Take one look at your story. What do you see? An epic maze of plots and characters not even you can navigate? Well, good: at least you’ve found your way here so we can at least help you get back to the beginning again.
Complicated plots are fascinating to read, and very exciting to write, as long as it all makes sense. If that’s where your roadblock is, we have a few solutions to help get you back on the right path.
Solution 1: Assess your overarching theme
As we discussed earlier this week, everything that happens in your book should in some way link back to your story’s theme. Since your theme represents the message you’re trying to get across to your readers, it wouldn’t make sense to add in extra elements that don’t support it.
If your multiple storylines are starting to get a little too tangled, separate them out (yes, this might mean you have to do some outlining of sorts—deep breaths, it’s going to be okay) and make sure each one contributes significantly to your story’s main idea.
This separation of storylines can also help with our next suggestion, so maybe sketching out those smaller points of significance is a pretty good strategy regardless of which solution you want to try.
Solution 2: Pick out one element at a time and try to imagine the story without it
When you’re working on your initial draft, you’ll write a lot more than you actually need to—and trust us, this will eventually prove to be a good thing. As it turns out, learning to take what’s in front of you and simplify it, trimming it down to what’s absolutely necessary, is a skill you’ll use not just in your own writing, but also in editing and working for other people in the real world, too.
Look at each storyline individually. Does it really need to be there? Sometimes we get caught up in back stories and sub plots our stories, at least the ones we’re currently working on, could do just fine without. If you do decide something can go, don’t throw it away completely—save that idea. If you’re ever feeling short on ideas, those might come in handy for another project someday.
Solution 3: Try working on one storyline at a time
Maybe the problem with your complex plot is that, even though it all leads back to your theme and every piece needs to be there, it’s just too dang overwhelming to try and work through it all at once. Not only do you have to come up with each storyline, but you also have to figure out how to weave them all together and tie up all the loose ends before you can call it done.
We have a headache just thinking about it.
First, sit back and take a deep breath. You have a good story going. You don’t have to give up yet. Next—we hope you’ve listened and done your loose outlining—pick out one storyline, even if it’s a seemingly super tiny sub plot, and focus on that for today, tomorrow, whatever. Work out that storyline from its start to its end. Then you can go back into your big scary document and figure out how it all fits in.
Breaking up your story’s plot points and analyzing them one at a time is your best bet here, regardless of the way you choose to go about doing it. Whether you’ve been going on literary tangents without realizing it or it’s all just too much to handle at once, look on the bright side: at least you’ve written enough at this point to have something solid to work with!
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.