Tangling Up Plot Threads

I’ve been neglecting all my “social media properties” because (that’s an official term) I have been head-down in my novel, detangling plot threads and tying up new ones. I’ve discovered a way to keep it all straight, and it comes down to a very old piece of advice:

Keep it simple, stupid.

Yes, the old KISS Principle works when tangling up your novel in nice knots. You must remember that you are going to have to untie it all again, so each thread, in it’s untangled form, must be simple.

It just has the illusion of being complicated.

For example, you have a plot thread that goes like this: A, B, C, D, E.

Another plot thread goes like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

A third might be even more simple, !, @, #.

But altogether, it might look like this:

A, 1, B, !, 3, C, 4, @, D, 2, 5, #, E.

So when I am running through the manuscript, straightening up plot threads, I make sure they make sense when in sequence. Because during the story itself, I may have to take it out of sequence, as I did with the numbered thread, above.

A few years ago, I would leave reminders in the manuscript telling me to go back and fix things. However, there was a problem. Very often, I was unable to remember what it was that I needed to fix, or why. And it wouldn’t become clear until I reread the whole manuscript again.

So I fix things right away, nowadays. Using a Word style I created for the purpose, I would leave a bookmark, jump to the spot that I needed to fix, fix it, and then go back and remove my bookmark.

I can anticipate your next question–how do you use Word styles? They are needlessly complicated. I once wrote some instructions, but they are now obsolete unless you still use Word 2003.

I can sense the urge to write another infographic coming on …

4 thoughts on “Tangling Up Plot Threads

  1. I usually do my first draft by hand, then type it into the comptuer as my first revision. Yes, of course I revise as I type it in. {Smile}

    I’ve taken to boxing and labelling anything that I write out of order, and noting where the box “really” belongs. At least once, this got complicated enough, I typed it in just so could see everything in their proper order. {Smile}

    Anyway, I want to see what you’re doing. It sounds like it might be useful, if I can figure out the whats and hows involved. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin


    • That is cool that you write out your drafts by hand. I do this a little as well–I carry a notebook to capture odd snippets of scenes during the day. But I quickly transcribe them into my MS.

      You may have seen an earlier version of my plotting method at my old blog: http://tiaswritingblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/ms-word-for-novelist-styles.html

      However, that was just how Word styles work. I have refined my system to do all my plotting using Word styles. That’s what I’ll be writing on. I hope you find it useful!


      • Yeah, I write things out by hand. Most of the time, I’m writing about characters who live in a pre-typewriter world. Typing about them on a computer just doesn’t help me get closer ot them. so I write by hand. {Smile}

        I also like how notebooks travel anywhere. That’s nice when I want to write while watiing for Dad to finish grocery shopping. I haven’t seen a computer that’s cost-effective copared to the compositoin notebooks I’m using now. Especially when they don’t help me get into my characters’ heads as well. {SMILE}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin


  2. Good idea on the numbering. 🙂 My system is rather hodgepodge and involves lots of printing, and scissors and tape to create a hands-on draft that I can follow with my finger while snipping everything to its new place.


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