Tag Archives | revision

Taking the Mystery out of Editing Those Pesky Subplots!

The Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon is winding down but in no way over!

I’ll just say three words and you’ll know who our guest is today: The Emotion Thesaurus! Becca and Angela kicked off their release recently with all the random acts of kindness and their book reached #1 on Amazon! Woo hoo!

Welcome Becca Puglisi to the blog! *cheers and clapping*

Biscuits and Subplots and Cake, Oh My!

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about layers. Not cake layers. Not the scrumptious, peel-off-able pieces of the fluffy buttermilk biscuits my daughter forces me to make (and consume) for breakfast. No, fortunately for my waistline, I’m focused right now on story layers, particularly those that develop through the use of subplots. I’ve figured out that a story is always better when it’s layered, so I added a few extra plot lines into my WIP. There’s the main hero plot line, two romantic subplots, and also a relational subplot surrounding my character’s dysfunctional relationship with her stepmother. In hindsight, inserting these layers was fairly easy. The hard part came when it was time to edit them, and I realized I didn’t know how to do it effectively.

So I came up with a system. I love systems; I have one for pretty much everything. A system for cleaning the house. A system for organizing my week, for teaching my son the alphabet, for plotting my next novel–if it needs doing, I have a system in place to keep it streamlined. It was really just a matter of time ‘til I came up with one for editing subplots:

  1. Number and title your chapters and scenes. If you don’t want to muddy up your story with chapter titles, you can keep a separate list. For me, while editing, I find it easier to include them in the manuscript. Then when I need to go to a particular scene, I can just search-and-find and jump right to it.
  2. Now pick a subplot to edit. Let’s say you want to work on the romantic one. Look through your numbered list and jot down any chapter where you’ve dealt with this subplot in some way. It could be big or small: the first time the characters see each other, a conversation between the two, the hero’s thoughts about the love interest after seeing her across the room. This is a rough outline of the existing content for that subplot. Now it’s time to examine it to see what needs work.
  3. First, look for gaps. Are there long stretches where nothing happens to further the subplot? If so, you may need to add a scene, or add something small into the existing content. Is there a scene where your love interest could show up and get some extra exposure? Could you replace a background character in an existing scene with your love interest? Another option is to use peripheral characters. Maybe the person the hero interacts with in chapter 9 is actually the love interest’s neighbor or distant relation. An innocent conversation could stir up thoughts and feelings in the hero that could be used to further your subplot.
  4. Next, make sure your content is furthering the plot. According to Blake Snyder (of Save the Cat fame, and my new hero), each scene should go somewhere emotionally. If your hero starts out in a negative frame of mind, something should happen so she’s feeling “up” at the end of the scene. Conversely, if the hero is up at the start, by the end of the scene, her emotions should take a downward turn. The reason for this is to make sure that something is actually happening during the scene. No emotional change = stagnation = never a good thing. Tweak existing scenes to reflect some kind of emotional change. If you’re having trouble making it work, consider removing the scene altogether. If it doesn’t further the plot line and doesn’t challenge your hero in some way, it may be extraneous and should be pruned to keep the story strong.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for each subplot.

One final bit of advice: Don’t be afraid of “extra” work. It’s easy, once you reach the editing stage, to think that the drafting is done. But as you edit, you’ll most certainly discover that scenes need to be added here and there. You might even find, as I realized once I started examining my WIP, that your story is in need of a whole additional plot line. If you go into the editing process knowing that you still have some heavy writing to do, it will be easier to accept these changes.

So there you have it. There are a lot of methods for editing, but this is one that works really well for me. Layers are so important when writing a deep and satisfying story. Hopefully something here will encourage you to smooth them out and make your story even better than you thought it could be.


Becca Puglisi is a YA fantasy and historical fiction writer, SCBWI member, and co-host of The Bookshelf Muse, an on-line resource for writers. She also has a number of magazine publications under her belt. Her book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, and Smashwords.



Purchase Links:

Amazon print ~ Kindle ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Smashwords

Becca and Angela are graciously offering an ebook version of The Emotion Thesaurus to one winner! Please comment and tweet!

