The Plot Thickens

Under constructionHi! It’s Friday Rambles time. Usually I prattle about how much I love Downton Abbey, the virtues of pie baking or my son’s archery team, but today I thought I’d talk about writing.

“Gasp!” you say. “How novel.  Heh, get it?”

Yes, quite well, thank you.

Typically I don’t talk about my writing for fear my blog readers will die of boredom, but after spending the better part of a month (and an intense two hours last evening) wrestling with the plot for my third Matt Archer book, it’s on my mind and spilling out for the world to see.

When you write a contemporary YA, everyone expects the characters to “feel their feels,” so you have some leeway in exploring their lives in small moves. But, when you write YA action/adventure, the expectation is “here a monster, there a monster, everywhere, kill a monster.”  True…but I wanted to write a paranormal series that kept my characters real, raw and flawed. To allow relationships to be as important as the hunt. Only time (and reviews) will tell me if I’ve been successful, but that’s why I’ve been struggling with MA3. There’s so much to do to get ready for the big finish (and at this rate, I’ll either have a really long book 4, or have to split it into two books, although I kind of hate myself for even thinking it…), that when this book cried out to be about Matt’s journey as a, dare I say it, human being, I ignored him.

And the book suffered a major identity crisis as a result.

So now, having written what my husband so eloquently called “a really good book without a central plot” I had to take a big step back and look at it with fresh eyes. Armed with index cards, Sharpies and Save the Cat, I cranked out the storyline, looking for my lost themes. It was hard…and a big ego bust when I figured out the plot had been staring me in the face. In fact, Matt himself told me exactly what the book was about in the first two paragraphs of the book — and reinforced it in the second chapter. Wow.

So now I start rewriting. It’s not going to take a bulldozer and guys in hardhats to fix the plot, but it will take some restructuring and a new ending. And that’s okay. At least now I know, right? And one of my goals is to getting better about outlining, especially for Matt 4 (or Matt 4 and 5…oh, man ::cries::), to make sure all those little threads come together in a gnarly, unexpected, beautiful bow.

While it might feel like I’m the only author who’s ever had this happen, I imagine I’m not. Anybody else run into a muddled/hiding plot issue? What did you do to resolve it?  I’d love to hear your suggestions.

8 comments

  • Love your new blog! It looks fresh and modern.

    I totally sympathize with having your writing suffer an identity crisis. One thing I did that gave me some clarity around the central direction of the series, and the books that make it up, is to map out what happens to every character in the series from beginning to end. It took awhile, and a lot of what I wrote will probably never even appear. But at least I know what everyone is up to, and they all have a real history in my head. So the stories should all work together.

    • I need to get better about outlining, especially if I’m expanding the end to two books. I know exactly what needs to happen, and it’s a lot. But now that I have the identity of this book, I’ve figured out the identity of the last two. Maybe, then, it won’t be quite as mind-boggling.

  • Ah, good luck with… Round 3, is it?

    I’m more likely to lose the character interaction moments (which I love) than the plot. I’m finding that the plot is actually taking over as I near the end of my series. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in all the character moments I’d like when there’s non-stop action, though when there’s a ticking bomb somewhere, it’s hard to justify taking breaks from the action to explore feeeeeelings. And, hey, it’s not like that stuff is just for YA. 😉

    We’ll just have to muddle our ways through and do the best we can.

    • See, I love your character interactions too! And yeah, I’m worried about the same thing. So much has to happen before the end with Matt that I fear I’ll lose the “small moves” in between the big scenes. Ah, well, we shall muddle through.

      My red pen is ready whenever you need it!

  • I am finding that my sequel to Catskinner’s Book is a very different sort of novel–I have changed from a solo protagonist to more of an ensemble cast story, and it’s requiring a lot more bookkeeping to keep track of details. I’m also finding that my overall story arc is changing as I work through the second book. I think that’s probably what most writers who do a series go through, we start with an idea of the general shape of the story and fill in the details.

    It’s like driving to LA without a map. I know I’ve got to head west, but now I’m about halfway there and, son of a gun, where did all these mountains come from–I thought I was heading for the ocean!

  • I just read your first two Matt Archer books, and I loved every minute of them. There really is something interesting in exploring the changes one goes trough ie. from a boy to a young man, or a girl to womanhood. Keep up the good work! And while I am glad to hear you got back on track with your plot, please keep the character development up it was my favorite part about your books!

    • Thanks so much, Nick! I love the character development, too. In fact MA3 forces Matt (and Will for that matter) through some pretty life-changing experiences. Hopefully it’ll turn out well! I appreciate you taking time to read!

  • I am a fan of the first two books. I enjoy writing stories. They are unpublished as of yet. What I have found helps me is that I have an outline yes, but my separate characters have their own outlines as they develop. As for an outline, I have one, but I do not really follow it except for the main points.. How they get their like you seems to be up to the characters. If I follow it seems more like a paper you would write for school. As for having a fourth MA book, that would be fine with me. I would still buy it.

    PS I have different color pens when I edit though. One is for a plot point. Another one for editing problems. Pesky run on…

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