Advice from the Archives: Let’s Talk about Plot

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During our Write a Romance in 150 Days challenge, we wanted to talk a little about plot and found this handy dandy blog post from one of our past contributors. Here are some basics…

What is a plot? Plot in its most basic form is a series of linked events that take place. It is the stuff that stories are made of.  Without it your story would just be one very long, uneventful exercise. But don’t be fooled – simply having a story consisting of linked events isn’t enough. There are so many other things to think about. Here are our top three tips to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how to make the most of your plot!

1. Conflict will help us learn about your hero and heroine. First and foremost, conflict is vital – it’s what makes your characters three-dimensional and gives them a clear journey to go on over the course of the story. What obstacles do your hero and heroine need to overcome before they can be with each other? What events will allow you to show their growth? Including scenes that allow characters to explore and confront their internal conflicts will allow readers to be a part of the hero and heroine’s journey, add depth to your plot and help readers to invest and believe in the characters you have created.

2. Drama, drama, drama – keep us on the edge of our seats! So you’ve got the conflict sorted out in your plot which is great, but we love to keep readers guessing about what might happen next. A fantastic way to do this is by checking that with each scene in your story, something changes for your characters and for the romance between them. We want to see that with every interaction, the stakes have been raised somehow. These developments don’t have to be life-changing and dramatic every time, but they should all lead up to, yes, the dreaded . . . black moment! This is where the hero and heroine’s conflicts culminate in a sensational, heart-stopping scene that causes the reader to question how on earth the couple will make it to the other side – together and stronger than ever! You want your story to pack a punch and keep readers excited and a dramatic black moment will do just that! Think of the big confrontation in How to Lose a Guy in 10 days between Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey

You're so vain scene

when they both realize they were being used!

1 Black moment how to lose a guy in ten days

It makes the hero and heroine question whether any of the moments they shared together were true, and has us wishing and hoping they’ll both come to their senses before Kate leaves!

3. No saggy middles—pace yourself! Keep in mind that you want the conflict and drama of your story to sustain the length of your plot. There’s nothing worse than having an incredible opening, only for the excitement to plateau or worse—no saggy middles please!  This is why it is so important to pace yourself. When you’re thinking about your plot think less “reaching the top of the hill” and more “riding a roller coaster.”

Rollercoaster

Your plot should take the reader on a journey of highs and lows, through a multitude of scenarios, revelations and emotions. The road to your hero and heroine’s happy ending should never be straightforward. If your story is full of intense and unique experiences you’ll give the reader a golden ticket to your story’s romance roller coaster, and you’ll provide them with a plot which keeps them turning the pages, trying to guess what could happen next and falling in love with the world you’ve created.

Think of the plot as the heartbeat of your story. Sometimes it skips a beat, at times it might flutter. There’ll be times when it feels like it might explode and others when it’s going at a hundred miles an hour. Or it might just be there, rhythmically beating away, getting faster and faster, then slowing down again. Whatever your plot is doing, make sure it keeps going. It’s what keeps your story alive and makes us believe in your hero and heroine and the romance they share! Happy writing!

In the comments below, feel free to tell us how you’re progressing with your novel. 🙂

— The SYTYCW Team

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Comments

  1. Maurine

    You’re doing great, Ruby!

    I’m finished with the first chapter of the one I’m writing from scratch–still not real happy about where it started, but figure I can go back when I’m finished and revise it. I’m also revising one that I wrote a while back and have finished with the third chapter, so I’m coming along okay considering the time I can spend on each. Hope everyone else is progressing well.

    • Patience Bloom

      Melanie, The middle is such a difficult part of writing because you get over the excitement of the beginning and you know the ending will be great. You can always fix the middle. The key is to keep writing, then go back and jazz up that in between. Good luck!

  2. Dina van't Veer

    This is incredibly exciting! I love being able to read everyone’s entries into the challenges. I’m loving the comments and am actually able to apply myself more creatively to a story.

    I wish all well and am striving to write the enticing romantic story that’s in my mind waiting to be put on paper. Like running a half marathon, one foot in front of the other, call it the stride. Now it’s one word in front of the other, call that the manuscript!

