Writing Fiction: 3 Easy Tips For Subplots

Writing Fiction: 3 Easy Tips For Subplots

One of the most fun things in writing fiction is creating subplots.

Unfortunately when creating subplots it’s easy to (literally) lose the main thread of the plot. When this happens, readers stop reading. Let’s look at some tips to help.

When you’re writing fiction, your primary aim is to keep readers entertained, and reading

Firstly, let’s be realistic. Subplots require words. If you need those words for your primary plot and character development, keep your subplots short. Also consider that if you’re writing a short story or novella, you almost certainly won’t have space for a subplot.

From Plot Your Novel: 3 Tips for Sizzling Subplots:

Subplots are easy. All you need to remember is that a subplot isn’t just an unconnected story dumped into your book to bulk it up; it’s a way of adding richness to your story. A subplot always relates directly to your main story in some way.

Let’s look at how subplots can help when you’re writing fiction.

1. Subplots increase the tension and keep readers reading

No matter the genre, you need to keep readers entertained because they have many options for entertainment today. So your primary reason for developing a subplot is to increase tension. You want readers turning the pages wondering what will happen next.

You can manage subplots any way you choose, but I like to hint at the subplot in the Setup phase of a novel (the first 25%), then develop it, and have it alternate with the primary plot.

When you do this, you can hit an OMG! moment in your primary plot, and switch to your subplot for a couple of scenes to increase tension.

2. Use subplots for a change of pace: to add humor, or romance

You may love chocolate cake, but you don’t want to make an entire meal of it.

So, whatever your genre and main plot, a subplot can add a needed change of pace. Shakespeare often added humorous scenes to his tragedies. When there’s too much gloom and doom, you need a contrast so that readers appreciate the next horror scene.

Whatever your genre, humor is always welcome. Try creating a character or two for comic relief.

Consider adding a romantic subplot, if you’re writing in a genre (science fiction, thrillers, mysteries) which doesn’t need romance. In these genres, a romantic subplot not only aids character development, it also provides a useful change of pace.

3. Develop your characters: think opposites

Have you seen the movie The Odd Couple? It’s a gem because it’s the perfect illustration of a strategy you can use when you’re writing fiction to make your characters memorable.

Let’s say you’re writing a mystery. Your subplot could involve your sleuth’s hapless sidekick, as he tries to do something or other. The sidekick is the opposite of your sleuth — think Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

You may be writing a romance. A secondary character could be the polar opposite of your heroine or hero. Think Scarlett and Melanie in Gone With The Wind, and Jane and Lydia in Pride & Prejudice.

Not only does creating opposites help with your character development, the contrast between characters provides a change of pace.

Subplots make writing fiction easier

The change of pace which a subplot provides is often as beneficial to authors as it is to readers.

If you get stuck when you’re writing a novel, explore creating subplots. If a subplot adds nothing, you can remove it later.

Have fun with subplots, and write on. 🙂

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Write A Book: 4 Ways Scrivener Makes You A Better Writer

Write A Book: 4 Ways Scrivener Makes You A Better Writer

Recently on a private forum, after responding to a plea for help with the suggestion, “use Scrivener, the program makes you a better writer,” I’ve received questions about that statement.

My first response was to giggle. Ah — NO, I’m not a shill for Scrivener’s developers. You won’t find any affiliate links in this post. Nor do I know anyone in the company, but I have immense admiration for the developers.

So, how does Scrivener make you a better writer?

I believe that Scrivener is worth every penny of your investment in its purchase, and more. Your mileage may vary of course, but I know that before Scrivener, writing a book took me three and four times as long.

If you need to write a book, you need Scrivener

Scrivener’s beta version arrived in 2005. In that year, I switched from using Windows machines as my primary computers to Macs. It took forever to make the decision to switch.

At that time, I was writing about PCs for computer magazines, as well as doing ghostwriting for a global publisher, so I still needed my Windows machines.

My contract for the large publishing house meant that not only did I write chapters for them for various books, I worked as a ghostwriter and copywriter for them as well.

My life was chaos. I spent 12 and 14 hours a day, just writing. Research took another couple of hours at least.

Then suddenly, at just the right time, Scrivener came out with a beta version — suddenly writing books was much easier.

Scrivener will make you a better writer because it makes it easier to organize your writing projects, and to think.

1. Scrivener makes it easier to organize and think, so your writing improves

Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, morph.

In this post, I suggested writing your blurb (book description) before you start outlining and writing:

Writing your blurb first is important because you need to fulfill promises you made in the blurb. It’s much easier to edit your blurb than it is to edit your book.

Nevertheless, even with your blurb as a compass to your writing, your book’s vision will change before your eyes. When this happens it’s not only disorienting, it can throw you off track. If you’re unfortunate enough to have deadlines for several books at one time, it also leads to a lot of stress.

Scrivener has a marvelous feature called Collections, which helps you to revision (re-imagine) your book, no matter how much it morphs.

An excellent article on Collections:

Before Scrivener, I’d print out a novel, then lay out “collections” of documents on the bed, and the carpet. Next, I’d create index card summaries of every document in every collection. I’d delete scenes and chapters by tossing their documents, and then type up fresh scenes, and lay them out on the carpet. It was chaotic.

