Last Sunday’s article covered some initial steps in preparation for your revision. Now we’re going to talk about what you should be looking out for in the plot.
Before we do, one thing you must accept before going into any revision:
It’s highly likely YOU WILL HAVE TO REWRITE much of your story.
Get your head around it, because if you can’t and you want to believe your first version to be a Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way – save for a few errant commas and ironing out some awkwardly phrased sentences) you’ll never see your way forward.
6.) Identify your main plot points.
Once you have written out the main elements of the whole first draft in the spread sheet and identified the emotional arc, you need to address your main plot points. So, you’re looking for:
The first MAJOR turning point: What happens to pull your protag out of his comfort zone? Something is thrust upon them, and they are put on a back footing. (around about the first 25% mark)
The midpoint: The first major breakthrough/change of attitude/hope on the horizon/willingly embarks on the journey/accepts responsibility/ understands the true extent of the villain’s power and what s/he’s up against — things like that. (50% mark)
2nd major turning point: Something unexpected happens — a betrayal comes to light, or a secret is revealed, or somebody important dies. Maybe it’s the point where the protag finds the last piece of the puzzle. This turning point changes tracks once again for the protag and it also ups the stakes. S/he must again find a way to overcome the obstacles, only this time, as oppose to the first turning point where it was borne with reluctance and lack of preparation, s/he has all his armoury and allies in line and a plan, or even just the attitude that s/he will win no matter the costs. This is where the protag knows exactly what the rules are and s/he is prepared to gamble everything. (75%)
The climax: This is what your whole story is building towards. How do they triumph (or fail in trying)? What hidden talent/weapon or piece of knowledge do they use to take the upper hand?
Mark where these events happen. If any are missing or are so weak they are barely visible, note roughly where they need to be addressed or strengthened.
7.) Once you have outlaid all your main plot events, copy the whole spreadsheet and paste it onto another sheet within the same document. Mark the tab on this sheet REPLOT (you can also mark the tab on your original version as ORIGINAL)
8.) Working on your REPLOT sheet, you should be able to identify a sense of pacing – where are the highs and the lows? Is there enough intensity and focus building up towards the turning points? Do these main plot points happen too close together, or too far away? Does the climax rise the highest in tension and drama, or does it seem flatter in comparison to other areas of the story? Does your climax reach its true ambitions, or could it reach higher? How far could you push it?
Mark these areas for improvement or deletion/consolidation, if necessary. In Excel and Google Docs, you can add comments boxes to cells so as to keep everything together.
That should keep you occupied for a good couple of weeks! In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas, and I'll see you back here on New Year's Day.