  3. Ann Malley

    I’m 3/4 done with the first draft of book one and one-quarter of the way into the first draft of book two.

    Keeping up confidence in my projects is what gets me stuck. May sound good to others, but perfectionism and unending self-doubt is a killer.

    So, thanks everyone for posting and writing and going through this together.

    Enjoy your weekends!!

    • Hi Anne,
      I just got back from a writing conference and what I heard repeatedly (from editors and published authors alike) was just get that first draft written. Continuity, consistency, story/character arcs, dialogue tweaks, punctuation and style – that’s the second and subsequent edits.
      ¾ done on your first draft is amazing. You Go Girl!
      or Let’s All Go Girls! 🙂

  4. Chrissie

    Good morning all! I was working away on the two books I want to complete asap when what happens? I’m reading some research info and this idea just pops into my head and won’t go away until I write it down. So now I have a chapter to a new book. Don’t know where it’s going yet, but it has a ghost in it–a wife helping her hubby get over his loss and move on. But today is a weekend day and we are remodeling this 100year old farm house we live in and so there won’t be much time to write and I will be exhausted by nightfall. My black cat, BBC (baby brat cat), who sleeps between us on his own pillow, actually let me sleep in this morning until 6am. Such a sweet baby. 🙂 Have a great weekend and may we all reach our common goals!

    • Ann Malley

      Chrissie,

      Excellent development. Writing activates the fertile mind. No doubt living in a 100+-year-old home would aid with all matters ghostly. I dabble in paranormal tales myself.

      So absolutely jot down those notes and don’t lose them. Could be getting that out of your system is exactly what will propel you through your ongoing projects!

      Full steam ahead!

      Ann – planning to make use of at least one of the “Lush” bath bombs my oldest daughter sent me for the specific purpose of RELAXING.

    • Sarah Warren

      A 100 year old house! Chrissie, I am so jealous! I love old houses and mine’s only 77. We had the house rewired in 1998, the electrician found the receipt from when the house was originally done,and to wire a two-storey seven room house in 1940 cost the whopping sum of $1.00. It cost so much in 1998 that we had to get a government grant to pay for it.

    • Chrissie

      Sarah, yes this one was built before indoor plumbing and electricity was upgraded several times over the years. We’re still upgrading (yesterday three antique outlets that were causing problems or not working at all). We also have plumbing issues. When it was first installed copper was the thing to use. We have since had to replace all copper as the acidity in our spring/well water ate holes through it which caused ceilings to collapse and all that fun stiff. Love this old house too, tho. It has character. Hate modern houses.

  5. Isabella Lionel

    I’m loving challenge! My story is brainstormed and outlined, I’m ready to break ground and start writing. I’m grateful to be part of this group and I’m enjoying everyone’s posts to the challenges.
    Have a great weekend!

  6. Sarah Warren

    I’m 36,000 words into my July Camp NaNo project. I’ve taken the past two weeks off from writing and now I’m ready to get back to it. Yesterday I found a novella I had written in 1989! I also found two other stories I had begun in 1996 and set aside. Oh my gosh,the writing was terrible. I could only improve over the years. LOL I’m going to rewrite the novella and finish the other two stories as soon as I complete my Camp NaNo story,which hopefully will be by the end of this month.
    Good luck to all.It’s so great having all of you on this journey with me!

    • Patience Bloom

      Sarah, There’s a lot to be said for taking a break with a project. You get some distance and can go back to it. What fun to discover writing from the past!

  7. I’m glad to read of people’s progress – large or small, writing or plotting, it’s all good for moving towards your goals. Chin up, shoulders back, well done everyone!
    I have to thank everyone here for posting their own challenges (first line and three sentence especially). You all gave me the courage to enter my first page into a LAS (Live Action Slush) and to (eek) have it read out loud and critiqued in a room full of strangers. I would never have had the courage to do this before, so I thank you and the editors here at SYTYCW for giving me the courage to do that.
    Thank you!
    I’m plotted and organized, and have just over 7,500 words written for my first draft.