2. You can view your Scrivener project from several different angles, so you get better ideas

When it’s time to outline, I start out in the Corkboard view. The Corkboard’s index cards are itty bitty things, so I usually switch from there to the Outline view, and then to the Scrivenings view, to flesh out the outline.

You can start writing at any time.

For example, with fiction I’ll usually write the first scene, and then because the final scene mirrors the first, I’ll write that scene next. Of course, the final scene needs rewriting later, but I’ve mapped out the territory.

You may find that being able to switch so easily between views helps you to keep your project on track, and become more creative.

3. Got an editor, or beta readers? It takes just a few clicks to compile a draft to send them (and you can quickly make changes)

When ghostwriting, I like to send my client or editor a copy of the first draft of each chapter when it’s done. That takes just a few clicks in Scrivener, and the PDF is ready to email to the client, or to attach to a thread in a chat program.

Sending out out ARCs (advance reading copies) is just as simple. A few clicks, and your PDF is ready to send.

4. Inspiration can strike anywhere: Scrivener has iOS and (soon) Android apps

You can get ideas anywhere. I have an “Ideas” folder in each Scrivener project, so I can type up an idea quickly. Occasionally, I’ll be on the sofa, watching a movie, when inspiration hits. It’s easy to open Scrivener on my tablet, and add a few paragraphs to a scene, or correct something in a scene if I realize that the timeline is off, for example.

So, there you have it. I truly believe that Scrivener can help almost any author to become happier and more productive.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

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Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular.

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Fiction Writing Basics: How To Make Sense Of Chapters

Fiction Writing Basics: How To Make Sense Of Chapters

When you’re new to fiction writing, you worry. One of the things you worry about are chapters.

Beginning authors send me questions like:

  • What’s a “chapter”?
  • How long/ short is a chapter?
  • How do you know when you’ve written one?

By the way, you might find this article useful, Fiction Writing Basics: Scenes, Narrative and Chapters if you’re not sure about scenes, etc.

In fiction writing, you’re the boss — take charge of chapters

When you’re writing your fiction, you’re in charge, and a chapter’s length is an arbitrary decision which you make, and you can make it at any time.

There aren’t any “chapter police.” 🙂

Years ago I read a mystery with a chapter consisting of ONE word. From memory, it was one of Don Westlake’s mysteries. The chapter was either at the midpoint twist, or at the “oops” milestone: the 80 per cent point of the novel.

I remember being startled by the device, but in that novel, it made perfect sense; and it worked.

Let’s look at why you might decide to combine a bunch of scenes into a chapter.

Reasons to create a chapter

The best reason is “because I need one.” That is, you instinctively feel that you should have a chapter here, and here, and here… Your intuition is usually a good guide to what a novel needs.

Let’s look at some additional reasons.

1. Chapters provide an entertaining structure so that readers will enjoy your novel

You build your novel so that it’s satisfying to readers. Therefore, certain things must happen in certain parts of your novel so that readers will enjoy your book.

For example, in the first third of the novel, you’re setting up your characters and plot for payoffs later. So, it’s a good idea to corral those scenes into chapters; it makes for a better reading experience, and a better writing experience.

My scenes tend to average from 1500 to 2,000 words. In several of my mystery series, I have three scenes per chapter, and I aim to end the Setup phase of the novel at the end of chapter three.

That said, it depends on the novel — the Setup might end at the end of chapter two, or the end of chapter six.

2. You may create chapters in service of your plot

Psychological thrillers seem to be all the rage over the past few years, after the success of Gone Girl. In novels of this type, you’ll often see chapters which focus on a range of dates, and/or which are narrated by one of the main characters alternating with another.

For example, let’s say that your thriller’s main characters are: Betty, Tom and Jim. In chapter one, Betty and Jim are in place to murder Tom, Betty’s husband. Betty narrates the chapter.

Chapter two is narrated by Tom, who survived the murder attempt. Then the novel goes back in time: “Three years earlier…” Your three main characters alternate in narrating chapters. Readers discover why Betty and Jim want to murder Tom, and how Tom escapes.

Novels with alternating points of view are fun to write, and they work well in many different genres.

Keep in mind that when you’re creating chapters, your aim is always to surprise the reader, and involve him emotionally, so that he keeps reading.

3. After your first draft, in revision, you might create chapters to corral your plot

I number my scenes when I’m writing fiction. A few years ago I suddenly realized that I’d got to scene 40 of a novel, and hadn’t created any chapters.

Did I need chapters? I decided that I didn’t and kept writing.

However, in revision, I soon found that I needed the structure that chapters provide, so that I could set up additional open loops, and their payoffs. (Read this article for more on open loops.) So I created some chapters.

Fiction writing: you’ll develop confidence with chapters over time

You learn to write fiction by writing lots of fiction. Over time, you’ll develop skill and confidence with chapters. You’ll also experiment with unique ways of telling your stories, and you’ll use scenes and chapters to do that.

Have fun. 🙂

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
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Resources to build your writing career

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.