Imagine this: you’ve written the first (or second, or third…) draft of a novel and it’s going well. You’re editing and rewriting at a good pace, happy with your progress. But suddenly the realization hits you that a major plot point of your book is all wrong. For whatever reason a part of your story–maybe even one the entire book hinges on–no longer works. Now what?
This happened to me recently. I wasn’t happy with the ending of my current book and I wasn’t sure why. Then the crushing awareness that it was all wrong and had to go. Not only did I have no idea how to change it, but any changes I did make would have major repercussions for the next book too. Cue the panic.
I think it’s safe to say most writers experience this situation at some point, but if it happens to you it can be disheartening to the point of making you want to give up. If you’re suffering a plot fail, don’t worry. Despite the initial panic and frustration, there are things you can do to help you through it.
Take a Break: It doesn’t need to be a long break. Spend a few hours or a few days focusing on other things. Give your mind a rest from writing while your subconscious keeps thinking about it. Before you know it you’ll be coming up with new ideas and solutions without even trying.
Brainstorm: If the thought of ignoring your writing (even temporarily) stresses you, then brainstorming might be more your style. Try these brainstorming techniques for writers and keep working on the issue until you figure it out.
Think About It: Is there actually a problem with your story? Sometimes writers are convinced their book is terrible when the real issue is anxiety or insecurity. Maybe your plot needs only minor tweaking–or maybe it’s fine as is. Take a deep breath and a step back before considering whether the problem is your plot or your perception.
Talk it Out: Find someone you trust and tell them about it. Explain your concern with what you’ve already written and see what they think. Getting a second (or third) opinion can be really helpful, and sometimes simply saying things out loud is enough to trigger solutions. Don’t forget writers’ groups and forums–they can be invaluable sources of advice and support.
Hire an Editing Service: Editors can do more than check your spelling. Many offer services such as story consultation or manuscript critique. If you’re stuck and nothing else is helping, professional help might be the key.
As for myself, a combination of taking a break, thinking about it, and talking it out helped me overcome my plot issues. My book is still a long way from being done, but at least it’s back on track.
How do you get through when your plot is causing you problems? Share in the comments.