Aug 22 2010
If you’re worried that your manuscript isn’t as coherent as it could be, mapping your plot can be extremely helpful. To do so:
- List the 25-50 most important events in the plot.
- Place one event each on a post-it note.
- Organize as many of the post-it notes into a cause-and-effect chain as you can.
For example, here’s a political thriller with two main plot threads. (I wouldn’t recommend more than 3 plot threads).
For more information on how to use your map to tighten up your plot, see below.
Most manuscripts are incoherent. The plots aren’t very tightly connected and events seemingly happen at random or because the author got bored. One warning sign that your plot is not coherent enough is that mapping out the major plot threads leaves many post-it notes orphaned from the main plot threads. I’d recommend reconsidering the plot items that didn’t seem to fit into the main threads. Are they necessary? Could they be shortened? If they don’t tie into the main plots, why have them? Alternately, try altering the plot so that they tie into the main plot more. (Maybe a hero gains a trait that is very important down the road).
Do the main threads connect? If not, I suspect that the story will feel disjointed–moving one plot thread shouldn’t stall the others. For example, in Scott Pilgrim, winning the girl and beating the villains are very closely related, not only because the villains are the main obstacle to the romance but because the relationship between Scott and Ramona is both developed and strained by Scott’s uneasiness about getting constantly attacked.
Some other insights you may draw from your map:
- If a different order strikes you as more logical, go for it.
- Are there any points where you could jump from A to C without B? If so, read through B carefully to see whether you can get rid of it.