Suzanne Ruthven gave some handy tips for sharpening the plot of our novels.
- A novel needs an ending but this ending need not be cast in stone. You need to have something to work towards, something to aim for.
- With plot, you also need to have a sub-plot. The sub-plot moves the reader along.
- It is very tempting to have another set of characters coming in when the hero needs to learn important information, try to avoid this. Sharpen in the re-write by cutting subsidiary characters.
- Don’t overcrowd scenes. Does the plot really require lots of people to be together in one place at one particular time? Be economical in the number of cast and scene changes. See action in your sequences. Think like a play-write or film director. You can fast forward and backwards to visualise your plot as frames. This way you can see if it isn’t running smoothly form one scene to the next.
- Use flashback rather than having a large scene that shows the plot and use it with purpose to move the story on.
- Imagine conversations to hone dialogue.
- In the first draft don’t worry about getting it right, just get it out of your mind and onto the paper, then you can edit and mould it into shape. The first draft is the bones – the bar skeleton.
- Analyse where your peaks and troughs are and always finish each chapter on a cliffhanger.
- If you use symbolism, it must play a part in the conclusion.
- End as soon as possible after the dramatic climax of the novel. Open with a bang but don’t go out with a phut.
2) Narrative Style and Pace
Your style is unique. Do not change it. If you try to write in the style of someone else, you are changing your individuality.
The pace is governed by the time frame of the story. In long stories, such as sagas, you need to find the level of the story, which has the greatest continuation of plot and have the rest in flashback. In this way, it is possible to condense three generations into a weekend. If writing thrillers, Suzanne suggests you narrow it down to a week or a year.
Get the reader feeling they are on a roller coaster, if you drag it out too much the reader will get confused. Dialogue is a good way for bridging time. Your characters could easily pick the phone up and ask someone.
Avoid lengthy description. It slows the pace. Suzanne suggested taking a look at the colour supplements in the newspapers because they have good examples of brief descriptions of rooms, people and moods. They sum it all up in a thumbnail. She said a good exercise is to go through these supplements with a highlighter pen.
The picture should be created by character and dialogue, not by lengthy description.
It is important to understand what theme your book fits in to.
That’s all I wrote under this heading so, I obviously did not understand a word of it.
I have made a mental note to look into what theme my main children’s novel fits, as this is something I do not know. I think it probably has more than one theme. I’m not sure if this is allowed / advisable.