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8 Pitfalls That Kill a Great Book Plot

Posted by Arthur Gutch on Sat, Mar 25, 2017 @ 12:00 PM

You've written The End on the last page of your manuscript, and now it's time to edit what you've written. What happens if your story isn't as great as you thought it would be? If your story just doesn't pop and you can't figure out why, you might have fallen into one of these plot pitfalls. Can one of them fix your book? plot_pitfalls.jpg

1. It's Predictable

If your readers always know what's going to happen, you've probably taken advantage of some overused plot points. Sure, genre fiction has tropes you have to hit for the fans, but doing it your own way is what makes you a great author. Are you telling your own story, or retelling one you've read before?

2. It's All Action

Does your book have a frenzied pace? If your protagonist never has any down time to think and reflect, you're writing an account of a marathon run, not an interesting novel. Great books have pace and rhythm; put quiet times in between your exciting scenes.

3. It's Too Complex

Do you get halfway through the book and wonder how you got from there to here? Complex plots that carry multiple threads tend to confuse readers. No one wants to have to work to read your book, and keeping multiple mysteries or story lines can cause even the most dedicated reader to drop your story. Multiple points of view are fine, as long as each one plays a significant role in the general story.

4. It Has an Illogical Sequence

Lay out your chapters with one sentence for each one, creating a short synopsis. Does A flow to B, and then to C? Should there be a step in between, or should you rearrange a couple of the steps? Make sure the timeline has an inner logic that works through the whole book.

5. It's a Familiar Plot

Is your book the next new Twilight? Could you market your series as the second coming of The Hunger Games? Following the market is a great strategy for selling books, but only if you write your own story to catch those fans' attention. If the plot sounds all too familiar, it probably is.

6. It's Too Shallow

Are you a great author? Do your words evoke emotion? Do you create beautiful prose and perfectly formed sentences? It could be that you're more involved with form than function. Beautiful writing is a great goal, but readers would rather read a fantastic story written in plain prose. When it comes to fiction, the plot is king. Tell a great story. If you do it using beautiful words, that's icing on the cake.

7. It's Too Farfetched

Do you stretch your readers' suspension of disbelief too far? If you're writing science fiction, you can go a long way without readers calling you out on the details, but even then you'll hear about it if you get the science wrong. Just ask Andy Weir about when he first published The Martian. He almost completely rewrote the story based on readers' input about the science. How badly do you stretch the facts in your book? Would attorneys really act like that in court? Could a cop really take the law in his own hands like that without consequences? Would a single mother truly take on that much responsibility? Sure it's fiction, but above all, it has to be believable.

8. It Has Too Many Subplots

Are the little threads in your story tying you into a knot instead of weaving the colorful tapestry you wanted to make? How many subplots do you have? Again, readers don't want to work too hard when they pick up a book for fun. Reading should be enjoyable, not an exercise in memory retention. If you feel a need to put a glossary at the end of your book to help readers keep track of all the characters and how they interact, it might be a good idea to think about paring some of them down. At the very least, you'll have material for another book or two, and series books sell.

Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!

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