Sometimes it can feel as though writing is the easy part, you just let it all out onto a page. The hardest is the editing, checking and perfecting stage. Every writer wants to be sure their plot is on point. This is often what can let a story down, a brilliant idea but poor delivery, and gaps. As a reader, plot gaps are no fun. There’s nothing worse than being captured by a great book blurb and cover, only to read a novel full of plot or character gaps and unanswered questions. The problem is writers often have the plot “in their head” and that’s where it stays. Or they “understand the plot” themselves, forgetting that readers need and deserve well developed stories and especially characters. Aspects of a story ideally should not really be brushed over, as this will leave a reader confused, and most importantly they will spot the dreaded gaps, where the writing has not been developed enough. This will lead to a bland story that will not do justice to your great blurb or idea. Here are some tips on how to ensure there are no gaps in your plot, even if you’re not a “plotter” as a writer and regardless of your genre.
- Transfer what’s in your head, (your vision) onto paper first, don’t write a thing on a Word.doc toward the story. Outline the story loosely on paper. The start, middle and end. Sometimes it’s good to think of two possible endings.
- One you have your outline, fill in the gaps loosely = chapters what happens when? Plan out your chapters in a few sentences. Ask yourself does this flow? Is it realistic?
- Think about where the heat, drama, suspense, or thrill (depending on your genre), will be within the chapter outlines. This is helpful as when you’re writing. You will know where to build the drama, where to hold back, what direction you’re heading. Of course, you can go off track and allow your creativity to talk to you. However, the point is to know where you’re leading readers and what chapter(s) will need research, develop more etc. Remember ideally you don’t want to brush over key events and leave readers feeling unsatisfied, with an unrealistic feeling in your writing.
- Where are the “red herrings” in your story that will surprise or thrill your reader? Highlight them, and how you will build them into your writing. Again, this depends on your genre, however it’s useful to know where the drama will kick off, before you write the drama. Think about how you want to write the drama also, what narration? From the character’s point of view (showing) rather than telling.
- Keep a timeline of events. The last thing you want is for an event to happen in chapter three, then rewrite that later down in another chapter again as if it’s new information for a reader, or worse in a different way. Or even worse, forget that something happened and leave a reader asking questions about the plot = plot gap alert.
- Read your work yourself, rest it for a week if you can stand it that long. Then go back in and read what’s on the page–not what you want to be there what’s actually there. You need to read very closely. Even if you have Beta Readers, don’t just rely on them or even your editor. Take the time to be sure yourself there are no gaps, unanswered questions, missing events, dates that don’t match up, is your plot is realistic?
The benefits of outlining your start, middle, end chapters and timeline loosely are:
- You as the writer know where you’re heading– roughly.
- You can be sure you won’t repeat something that happened, or forget to write something that should have happened.
- You can see clearly where you need to develop your writing, and not brush over things, when you have an idea of where the drama is.
- Possibly you may suffer less writer’s block, as you have a direction, and overall plan for your story. It’s a bit like colouring in, your words are the colours between the lines (chapter outlines).
Good luck writers and remember, the most important thing is to let your creativity speak to you even if you have an outline. You don’t need to be rigid, if anything the outline is for your benefit to make sure everything is on point… with no gaps.
For more reading on how to ramp up your writing see: