Tuesday Writing Tip – Sorting Through Your Scenes

My muse Molly is plotting just how she's going to get that tasty piece of washing off the line:)

My muse Molly is plotting just how she’s going to get that tasty piece of washing off the line:)

I’m currently going through the scenes of a much edited and rewritten YA manuscript.

There are so many things I like about the manuscript and so many things I don’t – and publishers I have submitted it to have pretty much reacted in the same way.

I keep coming back to the fact that I think the main issues with it are plot related.

I tend to complicate things with lots of small pieces of action and sub plots. I think it stems from an unfounded paranoia that you need lots of twists and turns to stop teen readers from getting bored.

Instinct, and the reading of other great YA novels tells me that if I have characters and circumstances teens can relate to, this is what I really need.

So for now I’m going with that – and trying to get rid of complications that don’t need to be there.

When I look at each individual scene I can convince myself that every scene needs to be there – they all have a purpose.

But when I look at the overall plot, I realise that some scenes are not moving the story forward or really developing my main character – they are just a plot device to show the reader something I want them to know.

So I’m going back to looking at what really matters in this story – and I think this is going to give me a guide to which scenes really don’t matter – which scenes don’t need to be there.

To do this, I’m looking at what I think are the essential elements.

To identify these, I’m looking at the main plot points as identified by screenwriting guru Syd Field – which seem to work just as well for novels (You can read more about Syd’s theories in his Screenplay and The Screen Writer’s Workbook)

Syd Field’s Main Plot Points

 1.  The inciting incident – the thing that starts the story

2.  Plot point one (occurs near the end of the first quarter of the story.) Plot point one is the moment when the main character takes on the story problem and decides to do something about it. This decision changes the character’s life.

3.  Midpoint reversal – As the name suggests, this occurs halfway through the story and is something that takes it in a new direction.

4. Plot point two – this happens about 3/4 of the way through the story. This is when the main character makes a conscious choice that they can no longer cope with the way things are and something has to change.

5.  Climax – this is where the main character confronts the problem/villain once and for all in the ultimate showdown.

Do you find your plots have a tendency to become too complicated? What do you do to simplify them?

Feel free to share your tips and suggestions in the comments section of this blog.

Next week, I’m going to talk about scene sequences and rising tension.

In the meantime, happy writing:)