I sometimes find that my plots are too linear – there’s a lot happening, but they still feel flat

While I was away in Canberra, I read Donald Maass’s amazing book, Writing the Breakout Novel (and worked my way through his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook) and so many things in it made sense for me – made me realise that what was missing from my plot was layering.

I needed to develop additional conflict/problems for my main character that weren’t related to the main story but added complications.

Here’s what I mean. My main character’s goal is to avenge an injury done to her and stop the perpetrator from doing it to anyone else.

I followed the directions in Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and now I have three additional problems for my character.

1.         She wants to break up with her boyfriend but doesn’t know how without ruining their friendship.

2.         She has been caught shoplifting and her father is a policeman.

3.         She has to stop her younger sister from becoming involved with a dangerous older guy.

See already, I have things that are going to complicate my character’s life and hamper her in achieving her goal.

But thanks to Donald Maas, I realised I had to do more than create obstacles for my character.

As Maas points out.  “So what? Who cares if your main character doesn’t achieve their goal? What’s at stake?”

These questions have encouraged me to delve even deeper into my plot

If my main character doesn’t stop the person who attacked her then her own family is at risk because the perpetrator knows where she lives. Lives are at stake…and not just her own.

Now all I have to do is get my readers to care about my main character and her family and then the stakes will matter to them too.

Don’t you just love it when you pick up a writing book that really resonates with you, that can help you see how you can become a better writer.

If you have some favourite books on writing I’d love you to share them…and also share your experiences of how they have helped you.

Feel free to leave your feedback and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)



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  1. Great advice. i have stephen kings on writing that i love…and also the writers and illustrators handbook. i love hearing about other peoples experiences and how they learnt. thanks dee. may look this book up for myself

  2. Hi Dee,

    I really loved reading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. I love his analogy that stories are like fossils, something already there that we have to carefully uncover. I think it’s true. I have these stories inside me that are there, fully formed, but I have to uncover the details.

    I love his tips on writing with simple language and not over-using adverbs.

    I also enjoyed reading and doing ‘The Artisit’s Way’, by Julia Cameron. It’s a great way to unleash creativity and I had a lot of breakthroughs. Hmmm, I should really start doing my ‘morning pages’ again…

    Best wishes,

  3. Thanks Sandra,

    Stephen King has some great tips doesn’t he? I’ll have to check out The Artists’s Way, it sounds very inspiring.

    Hope you have an inspiring week.


  4. I think I might check out the book by DOnald Maass that you’ve recommended. I could use some more layering in my stories and it sounds like it really worked for you.

  5. I found it really helpful, Sandra and I have a couple of writer friends who are using it at the moment too and they love it. It’s great for helping you look deeper into your story.


  6. Layering is quite a challenge isn’t it, Kaye?

    The good thing is that Donald Maass also has a workbook so you can work through each step using your own story. It really makes you think:)


  7. Dee, what I absolutely love about this post is that it confirms, that every single day, there can be found a way to syphon yet more mud from my writing pond. The waters are slowly clearing, bit by bit. I like Stephen’s priceless advice too. Maass sounds amazing. Layering…another bullet point on the list to practise. Cheers!

  8. I read that book as well. I found his stories about his life the most riveting part. A page turner even for a memoirist.

  9. Hi Dee, I received my copy of ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’ and the accompanying workbook this morning. Yay! Thanks for the tip.

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