Yesterday I broke down content edits into different categories. Today, I want to talk a bit more about editing and developing plot: whether you are editing an outline or a full-fledged draft. What happens when you just don’t know how to fix the problems with your draft’s plotline?
One trick is a classic: brainstorming (I know, I know…. bear with me. Brainstorming is just the starting point).
Take a few minutes and write down any and every possible solution to your problems. Go off on wild tangents.
Brainstorming is especially good for plot hole problems, or problems with a new subplot you’re not sure how to develop.
I tend to overlook brainstorming as an editing solution, opting for logic-based methods. But if you can accept that your solutions might require some changes to your story–hopefully, changes for the better–brainstorming can be a great starting point for a novel idea.
Do like all brainstormers: write down anything that comes to mind as a way to fix your plot problems, no matter how crazy they feel. You don’t have to end up using the crazy ideas, but you just might.
More likely, some crazy idea or other will spur a realization that will guide you in a more logical direction, but also a new direction. A direction you might not have set out on without that crazy idea to set you on the path.
AFTER BRAINSTORMING: IT’S “IF-THEN” TIME.
And this is the meat of the post. I realized when I was planning this article out that brainstorming is obvious, simple, and often touted. Still, it’s not enough by itself.
Brainstorming solutions to plot problems is most helpful when you take things to the next step by forming “if-then” hypotheses.
What you brainstorm becomes the “IF” part. Take that crazy (or not-so-crazy) idea that just might work, and see where it leads to.
- If the princess kills a slaver from an enemy kingdom, then the king might just have to declare war (or defend himself against a declaration of war by his enemies).
- If the count’s secretary stands up to him, then the count will feel threatened and try to quash him somehow.
- If the manor catches fire, the count will blame his secretary because he’s just fired him. Even if the secretary has nothing to do with it. Even if it was an accident and the slavers were responsible…. OOH… why would the slavers burn the count’s manor???
See what I mean?
“If-then” can be a fantastic way to flesh out your ideas and to generate new ideas as well.
Maybe the “if” part doesn’t fit, but you REALLY love the “then” and come up with a different cause to bring about the desired effect.
Heck, maybe something you come up with will spur an idea for a separate short story, novella, or even novel. The cool thing about plot points is that they’re versatile.
You can DEFINITELY take an idea originally inspired by one set of characters and use it to develop another set you like just as much. Or, you can use your idea in a sequel of some kind.
Anyways, I hope this tip is useful. Brainstorming isn’t something you need to waste crazy amounts of time doing, but if you’re trying to develop or formulate a plot, whether while outlining, drafting, or editing, it could prove useful.
I wish I had come up with this idea earlier. Next time I get stuck on plot, I’m DEFINITELY pulling out the pen and paper.
What do you think about this tactic? Have you done something similar? Do you have a totally different way to spur your creativity?
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget you can sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the page, so you don’t miss future posts. You might also find these related posts useful:
- Two Ways to Use Character To Move Past Writer’s Block
- Editing a Chaotic First Draft
- Two Types of Writer’s Block