Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adding Scenes, Inserting Plot Twists, and Creating Subplots in Your Novel


After your first read through of your manuscript, you should have a general idea of what’s missing. Your first few rounds of edits will focus specifically on filling out the content of your story, and connecting it all together. A big portion of this round of edits should be focused on inserting three things: scenes that push the plot forward, plot twists that ratchet up the book’s momentum, and subplots that add depth to your story.

Adding in Scenes
After your first read through, the most obvious edit will be adding in those scenes that you either forgot to add in during your first draft, or those that you’ve put off for one reason or another. Now is the time to write them and insert them into the novel.

By doing this, you’ll avoid having to reread your manuscript yet again, and the next time you do read it through, you will have patched up all the most obvious holes. This is important because, as you edit, you want your task to become more and more manageable, moving from the biggest most important edits to eventually fine-tuning and polishing your words.

These Scenes are too Difficult to Write
At a writer’s panel, I had the pleasure of hearing a famous author discuss the process of writing a novel. One individual from the audience asked him how he managed to write day after day. His response stuck with me. The author told the audience that his grandfather was a steel worker, and never took days off just because he didn’t feel like working. The author’s point was to add perspective; if you want to make a career writing novels, then you can’t avoid writing simply because you don’t feel like it.

My point is a little different. I’m not here to humble you, but I am here to inform you. You can take the time off and avoid writing the scene, but you’ll never get published that way. And if you never get published, you never get the opportunity to be successful as a writer.

Just write the scene and don’t hit backspace. It’s much easier to edit even a rough scene than it is to write one. Make it easier for yourself and put something down on paper. You can always go back to it later.

Inserting Plot Twists
Plot twists, while not as necessary during this round of edits, are oh so fun, and they’ll tighten your book and heighten the its momentum. Plot twists are those revelations that shock readers and leave them reeling. One of the most famous examples appears in Star Wars, when Luke Skywalker finds out Darth Vader is his father.

Plot twists don’t always have to do with finding out a side character’s true identity. It could be information regarding the main character, the plot, the world he or she lives in, and so on. For instance maybe your main character finds out he has the same dark power that the enemy has. This revelation now makes your main character (and your readers) question just how good or evil this character is, and just how good or evil the enemy is. Maybe your character discovers a bit of information that upends her entire set of assumptions; that might be a revelation that will alter entirely how she approaches the main conflict. Whatever the plot twist, the point is to shock the reader.

You’ll no doubt have a series of these plot twists already in your manuscript. However, more is almost always better. The world of fiction in this sense is a lot different than real life. In real life, such revelations and coincidences might be few and far between, but in your book adding in these plot twists heightens the story and increases reader excitement.  

Creating a Subplot
Another aspect you’ll want to think about, especially if you feel your book is lean on content, is a subplot. Maybe your main character is trying to get that job promotion in addition to chasing villains. Maybe there is family trouble that your main character must grapple with in addition to the book’s main conflict. Maybe a series of murders occurs that somehow tie into your book’s main conflict.

These are all more minor plots that occur parallel to the main conflict and add more tension and excitement to the story. Whatever subplot you chose, this underlying problem will give your characters and your story additional depth.

If you find your story is a bit on the lean side, or you feel your book needs some additional content, then you’ll want to consider adding in a subplot.

Secondary Benefits
Adding these scenes in will help you determine sections of your story that are really just filler. As you add in these important scenes that push the plot forward and insert plot twists that will increase your book’s momentum, it will be easier for you to identify and remove those sections of text that do not push the plot forward and instead slow down your book’s momentum.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
415.745.1764

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