When the plot goes out of control

Writing this article is a way for me to procrastinate yet another major revision to my current manuscript. But it’s a learning moment for me, that’s worth sharing.

Being able to write without editing is hard for most folks to do, and pushing through that barrier makes writing… not effortless, but at least doable. There’s more creative energy available to move the plot forward.

The downside to writing first and editing later (there are many upsides) is that one can veer off the intended path. sometimes it’s a character tugging at my hand saying “check this out; I can do this, too!” Or it’s a place with gravitas sufficient to move more action to it, or from it, or because of it.

My first tear-down in this manuscript was after creating a mass casualty event. A natural progression of the actions of some characters, actually. But this is a murder-mystery, not a Bruce Willis flick. And I ended up with the chaos that typically happens after a disaster of the “dozens dead, hundreds injured” variety. And while I got about eleven thousand possibly reusable words from it, ultimately I pulled it, and the six or seven new characters introduced at about the 60k mark, out of the manuscript.

I’m now past the 70k mark. this is where things should be coming together. The number of threads decreasing, the tension focusing on who did it, and what’s the protagonist going to do about it.

Now’s also the time I’m realizing I’ve got an extra suspect. He’s threaded throughout the story, Hinted at, a cause of trauma, of mystery… I’d already edited him out of the beginning, because even I couldn’t figure out what his motives were for his actions, cool as they looked when the protagonist came across them. To me he felt like Richard Kiel in Moonraker. Interesting, glitterly, but almost a one trick pony in terms of evil. I could have made him more evil, more important. But I kept butting into the fact that he wasn’t fitting in with a smooth narrative. Other detectives kept tripping over him. He added a complexity to the search for the murderers that I had to divert time and words to explaining.

So goodbye, Evan Stone. May you appear in another novel, in a different guise. And perhaps in a nicer role; I really didn’t like this version of you.