Plot structure. Beginning, middle and end, right? Except of course it’s not that simple. And for somebody who’s best ideas tend to come spontaneously, it can be hard too. I go where my imagination takes me.
I’ve known for a long time that structure has been a weak point of mine. My first book was basically three stories. Interlinked, yes, but with their own resolutions, like acts in a play. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact I had no plan. It was just the way the novel evolved. There was a beginning, middle and end structure in there somewhere, but it was bogged down by a multitude of flimsy sub-plots, superfluous characters and unresolved motivations.
I’ve got better at it, but more because of practice than any proactive attempt to get it right. One of the main lessons I took away from my first book was that the focus had to be on one key story arc. After all, I wasn’t writing epic Game Of Thrones style operas here. The result was, accidentally, better plot structure.
Better, but not great.
Kameron Hurley said that her first published book (after eight failed attempts) was also her best plotted one. Coincidence?
Sometimes, no matter how much you know you should do something, it needs to be presented in a particular way for it to click. In this case, it was reading about the seven point story structure. It made sense in a way other methods never did. I tested my latest novel against this structure and realized, for the first time, just how poorly paced it actually was (it was more like a twelve point structure).
So, I’ve since spent a bit of time chopping and changing several sections of the story to try and make it tighter. It’s certainly better for it, but I’m seeing a whole lot of things in a new light now, and more changes are needed. More than I would ever have contemplated before.
And the worst part of that process? Entire sections of the story, which on their own represent some of my best writing, are now under threat. I’m having to fight the urge to keep them regardless, to shoehorn parts of them into other chapters.
I know, I know. It’s just part of the editing process. But surely it can be mitigated with some careful planning beforehand? Well, I’m going to find out soon enough. As much as I might be a “pantser” writer, my next project is going to be a fresh learning experience. I’m going to have a plan. A detailed outline. Character motivations that aren’t made up on the spot!
Heck, I might even write the ending first.