If you haven't noticed, we have a new page listed at the top of the All Things Writing blog. That's write...er, right...we are having a short story contest which opens July 1. Please check the page for details on how to enter our themed contest of Mayhem and Amusements Parks! Onward to today's blog post about how to keep your novel from falling apart!
Loose threads…what a pain they can be. I always find them at the bottom of my shirt, but the problem is that every time I tug on one of those threads, it unravels the seam that was keeping everything looking nice and tidy.
The exact same thing can happen in novel writing. Your story is bouncing along, the characters are fresh and funny, the ending is looming, and this is your third draft. Everything is about to come up roses for you!
But then you see that loose thread. Or in the case of the writer, that loose plot point that doesn't quite match up with everything else you've written. And once you start tugging on it, you discover a whole bunch of other plot points which rip apart because they were all connected.
Or were they?
Actually, if you can tug on the string and have everything come apart, then you probably need to go back and check your sewing skills. Things probably weren't tied together as well as you thought. Hopefully, it's just a little tweak you need to make to get your tale back on track.
So how does an author prevent these loose threads from happening?
Everyone has their own method, of course, but I find that charting the big events in my first drafts help me keep everything straight. A little map showing what is happening in your story can help you identify plot issues or things that don’t ring true. Yes, it's time consuming, but it can save you time in the end if you keep a running diagram of what is going on in the early stages of your writing. Not comfortable with mapping? Try writing a one page, single spaced synopsis of your story when you've completed the first draft. This technique will show you what your main events are and how they are connected. It's also a tool that can help you when it comes time to write a query letter to an agent or a brief book blurb for the back cover.
My personal favorite editing tool is my Kindle. Once I've got my draft in a place where I'm ready to reread the whole thing (usually the third draft for me), I turn it into a PDF and download it on my Kindle. This allows me to read, but not edit. Sometimes when I'm reading on my computer, I get so distracted by ideas that I start rewriting without really getting a full picture of what the whole novel looks like. Reading on the Kindle and keeping a separate notebook handy for note taking helps me to get a feel for the whole story and write down thoughts about different plot points as they occur. I actually tend to catch those loose threads more using this method.
Do all loose threads need to be tied up in a pretty bow by the end of the story? Not necessarily. If you're writing a series, some of those threads may be what carry your reader into the next book. Again, this is where diagramming events or having a short synopsis can help you keep track of what has already happened.
Happy sewing! Uh…I mean, writing!