with a karate chop." It lets me get to the really good stuff at the end of the story, but it doesn't make for a very good plot!

I find it helps me to outline backwards-- I start at the end and then think about what it will take to get me there. I do a very quick skeleton outline of the key events, then I start fleshing this
in with specific scenes. With my flow chart, I keep track of what is happening in each plot thread and what has to happen before the plot can progress.

Tell your story. Tell your whole story. Slow down. Take your time, and tell the complete story. Trust me, if you start at Point A and make your way through Points B, C and D, you'll end up at Point E with a well plotted novel.


Anonymous Laura said...


Just want you to know I appreciate this blog.

I'm learning :) I tend be the write it fast type.

Laura A. Bethuy

10:55 AM  
Blogger Swimming Kangaroo said...

I'm glad you enjoy it. If I can help, please let me know.

7:14 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home