The Trouble with Plotting
by Susan Breen
For a long time, by which I mean months and months, I was stuck on page 126 of my novel. It wasn’t that I had writer’s block. Far from it. I was writing plenty. Sometimes 2,000 words a day. But I was also cutting plenty. Sometimes 2,000 words a day. I felt like I could just not move the story forward. I didn’t know where to go. I was having a major problem with plot.
Worst of all, every time I came up with a new scene, it changed what I thought of the previous scenes, which caused me to keep going back to the beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever written so many opening chapters. In fact, I saved all the opening paragraphs and they number 53. Someday I want to collect them into an article.
The people in my writing workshop are a very nice bunch. They would look at me so hopefully every time I submit pages. They kept wanting me to move on to chapter 5, or even 3, and I kept giving them revisions of chapter 1. It was a little like being in quicksand. I knew, theoretically, that I had to move forward, but I just could not move my feet. Or my hands, in this case.
The good news is that I found my way out. I finished the novel. It wound up being 53 chapters long. It has a beginning, middle and end. I gave it to my agent, who loved it. Soon she will be sending it out on submission. But perhaps the better news is that, along the way, I figured out a lot about plot. I discovered that there are things you can do to make plotting easier, and this is what I’m going to be teaching a workshop on at the SCWW conference. Stop by from 9:00 to 10:15 on Saturday morning to discuss “Five Plot Elements Your Novel Must Have.” See you there!
Susan Breen teaches creative writing for Gotham Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan. Her debut novel, THE FICTION CLASS, is published by Plume, a division of Penguin. Her short stories have been published by a number of literary magazines, among them www.anderbo.com and The Chattahoochee Review. She lives with her family and dogs and cat and fish in Irvington, New York and, for those who are interested, there is a lot more biographical information on her web site, which is at www.susanjbreen.com.