How can we revive a plot? Each writer has their own unique solutions, but for the sake of this post, imagine yourself wearing scrubs, holding electric paddles, and shouting, "Clear!"
Using combined advice from many sources, including my critique partner, Leslie Rose, and tips from Revision & Self Editing, I created a plot spreadsheet. I know, I know, I usually read spreadsheet and flee. But stay with me. These were my column headers:
- Chapter number
- Scene summary--just a couple of quick lines about the scene
- Characters--which main players were involved in the scene?
- Conflict--I've learned each scene should have conflict. If there wasn't any, that gave me the green light to add friction or delete the scene.
- Goal of scene--what was my MC's goal? Again, if there wasn't any, that was a red flag.
- Antagonist/Opposition--in each scene, who or what stood in my MC's way of reaching her goal?
- Outcome--after each conflict, what were the consequences? If there were none, more red flags.
- Day/Time--this helped me make sure I wasn't goofing up on time sequence (unless that's your objective!)
- First line of the chapter
- Last line of the chapter--these two columns helped me judge the quality of my beginning and ending lines.
- Notes/Ideas--eventually this column moved next to my scene summary for easy reference. As I evaluated each scene, this is where I wrote my overall thoughts of the scene, how it could improve, or whether or not it could be deleted.
Does this mean I'm finished with revisions? No way. The book is now with trusted beta readers, and I know there will be heavy editing in the future. But spending time evaluating each scene provided me with clarity and focus.
Have you ever done anything like this, or does a spreadsheet make you run for the hills? What's your secret for administering plot CPR?