Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Braiding story-lines

As I mentioned yesterday, I received my editor's suggestions on the same day I traveled home from Europe.

And... it didn't hurt. *Happy dance.*

There's something really wonderful about having an editor who understands what I wrote. She immediately caught on with what I want to do with the story, so her suggestions are amazing.

Well... By amazing, I mean my reaction is something like this: *head desk* Why didn't I think of that?

So... yeah.

There's one thing I picked out of her editor's letter that I thought I'd share. It's relevant to anyone who writes something epic and complex.

When we write stories like that, we have to deal with multiple story-lines.

That's great, because more than one story-line keeps things interesting. On the other hand, more than one story-line can dilute the tension. Especially when you're going to leave them open-ended for the purposes of a sequel.

How does one combat this?

Pretty much by making the plot-lines just long enough. In other words. The big problem with multiple plot-lines are that we don't give enough attention to enough of them. Which means that the reader doesn't get a chance to connect to that particular line enough to care.

What happens if something goes wrong in the sub-story? Does it matter at all? Why? The reader needs to know. Same as with the main story.

I'm not saying you need to take every line through the three-act-structure. All you need to do is pick more important ones, i.e. ones that will be important in the immediate sequel, then extend them a bit. Just enough so that the reader gets a feel for the goal, conflict and stakes.

Because that's what they'll care about when then they want to read the next book.

And then make sure you have some awesome main story-lines.

How do you approach stories with more than one plot?

P.S. In case you're wondering what happened to News Day, I moved it to tomorrow so I could get some news in. If you have something you think I should share, please e-mail me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

45 comments:

  1. I don't leave any plot lines open for a sequel. (Which has made writing sequels challenging sometimes!)

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    1. That can also be a good way to write a series. I just wrote Doorways my way because it's actually one huge story.

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  2. All my books are standalones. The "sequels" are usually just new stories based around the same person or people.

    The trick is to make sure you give each plotline some kind of wrap-up, and make sure it has a place in the larger picture. I think where many authors fail is by sticking mini-plots in there just to complicate things but not integrating those new plots into the major plot.

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    1. I agree with you. There's a difference between stories with multiple lines and ones where the authors just stuck in more stories to make the story look "bigger(?)" than it is.

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  3. I'm glad you got amazing suggestions. It's amazing how the right eye on a piece can make all the difference.

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  4. I'm glad you have an editor that's a kindred spirit. My books are stand alones so far, so I tie up everything that needs it.
    I like the imagery of braiding the story line. Good description.

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    1. Thanks. I feel very fortunate.

      Maybe one day, I'll write a story that fits into one book. :-D

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  5. I try and weave all the sub-plots together into the main story. Boy, it gets confusing sometimes. Best of luck.

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    1. Oh yeah it can be confusing. I took a very long time to get through the first drafts of my story, because it's just so complicated.

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  6. I do my best not to let the sub plot take over the main one. I think that's one of the worst things that can happen. Glad your editor didn't make you sad. *smiles*

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    1. Yeah, there should always be one main plot, and none of the sub plots should take over. Instead, they're there to support it.

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  7. You must feel so pleased to be working with an editor who is passionate about your story.

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  8. I echo Suzanne's thoughts-- how wonderful to have an editor who "gets" what you are doing for the reader and has insights to help that happen even more! Yay!

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    1. It's amazing! Really makes all the effort of querying worth while.

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  9. Sometimes I wonder if anyone will ever really "get" what my writing or if they'll just stare at me like "gee, didn't your neurologist tell you to cut caffeine out?" But congrats on having someone who gets it. ;) As for the advice, it totally makes sense. Sometimes I feel like writing is a lot like braiding. Complicated and tangled with too many strings.

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    1. Yeah. My first drafts tend to be a lot like spaghetti...

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  10. That's a really great point about the sub plots. I try to make sure that all of my characters arc, but I writer first person, so the sub lines are not obviously sub plots.

    Also, it's really amazing that your editor gets your book. That feeling is so awesome.

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    1. I get what you mean about writing in first person. I write in first and third (not in the same story) and there's a definite difference.

      Mainly, with first person, it's really difficult to put in too many story lines, because you're pretty much stuck with what your view point character experiences. Unless you head-hop.

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  11. A good editor is worth her weight in gold.

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  12. I love that advice and that you've got some amazing feedback. Can't wait to see it all paying off for you!

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  13. Sounds as though you've been blessed with the editor every writer dreams of!

    As a rule, I write stand alones, but I have written a couple of books that feature the same characters/different protagonist. For me, it's the relationships between the characters that stretch beyond the storyline. Plots have clearcut endings, relationships seldom do. And if there's conflict, all the better. I am not a big fan of the happily ever after. Even amongst the most content of us, the HEA doesn't reflect real life.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. I love what you said about the happily ever after. It's so true that challenges and difficulties will continue to come to relationships.

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  14. I want your editor, lol. I have several subplots in each of my novels in the trilogy. The first two I was able to keep them in line - mostly - but the last one got away from me and I'm still trying to figure out which subplots to delete - or if I should just write another sequel.

    Oy vey! I think I only have about 3 more chapters to wrap up all the subplots so I don't want to write the 4th novel, but gads, what to get rid of to take the novel from 118k to 95k?


    ......dhole

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    1. Hahaha yeah she's amazing.

      118k? to 95k? Wow I don't know if that's possible. Still, if you go back to edit, you'd be surprised at how many words can be cut without harming the story.

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  15. I'm glad your editor was able to offer such useful suggestions. It's the difference between getting fresh eyes on your wip and getting the right eyes on it instead. That is a world of difference.

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    1. So true, Elaine. I have been particularly fortunate in that respect. Even with my Crit Partners.

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  16. It's wonderful that you and your editor understand each other so well. Excellent.

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  17. As a simple soul, my stories - long and short - are all pretty singular. This is probably why I can never make my novels longer than about 50k, so it's something I'll have to work on one day!

    Great news you've got such a great editor, the process will be smoother if you're on the same wavelength.

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    1. 50k is actually a nice, easy length. I tend to edit my books until they're way longer, then have to cut them back down.

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  18. glad your editor can assist you with making your story even better or spot things you never thought about.

    for now, my stories are theme-based.

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    1. That's an interesting concept. I've never written a story around a theme, I don't think.

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  19. I haven't been as complicated as you yet, Misha... :) But am trying that out in my new fantasy. At some point you'll get to read it and tell me how much I suck at it. lol

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    1. I'm sure I'll love it. Can't wait to get a chance to read it. :-)

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  20. I had a similar problem with an earlier ms but I couldnt fix it.

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    1. Ouch! That must have been heartbreaking.

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  21. Sounds like good advice. I barely keep hold of one plot line :)

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    1. Yeah, multiple lines can be a huge challenge.

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  22. Great advice! You definitely shouldn't have multiple plot lines just for the sake of it.

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    1. So true. That harms a story more than it helps.

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  23. Thanks for sharing your editor's advice.

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