Friday, November 8, 2013

Completing Your Novel Plot

Guest Post by Jack Smith
At some point in drafting a novel, you will probably see the need to add more actions or events to complete the plot.  You know the story isn’t complete.  You may need to rethink where your story is going.  Try this process:
  • Write a brief summary of each chapter.  This is time-consuming, but once you have concise summaries, you will be able to see your novel’s overall direction more easily.  Sure, you can read and reread your novel itself, but sometimes you can forget what happened first, second, etc. 
  • Brainstorm more conflicts to complete the plot.  I do say “brainstorm” because you can’t be sure these conflicts will work until you get back to the writing itself.   Will they work once you dig back into your characters?  Would your character do this, do that?  Hard to say.  Don’t force it.  But try it out, and maybe your character will end up doing something even more interesting and compelling. 
  • Decide where these conflicts go.  Here again, this is tentative.  You might decide to include a given conflict in Chapter Three, but really it will work out better in Chapter Six or Seven, or Ten.   But for now, write down where the conflict might go.   Choose a colored type (red maybe?) so it’s easy to spot these tentative places to include tentative new conflicts.
  • Add your new conflicts to your novel manuscript.  It might be best to re-read your novel up to the point where you intend to add new material—to get back in the swing of the work.  To get a sense for the mood and tone at this point.   Once you’re ready to include new conflict material, let your imagination take over.  Get back into your characters.  See them, hear them speak, let it happen.
Plot usually doesn’t fall out of the sky and arrive fully intact.  It takes doing and redoing.  This is only one process you might follow.  You might need to go through this process one or more times.  Once you’ve done so, re-read your entire novel and see if it’s complete.  Don’t depend entirely on logic.  Does it sound and feel complete?
Jack Smith is author of the novel Hog to Hog, which won the George Garrett Fiction Prize (Texas Review Press. 2008), and is also the author of Write and Revise for Publication: A 6-Month Plan for Crafting an Exceptional Novel and Other Works of Fiction, published earlier this year by Writer’s Digest
Jack SmithOver the years, Smith’s short stories have appeared in North American Review, Night Train, Texas Review, and Southern Review, to name a few. He has also written some 20 articles for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, as well as a dozen or so pieces for The Writer.

He has published reviews in numerous literary journals, including Ploughshares, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, American Review, Mid-American Review, and the Iowa Review.
Smith taught full-time at North Central Missouri College for some 24 years, and  has also served as Fiction Editor for The Green Hills Literary Lantern, an online literary journal published by Truman State University, for over two decades. Learn more about Jack and his work in the November 1 edition of PIF magazine.