Hi, my name is Renee and I have a plot problem.

Pre-Writing is your friend!  Board with Notes all over it

Seriously, I get half way through a plot and BANG I start to doubt it. Everything about the plot is suspect at that point characters, pacing, subject, world…everything. I start thinking that everything I’ve done so far is crap and that I should just chuck it and start with something new.
My problem is that, after a while, I fall for my own hype. I really begin to believe the plot I’m writing isn’t the story I want to tell. Or the story won’t resolve itself in a way that I would like. Or the story is too hard to convey/tell in the voice/point of view I am using.
I’m sure all of us have had a case of plot wreck, but I get it EVERY time I write a story. So, in an effort to combat this terrible affliction I’ve come up with a list of things to keep me on task.

1. Multiple Stories: Currently, I’m writing two stories at once. They are very different from one another (faeries and steampunk), so there is no chance that the voices will meld or overlap…but more importantly, if one of them begins to “fall apart”, I just jump ship to the other. When I can face the first, or alternately find that the second is falling apart, I jump back.

2. Backstory: This happened totally by accident, and I found that it worked really well. Pick a secondary character and write a quick flash piece about them. It’s best to write this piece about an event that has already been put down on paper, that way you don’t have to focus on what’s happening. Instead, spend some time looking at how this character sees things and experiences events.

3. Outline: I have such a tough time with this one. I hate to outline, I hate to “know” what is going to happen! Still, this may be a necessary evil (especially if you have a complex plot). Just keep in mind two things: 1) outlines can change and 2) outlines are there to help you! Don’t let them strap you into something that is not working, but remember that you must have a GOOD REASON for shifting anything you’ve already written down.

4. Find the Question and Answer It: Take a second and ask yourself what your main character is going to gain/learn by living this story. Say, for instance, your character is looking for love, gets involved with someone bad for them, and finally finds the courage to leave this bad person. Perhaps your question here is: What will you do for love? Or What would drive you to free yourself from a bad situation? Once you find the question, answer it! “No love is worth the love or life of my child.” Now take that answer and paste it at the top of each page. It will guide you as you write the story.

5. Finish This Sh*t!: You heard me. It might be poop, but finish it as you first intended. Follow that story that first came into your head from start to finish.  Even if it is terrible finish it! Once you are free from that plot go back and edit the finished product to produce your alternate plot if you still wanna. Just look at it this way, you’ve got a bunch of raw material that you can now re-craft without having to re-write!

I hope you find this helpful!
A special shout out to CVS for helping me come up with/remember/recognize these helpful plot insecurity slayers!

-Renee

About the author

NRBrown N.R. Brown is a part-time author, full-time book junkie. She particularly loves horror and dark fantasy. She is the co-host of Unleaded - Fuel for Writers and a member of the Hellebore Writing Group and the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia writers group, as well as of the Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime.