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How Do You Pull Your Plot Together

Home / Forums / List of Forums / Writers Coffee Shop / How Do You Pull Your Plot Together

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    I’m pretty sure I’ll be finished my first draft today–tomorrow at the latest. I know there’s a lot of plot stuff that needs to be fixed and I suck at going back to fix stuff. I need a better method. I want to make sure this gets done right with a minimum of passes.

    How do you start your editing process? I know a lot of people recommend a cooling off period, but I know that doesn’t work for me. I just end up starting new stuff and never getting back to the original.

    After the cooling off period, what do you do? Then how do you go about fixing what you find?

    I usually read it through, front to back, taking notes as I go about what needs to be fixed.

    Then I try to write the scenes I know are missing.

    Somewhere along the line, I get frustrated and decide it’s just not fixable so I move onto the next shiny project.

    What do you do? Do you have a checklist or guide that you follow going into revisions?

    I love checklists. I really need a good one.


    Jean Lauzier

    Here’s a nice article on revising. http://hollylisle.com/how-to-revise-a-novel/



    I let my manuscript site a month between first draft and starting edits. It helped give me distance from the story so that I could have a fresh perspective and identify what needed to be worked on. It was read through once for consistency.

    When I was ready to edit, I split the manuscript into chapter files, so that I was only concentrating on a minor part of the whole draft at a time. Draft 2 and 3 were done this way (once to add depth, once to cut fluff). Draft 4, which is what I’m on now, has all the chapters combined so that I can make sure every plot element gets pulled throughout the novel and I can modify starting place and follow-through in case I want to change out how it plays out.

    One more compete read-through, with edits, is my goal for Draft 5, which hopefully will be the last.


    Kenra Daniels

    The biggest thing I do to pull it all together is to write a pretty extensive outline before I start the first draft. Otherwise I go off on tangents and just meander along, taking the scenic route to get where I want to go.

    I don’t let it sit either before I start revisions. I have a list of words and phrases I tend to overuse, and the first thing I do is a search for each of those. Then I start at the beginning and go through every sentence, checking that it’s written the most effective way, fiddling with word choice, etc. I make sure each paragraph is cohesive and logical, rearrange as necessary. I also make sure each sentence and para is needed, advancing the story in some way, otherwise it gets cut.

    Same thing on scene and chapter level. I pay particular attention to dialog and action scenes. After I’ve gone through the whole thing using track changes, I go back and either accept or reject the changes. Sometimes I find more things that need to be fixed. The goal is to make one more pass, just reading, to make sure it’s the way I want it.

    I write the cleanest first draft I possibly can, cutting down on the spelling and grammar fixes needed, so I can concentrate on the bigger picture stuff later.



    I took a great course on revision called “How to Revise Your Novel”. I use those methods, but I also cobbled some methods from books on revisions.

    *First let the book sit. I need the space to look at the book critically.
    *Make a list of the three most memorable scenes I can remember.
    *Make a list of the three least memorable scenes (I usually have to skim through the maniscript to do that).
    *Figure out what made the memorable scenes stick out in my mind and what made the other scenes boring. Normally comparing the interesting scenes to boring ones gives me ideas how to fix the boring ones.

    Now, the really grueling part:

    *Go through the entire manuscript. Make notations on the manuscript and extensive notes on a notepad next to every single spot where the characters act out of character, where the plot doesn’t make sense, where the worldbuilding falls apart, etc.
    *Go through entire manuscript and write out each scene on a notecard. Make sure each scene has a: protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, and moves the plot forward.
    *Notecards effectively become outline of novel. Troubleshoot problems I found during the read through. This is how I can play around with moving scenes, adding, and deleting witout needing to be put in a straight jacket afterwards :D. Makes notes on notecards of what changes I need to do for each scene.

    *Write in time! Open up a fresh Word document and start with scene one. Use notecards to fix scene. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    *Third draft is for the nitpicky stuff. Words I overuse and grammer mistakes.

    After that, it’s time for the beta readers!



    Thanks for all the advice everyone. After a few days of staring blankly into space with drool running down my chin, my brain finally turned back on and I started sludging through it yesterday.

    Yay revisions. Erm. 😉

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