Editing the Plot

by Tisha Martin, CES fiction editor, writer, writing coach, academic proofreader, and online marketing specialist (read more about Tisha)

PlotOkay. Most of you (myself included) admit it’s challenging and exciting to plan the next book. It must be simple, right? Think of an idea. Create characters and compelling scenes. Write a few hundred pages. And you’re done. Right?

Wrong. Not. That. Simple.

You’ve got to think of a plot that works. A plot that includes a beginning, middle, and end. You may not think plotting a book is part of editing, but it is, my friend. What I’m going to say next is vital to the life and breath of your story. If we don’t analyze how our story flows at the macro level we won’t have a solid story to edit at the micro level.

What? There’s a structure to tying it all together? I’m afraid so. A story isn’t Friday Mish Mash. (Although some writers have successfully pulled off a great mish mash story . . . that’s another conversation for another day.)

· Beginning. Introduce your characters, bring in a conflict or desire between your main character and an antagonist (can be an animate or inanimate object), and set up how the main character is going to achieve their goal.

· Middle. Continue story with riveting twists and turns for the character to achieve the solution to the problem or desire. You can even introduce subplot, which is often more exciting than the main plot.

· End. Begin to wrap up the solution to the problem, but not before your character is forced to choose between good and evil in order to obtain their goal. This is the most exciting part in your story because you’ll hook your readers even more and keep them reading late into the night. (A very good thing!) Your conclusion should be satisfying and solve the problem your character faced in the beginning of the story.

Remember. Readers who have a reason to care about the characters you’ve created will be hooked from beginning to end.

Here’s an example of my own WWII story:

Beginning Clara must babysit her little sister while their mother goes shopping. In addition to babysitting, Clara has to put up the tomatoes (goal). Little sister Bevy proceeds to wreck Clara’s work (problem). Clara tries to work with Bevy to no avail (aggravated problem.)

Middle Clara is frustrated that Bevy is squashing all of the tomatoes and reacts angrily toward Bevy. Bevy runs outside (climax).

End While cleaning up the tomato mess, Clara sees Beverly running toward the tractor where their dad is harvesting crops (unexpected climax that causes reader to care). Clara realizes the importance of her attitude toward Bevy (resolution to the problem).

The instructions might sound simple. But it takes practice to grasp the concept of beginning, middle, and end structure and then to execute it. Grasping the concepts are also determined by editing the plot to make sure it sings like a canary rather than a crow. Then. It. Will. Be. Simple.

Join in the discussion!

What part of the novel do you struggle with and what resources help you conquer the struggle part(s)?



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