Everyone makes mistakes, but as a writer, do you have a tendency to make plot mistakes? And what do I even mean by ~plot mistakes~?
Perhaps this question would be better phrased as:
What makes a book distinguishable from amateur writing and good writing?
And funnily enough, when you ask this question, the majority of people will respond with:
I can’t put it into words, but I know it when I see it.
It’s strange but true, and it’s something that makes learning incredibly hard for writers— especially when first starting out. They know something is off with their writing, but they just can’t put their finger on what it is, exactly.
So how can you fix a mistake if you don’t understand what mistake you’re making?
One of the biggest things writers struggle with is their plotline— keeping it consistent, engaging, realistic, and well written. The majority of negative reviews stem from the reader having an issue with either the plotline, or the characters, so it’s important to really perfect these two things when writing your book.
Today, I’m going to share with you three things that cause plot issues in your book. Ready?
1 // Unrealistic Scenes or Characters Create Plot Issues
The first major turn off for any reader is coming across something in the plot that doesn’t make sense.
Characters who get critically injured in fights, yet still manage to find the strength to deliver that fatal blow to the enemy, or characters who can ride a horse for 2+ days without stopping (thanks for this observation, Lily. I love you!).
The point is, if it doesn’t make sense, it’s going to get criticized. It doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy and you can stretch everything beyond belief. There has to be limits and obstacles to your character’s actions, or else nothing would ever be interesting!
Now yes, I know that sometimes, we write unrealistic things without realizing (and I could tell you a REALLY funny story about how one time I accidentally killed my character with two bottles of vodka in the first chapter… but let’s not), so just remember to do your research.
Also, beta-readers are your new best friend.
2 // Lack of Conflict Creates Plot Issues
This one sort of carries on from above too, in regards to not having indestructible characters who can achieve (quite literally) anything.
You’ve gotta have conflict in your story.
That is kind of the whole point of writing stories. You tell the reader about a problem that your characters later overcome. Without problems, there is nothing at all to hook the reader and keep them interested in your book.
Believe it or not, I do sometimes come across stories with no conflict, but more commonly I come across stories with a weak conflict— meaning it gets resolved in a matter of chapters and the stakes never grow.
Of course, the best conflicts are ones that you never see coming and can’t possibly imagine how to get out of. A great tip for creating these kinds of conflicts is to be completely unpredictable and random in the events that happen (within reason, of course— it still has to fit the theme of your novel), and make it something that has multiple potential solutions. This gives you space to create multiple obstacles that prevent your characters from solving the conflict quickly, and allows you to keep building on the conflict until it gets resolved.
The best conflicts are ones that you never see coming and can’t possibly imagine how to get out of. – Click to Tweet
3 // Poor Story Pacing Creates Plot Issues
This is the biggest thing that most writers struggle with. Pacing will either make or break a book.
If you don’t write enough, you won’t satisfy the reader.
If you write too much, you will drag on and bore the reader.
So how do you find that perfect balance?
Before we dive into that, let’s briefly touch on what exactly pacing is:
Pacing is the speed of which your novel progresses through events.
(Say it again for the people in the back!)
Have you ever read a piece of writing and felt like it was almost disjointed and jumpy, because they whizzed through a bunch of facts surrounding the main character, then rushed them from their house to school in zero-point-five seconds?
That’s a good example of poor pacing. You don’t want your reader to feel like they just got on the world’s fastest rollercoaster and send them spiralling through the story so quickly that they don’t have time to process anything.
In saying that, if your entire first chapter (or first page, for that matter) details the main character getting ready for school, and covers everything from what shirt they wore to the orange juice they drank to the brand of toothpaste they used to brush their teeth… well, that’s too much. Now you’re boring the reader.
I talk more about how to actually fix story pacing in this post.
The three most important factors in writing a great plotline are to be realistic, create conflict, and pace your scenes.
Now go out there and write your amazing story!
Written by Pagan Malcolm
Pagan is an indie-published, YA fiction author & former marketing assistant intern at Pen Name Publishing, as well as the founder of Paperback Kingdom.