How to Make Sure You’ve Tied Up All Your Story’s Loose Ends


You don’t have to be Type A to write a novel, but it’s definitely an advantage if you happen to be. There are some parts of writing a book, like tying up all the loose ends you’ve left in your plot by accident, that take a little, slightly obsessive organization.

Yes. The series of steps I’m about to show you involves making a chart. IT IS NOT AS SCARY AS YOU THINK.

There is a smart, simple way to make sure you’ve carried out all your sub-plots from beginning to end without leaving any behind. That’s what I’m going to show you today, because I like charts, and this is how I stay sane.

We’ll use part of my story as an example throughout. I reveal a bit of a spoiler here, but it doesn’t give much of the main plot away, so it’s not the end of the world. I don’t expect the book to ever get to the publishing stage (realistically) so if you’re from the future and you’re mad at me about leaking a spoiler, deal with it.

Step 1: On a sheet of paper, make a chart with three columns

You can use Excel or a table in Word or Google Docs too, if you’re not a pen and paper person. Here is how I set up my table (and in case you were wondering, I actually do use this method for all of my stories and it works. I don’t usually do it until I’m a few weeks away from finishing, because it’s very addictive once you start).


Your three columns should be some variation of what I have listed above. Give yourself a column for the conflict, the climax of that particular conflict and its resolution (how you’re going to tie it together).

But before you can list these out, you need a metric—a way you’re going to separate your sub-plots.

Step 2: Choose your metrics and add them to your chart in rows

Which metrics you choose will depend on your story specifically. If your story focuses a lot on different locations, like a sci-fi or fantasy story probably might, you might want to use location as your metric depending on which part of the story corresponds with each location. You could also separate each conflict depending on the character who interacts with it the most.

I have a lot of characters, so I’ve listed out the primary ones. Character development is a big part of my story mainly because it’s a prequel to a five-part novel sequence. My main goal is to introduce the characters that will play major roles later on in the sequence and show the reader where it all started.


Each character has his or own conflict. And throughout the story, as a result of the different events that occur throughout, each character eventually gets to a resolution. Or they should, if I weave pieces of the story together the right way.

Step 3: Write down every conflict, climax and resolution 

Each metric should have a resolution. This is your key to making sure every minor conflict you introduce throughout your story is tied up and secure before you finish. The last thing you want is to leave a plot point just hanging there. It’s much easier, if you have some time, to fix it now than it might be to try and go back and do it later (a strategy, mind you, not applicable during a WriMo).


This does not mean all mysteries or overarching conflicts need to be solved, especially if your story is part of a larger overarching story and not everything can be resolved in just one story. In my story, Lucas’s conflict is part of this book’s specific plot. It doesn’t carry over into later books, not really (not that I know of right now). There is another character that I know of, however, whose minor conflict does not get fully resolved. But it does come to … well, an end.

Let me know if these steps help you out at all. Give it a try next time you’re a little hesitant about whether or not you’ve tied everything together sufficiently. If you have a different method that works for you—tell us about it!

Happy writing!

Images courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Can Ideas Die?


No one has really figured out how to explain to “non-writers” how writers “come up with” their ideas. But an idea is an idea. Entrepreneurs, inventors—there are plenty of forms an idea can take. Explaining how ideas “come to you” isn’t as important as what you do with the ideas you do grab hold of.

As far as stories go, ideas are just part of the process. Sometimes you don’t realize how many you come up with in a given period of time, but when you do, you certainly rarely find a reason to complain about it.

But once you get an idea—is it a forever companion?

Ideas are abstract, but it’s possible to better understand the process of creating and constructing when you use a metaphor. Here, we think of ideas as “born and developing.” It sounds a bit odd at first, but it makes more sense when you break it down.

Ideas have a sort of “growth cycle”

Often, out of nowhere, an idea spontaneously forms in your brain. We’re not scientists, so we just call this magic. And it really can be quite magical, that moment you realize something has appeared in the deep, mysterious depths of your mind that wasn’t there five seconds ago.

Ideas form, and ideas grow. The more you nurture them, the more they develop and mature before your eyes. This process continues even after your original idea becomes a finished product—let’s use a published book as an example. That book started out as just an idea only you could access. Now it has become something sharable with anyone who wants to enjoy it.

Not every idea you have will grow to its full potential 

This is, in a sense, just part of life. Not every story idea you have will make it all the way to a published book. This is where the steps of the process get a little fuzzy.

There are some ideas you will try to nurture and just don’t have what it takes to make it very far in the cycle. This might mean laying aside a project you’ve already put a lot of time and effort into—but don’t get discouraged. It does not mean you are a terrible writer, or a failure, or that your idea was “bad.”

Some ideas just try to move through the cycle in a way that isn’t working right now, either because you need to give it more time to develop, or because your idea has begun to form—but there’s a smaller piece of it that’s trying to get your attention while buried under other fragments. 

What does “giving up on” an idea really mean?

“Giving up” isn’t the best way to think of the process of re-evaluating your ideas. There’s just an overly negative connotation there, one that often makes writers feel like every project they start that just isn’t working somehow makes them less of a success.

Instead, think of setting a project aside as “giving it time to settle.” When we reach out and encourage you not to give up—what we really mean is, don’t lose faith in the great ideas you do have. Let’s return to something we wrote above.

Sometimes a great idea forms—but along with it come everything you unintentionally associate with that idea, like movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read that remind you of it. That’s always going to be there. And sometimes what stops us from being able to write a promising, original piece is the fear that we are copying someone else’s work too closely.

Strip that idea down to its roots. Separate it out into its smaller fragments. You might have a story idea about a teenager who loses his only parent and goes on an adventure in search of the other. Not so original, right? But is there another element underneath that’s really the intended focus, such as him avoiding college applications because he doesn’t want to follow in either of his parents’ footsteps?

Outline your story, if you have to. Find the part of your idea that’s really reaching out to you. It might be the missing inspiration you’ve been searching for.

So now we return to our initial question: can ideas die?

The answer: no. Like us, they get exhausted. They get worn out and distorted. Sometimes we try to manipulate them so much into becoming what we think we want them to be, their true identities seem to disappear.

But you can bring them back. Even if it means putting your current story aside and giving it time to rest, and remind itself what it really wants to become.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.