Plot Challenges: Does it make sense?

You’ve written a great story, but how does that translate into it becoming a great book?

As writers, do we all dream of being the next James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Sylvia Day, or E.L. James? What does it really take to become one of the greats? For me, I can’t say I aspire to be competition for any of the greats. The way I see it, I’m lucky to get one person interested in reading what I’ve written. Our words are like our babies–we nurture them with love and expect everyone else to love them too. We can’t fathom the prospect of others not liking what we’ve poured our hearts and souls into. So begs the question, what makes a great story–how do we get people to love what we write? We all have a great story to tell, but is it a story that will interest others?  

As a writer, I’ve experienced the frustrations and follies of writing; the laugh-out-loud moments, and the wanting to pull my hair out moments. As a reader; I’ve experienced the same. I’ve shouted out in frustration in the dead-of-night while my family slept; frustrated with a less-than-smart heroine, or with a stupid cliffhanger ending. I’ve also read some great books, and some not so great books. How many times have you started reading a book, only to lay it down after the first chapter or two because it droned on and on with not an inkling of where the story was going? How many times have you gotten to the middle of a book, only for it to take a seemingly wrong turn from where you’d thought it was headed–and not in a good way? Simply put, sometimes the plot just doesn’t seem to live up to our expectation of what the book title or cover art promised. I’m sure that for the authors of such books, the plot of the story made perfect sense—they had visualized and lived it every moment during the writing of it. But for us, the readers, the plot might have fallen flat and left us scratching our heads. Or more likely, cursing and throwing things! The question is, how do we avoid these pitfalls in our own writing?

As a borderline OCD, one of my biggest fears is that I don’t get the plot right—or that the story will fall flat for readers. It makes sense to me, but will it make sense to others? How do we ensure our plots are cohesive—that our stories comes full-circle for our readers? Does our protagonist evolve in our stories; do they have turning points that will lead to a climatic resolution? These are the concerns that I myself—as well as many of you, will naturally have when pouring our hearts and souls into a story. Is it good enough? The truth is; art is always in the eye of the beholder. Our stories won’t be for everyone, but for those who are one with our own unique brand of quirky and crazy, we want them to love what we write.

That being said, what I have found most useful in my writing process has been going back to read an entire chapter or two on my tablet as a kindle book or epub—the same as I would any other book. I do this sometimes while on lunch break, while on the treadmill, or even once I’ve finally lain down for the night and have shut my brain off from everything else. It’s amazing how many mistakes I’ve caught. For me, reading it this way is different from reading it from my laptop as a word document. I can better gauge the flow of the story; whether the plot makes sense, or whether I’ve created a consistent ebb and flow throughout. Not to mention the catches on spelling/grammar, or the useless sentences. I also take copious notes; I have a unique brand of organized crazy. I’ve created profiles on my characters. Yes—you heard me right! I don’t know if this is common practice, but I’ve got dossiers on all of my characters—even the seemingly small side characters. This way, I can always refer back for consistency. Wait…did she have red hair or black hair—was she twenty-six or twenty-seven?  After cranking out 100,000+ words, believe me, you can forget the small details. I’ve made this very mistake myself—misquoting one of my characters age in the book. Luckily, I didn’t have to search back through my story to find the correct information—all I had to do was look in their profile!

How do you ensure your plot makes sense? Do you follow a plot outline or freestyle it? How do you organize your crazy?

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