Writing Tip #4 – Make Your Plot Complex

Hello everyone,

I’m sorry it has been awhile since my last writing tip!  My hope is to post one writing tip a week if I don’t get too overwhelmed with other things.  But today’s writing tip is one that you need to memorize and put into practice immediately.

As you may know, I have worked with publishers since I was seventeen, and a woman by the name of Spring Lee was my mentor throughout middle school and high school.  She owned a small publishing house herself, and I value everything that she taught to me.  That being said, one of the best tips she ever gave to me was as follows:

“Make sure that your plot/conflict could not be resolved in a 30 minute sit com.”

What does that mean exactly?  It means that you need to make sure that the plot/conflict in your novel is complex enough that the reader won’t be able to guess the resolution easily, and to make sure that you have enough story to fill a book.  This is also important to note if you are considering making your plot/conflict last across multiple novels in a series.  If your plot/conflict is too predictable, your reader won’t want to keep reading if they can guess what will happen beforehand.  Usually writers tend to become so wrapped up in their characters and their setting that they don’t consider adding complexity to their plot/conflict which can draw them back when it comes to gaining readers.  The best thing that an author can do is create a plot/conflict that has the possibility of multiple outcomes so that the reader is constantly guessing but never quite correct.  For example, when authors pack a punch in their book you can feel it.  I would like to present you with an excerpt from “City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare as an example:

“She looked at him hard.  ‘What makes you so sure?  Do you know them?’

The laughter had gone from his voice entirely when he replied.  ‘Do I know them?’ he echoed.  ‘You might say that.  Those are the men who murdered my father.'(Clare, 2007.)

Do you see how powerful that is?  Cassandra Clare was brilliant in the way that she made sure that there were sub-plots to supplement her main plot so that the reader would be diverted and they wouldn’t see the twist coming.  That being said, what I want you to take away from this tip to to MAKE SURE that you at least CONSIDER adding sub-plots to your plot/conflict.  You can hint at these sub-plots in your book, but don’t give them away so easily.  You want to have many tricks in your writing bag, and this is one of the best tricks that you can always use, no matter what you are writing.  Keep your reader guessing, pack a couple punches, and you will be good to go.  Readers will come running!

Much love,

Ashley

References

Clare, C., & Rosamilia, M. (2007). City of bones. New York: M.K. McElderry Books.

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