I gave myself (and you!) a challenge here to fix the drunken cat plots of your first (or second, fifth, whatever) novel. If you’re editing it now and say it’s fine, or you’re working on your novel, then just consider these tips to help you get it right and keep your plot kitty sober and on the line that first time.
What I mean by this is you want to keep your plot moving forward and everything that’s going on relevant to the plot. Don’t get me wrong, this includes sub-plots. If it’s a thriller romance wherein the characters solve a mystery, the romance is just as important as the mystery, they are they own plot lines that tie together. What you want is to take out conversations that don’t move any plot line forward, and to start the book with the inciting event instead of just showing character’s lives or them having mini-adventures.
So you keep your kitty sober by staying on point in every scene, making sure everything is relevant to the plot instead of just wandering off when and where it damn well pleases.
Step one in Dr. Amie’s Plot Fixer Elixir is to write your back of the book blurb.
This isn’t the synopsis, this is the back of the book and usually ends up in your query letter (good explanation of a query letter: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx). This is the hook that grabs the reader, then the mini-synopsis. These are basically the set up, what the main character wants, what’s in her way, and touching on what she’ll have to change.
The hook: In one sentence, what is your book about? I write fantasy and our hooks are usually what kind of world you’ll be stepping into when you open the book and/or the main character’s power in this place. For more on how to write a good hook, one that’ll end up going in the query and on the back of your brand spanking new book, read the backs of the books on your shelves. This post isn’t about how to do a good one, just on getting you to do one 🙂 And really, the good ones are the ones on the back of the books you read. You bought the book for a reason, right?
So, what’s it about? Nope, don’t pause, don’t ramble, don’t start with, “Welllllll.” It’s your baby, your first! You know it by heart. In one sentence, what world/problem/character’s skin am I stepping into? Not easy, not at all, but you can rewrite it as many times as you want.
Then there’s the mini-synopsis. This is setting up the problem so after the hook people see more what the story is about. Again, this is not a synopsis. That’s walking people through beginning to end. If you do this on the back of the book, obviously it wouldn’t fit, but also, people wouldn’t need to read it. Because the answer’s right there!
This mini-synopsis builds on the hook. Like I said above, what’s the set up, the character’s goal, and the thing in the way? Hint at what the character will have to learn, discover, or do to achieve their goal. Keep it short and sweet.
Now, once this is done, you have a clearer idea of what the book is supposed to be about. Then you go back to the beginning of your book and look at which scenes do the set up promised in the blurb, and which ones don’t. The ones that don’t probably don’t need to be in there.
Cut out the scenes that get in the way of getting to the problem quickly. Your “problem” is the inciting event. What makes the character have to move, shake and shimmy? What makes this day different than others? Get to it in the first chapter. If it’s a mystery and you say on the back, “But MC’s career gets a step up when she finally gets to be lead on a case,” get to the case in that first chapter.
If you’re feeling brave, post your back of the book blurb on your blog and link here or post in the comments below. I’ll happily critique anything that gets thrown at me in these posts and others reading probably will too.