What’s Plot, What’s Not

This week I’m struggling with the 3rd draft of the novel I thought I had finished last summer. Hah! Foolish author. Major rewrites are ongoing.

I think maybe today I learned something about plot.

My young heroine certainly has a big plot problem. There is tension in the story — lots of tension. So why am I getting bored?

There’s no rising action, that’s why. A tense situation arises. Readers will be biting their nails, I hope. But somehow, my heroine muddles through. She deals with it. And at the end of that scene, nothing has truly changed. She’s in exactly the same awful situation as before.

Boring.

My choices are limited. I know where the story is headed. In fact, chapter 1 takes place after the crisis point, so the reader will know too. We then flash back to learn how the crisis arose, and the flashback is 19 chapters long — more than half of the novel.

I’m now working on chapter 13. Important things will happen between 13 and 20; those events can’t easily be summarized. For one thing, she gets married, has a terrible quarrel on her wedding night, and then inherits an enormous amount of money. Not trivial stuff.

But if I add an event or two where her choices have significant consequences, what will happen to the crisis that was revealed so dramatically in chapter 1?

Plotting is like carpentry. Sometimes you just have to bang on things. Saw them apart and glue them back together. At root, I believe in this story. It’s a good story. I’m not willing to set it aside as a lost cause. But I’m not having an easy time with the writing, that’s for sure.

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