Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ways to go from Plod to Plot

Many stories fail before they begin. They lack that special something that engages the reader. The story may be self-indulgent. It may lack focus and plod along without any clear direction. These things will cause the reader to put down a book and never pick it up again. Below are some tips on how to keep your readers from boredom and frustration:

  • Have a beginning, middle and end. They don’t necessarily have to be in that order.
  • Make sure you grab your readers on the first page of your novel, on the first paragraph, on the first line.
  • Take out any scene that doesn’t add anything to the story
  • If you are bored writing a scene, then the reader will be doubly bored reading it. Remove it or change it.
  • make sure there is something new and interesting about your plot otherwise the reader will feel like they have read it all before.

  • Create believable, relatable characters.
  • Don’t use names that are long and difficult to remember or pronounce.
  • Characters need conflict but often it’s how they react to conflict that makes them interesting.
  • Take out any character that doesn’t add anything to the story. If two characters perform the same function in your story then remove one.
  • Weak and whiney characters will make a reader put down your book.
  • Readers want to see growth and change in the characters.

  • Weave in description rather than dropping in a solid block of it. Many readers skip descriptions anyway.
  • There’s no need to describe every detail in a room or every action a character takes. Readers have a vivid imagination so our descriptions should only be enough to pique their imaginations.

Pace and Rhythm:
  • Times have changed and continue to change. The majority of the population prefer a faster paced book than they did 20 years ago.
  • Rhythm is the music of your novel. It’s the subtle magic that keeps the reader’s eye dancing across the page. Match rhythm to pace and even a slow scene won’t become a plod.

What do you do when your stories begin to plod? Can you think of any other tips?


  1. Great tips. Easier said than done, but great tips!

    I'm listening to an audio book with my daughter. The MC is so whiney. I would've given up but my child doesn't mind it.

    My first WIP broke so many of these rules. MY MC was unlikable and whiney. And I used to get sidetracked with description.

  2. Stellar post, Lynda!!! Honestly; this is like the perfect "cheat sheet." Hey, where can I buy a poster?? Haha!

  3. Theresa, yep, I recently finished reading a book where the character turned into a weak whiney thing. I finished the book but it was a hard slog to get through.

  4. Paul, haha glad you like it. The posters will be on sale from midnight. Grand opening. There will be cookies... ;)

  5. I love the part about weaving in description. Some books have giant paragraphs and you're right. I skip them.

    Great advice, thanks for posting it!

  6. Excellent advice :D I agree that people nowadays prefer faster paced novels than in previous years. Whiny characters are a book shutter for me, too.

  7. Words Crafter, yep, I skip them too ;)

    Jamie, I recently reread an old book I used to love only to find it really slow now. lol.

  8. Always great tips Lynda, thanks for sharing.

  9. Excellent tips! Especially the part about names. I was really conscious of that one when coming up with names for my characters. Science fiction names are often too 'out there!'

  10. "They don’t necessarily have to be in that order."
    he he I loved that one, Lyndylove ;)

  11. Lynda- Great post, really detailed about what to do, I think I will use this for future reference, thank you so much for posting

  12. Excellent tips and reminders! I'm going to bookmark this one for future reference.

    I always worry about when I'm writing a scene and not feeling into it... I always go back and try to make it into something I feel excited about :)

  13. Excellent tips very well put! And they sound fairly easy listed like this, don't they? Not so easy to put into practice LOL!

  14. Toyin, thanks

    Alex, yes, scifi in particularly is notorious for weird names.

    Dezzy, hehe :)

    Summer, glad it helped :)

    WritingNut, I've written a few scenes that have bored me while writing. Whenever I go back I inevitably have to cut them or radically change them.

  15. Great post and great tips, very inspiring ! Maybe today will be a writing day after all ;-)

  16. Wonderful tips and post! In fact the character part inspired a story idea :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  17. These are super-duper! I'm a real plotter but my current muse is being written by emotional creativity alone. When the scene hits me (no matter the order) I write it.

    Love the post!


  18. Great post! I think I'll print this off and lay it on my writing desk. :-)

  19. I love description, but I agree, don't go overboard and weave it in. Don't throw it at the reader in big chunks. I also recommended a crit partner move a character description back. On the first page of the novel, it interupted the scene and I got lost. Grounding me in the scene first was more important.

    And too detailed is annoying - like telling me specifically what kind of box it is. Unless it is essential to the plot, let me imagine my own cardboard box.

    Great advice, Lynda. :D Hope your writing is going well.

  20. KatieO, every day is a writing day! ;)

    Jules, oh wow! I'm so glad you were inspired. I'm curious about the story.

    Clarissa, emotional creativity... challenging. That would make a great exercise too.

    Kiernan, thanks :)

    M Pax, yes, excellent example of why its important to give the reader freedom to imagine.

  21. Wow. SO deatailed I love it!! I'm afraid that with all these great ideas you've left none for me. Not that I blame you for naming all the awesome!

    Man it's nice to be back and commenting! I've missed your blog!

  22. All great advice, and a lot of it. I'm constantly amazed at how much detail and planning must go into a novel. Some of these things you have to think about later, after the rough draft is written, or you get bogged down!

  23. Wonderful tips, Lynda. Loved them. I agree that it is important to plan and plot a novel and edit out all the unnecessary stuff that goes into it. And strong characters with clear goals will win over weak characters anytime.

  24. These are great tips Lynda. I was reading my latest MS outloud the other day and got to a part that where I said, God that's boring. I cut it out and think the work's better for it.

  25. Jen, welcome back.

    Carol, for sure, all these things don't need to be pre-planned, but they should be considered before "The End" is typed.

    Rachna, I love strong characters.

    Melissa, hahaha, yeah, I've done that before.

  26. So true on the subject of whiny characters!

    I sometimes write passages that are sort of for my own benefit -- I write my way through a question or problem. They're always the first things to get cut, though. They're procedural, and they plod plod plod!

  27. Great advice, Lynda! And it's perfectly timed, since I'm about to begin a new project. :-)

  28. Amie, yes, I wrote those passages as well. Sometimes they stay, but mostly they get cut.

    Shannon, oo, good luck with your new project!

  29. Ok, so I need to pin this up next to my computer!

    I am also a Christian who writes speculative fiction, but I haven't tried writing devotionals!
    Do you consciously weave your faith into your fiction, or do you let your faith speak for itself through the attitudes of your characters?


  30. Dominic, my faith generally speaks for itself in the attitudes of my Characters. I've tried to write Christian fiction but I always fail because it comes across as too preachy.

  31. Yes, I know what you mean. My goal is to open people's minds to the possibility of something beyond themselves, to enquire about the nature of good and evil. I'm with you - telling or even showing people directly does seem to come across preachy!

  32. Dominic, that's a great way of approaching your fiction.

  33. Great post! It would make a great check list for a critique group.
    Now a follower



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