In celebration, tell us your most over-used, cliche phrase you have to constantly eradicate from your writing! 

There is still time to enter the Indelibles Beach Bash to win a Nook or Kindle loaded with some Indelibles newest releases including my release – A Spy Like Me. Join the fun!

And don’t forget to enter for a signed hard cover of Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter.

See you tomorrow for an awesome post on using spy gadgets in your fiction!


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Deja Vu Blogfest – The key to becoming a skilled writer!

Welcome everyone! Here is a blogpost I wrote a year or so ago. Hope you enjoy it!

Casey McCormick inspired me to tighten my writing. Read her wonderful posts. Part one. Part Two. Part Three.

Many times as writers, we hear that one of the most important things to do when revising is to cut, cut, cut. In our heads we know this is trueBut sometimes, especially if it’s our first novel, it’s really hard to find the words to cut because we like all of them. Our words are like precious gems.

If we’re lucky, we might stumble upon a very helpful list of words to cut that includes words like: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to, really, exactly…the list goes on. The good thing is that after writing for some time, you start to automatically exclude those words.

After your first novel, you learn to write tighter. Meaning, you can write the same sentence using less words. And not only do you use less words, but the words you use are stronger, more powerful. As you will read many times over, it is important for writers to use strong verbs to eliminate adverbs and use carefully chosen words to elicit an emotion response in your reader.

Yes, words are a powerful tool.

In our writingwords should create a mental image so in the reader’s mind there is a continually running movie. I think the reason writers keep writing is because they are in love with words. To writers, words are like a toy in the hands of a toddler and we slobber all over them. But eventually we grow up and realize that one special toy means much more to us than a toy chest full of junk.

After tightening my prose, I could have written this post in about five seconds. Here is my final version:

As writers, cut, cut, cut: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to,really, exactly. Write the same sentence using less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion. Create a mental image.

Gosh, but really, why stop?

As writers, cut, cut, cut: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to, really, exactly. Write the same sentence using less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion. Create a mental image.

I think I got it narrowed down.

Cut. Write less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion.

But this tightening thing is really addicting.

Cut. Write less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion.

Okay, so here is my polished, tightened version.

Write words.

But wait. One more quick edit.

Write words.

Finally. Phew. Editing is hard work. And the key to becoming a better writer is….


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The biggest newbie mistakes – I made.

N is for Newbie mistakes

1. Revision

I was so excited. I’d finished my first manuscript and knew it was ready to go. Many sources told me I needed to revise and rewrite but I read it over and I couldn’t find anything. So I fixed a bunch of typos and threw in a smell or two.

Ha ha ha ha. I know much better now.

Now I look at structure; scenes that are unrealistic; scenes that don’t move the story forward, scenes that don’t have enough tension or the emotion needs to be fleshed out.

And I rewrite, cut/slash, delete scenes, write new ones. #iwillhavethelastlaugh

2. Show don’t tell

I knew showing on a bigger scale – as in don’t narrate. But my first year writing I still didn’t quite get that showing meant a lot more than that.

  • It means showing emotion instead of naming.
  • It means using specific body language instead of vague clichéd ones.
  • It means allowing the internal conflict to show through internal dialogue that isn’t just spitting out information the reader already knows.
  • And all telling isn’t bad. The best writing is excellent telling.

3. Sensory details

I could have sworn all I had to do was add a smell to each scene and I had it covered.

Now I know that sensory details make the story come alive and draw the reader into the world. And through more than just smell, but touch, taste, color, sight and more.

4. Three dimensional characters

I was convinced that it just meant knowing more backstory on your character. But it doesn’t matter how many quirks or details or history you know about a character they will not come across three dimensional unless the writing is excellent: incorporating showing, description, sensory details, internal monologues, internal conflict and more.

5. The power of internal thoughts

I often skimped on the internal thoughts because I thought for sure readers would be bored. I mean, who cares? Well, I was wrong. The reader does care. That’s where we see how a character reacts, how they grow, how they interpret their world. Without it, a character will certainly be flat.

These are just the biggies. I made many other newbie mistakes. And the biggest thing I learned is that we can read a 1,000-page book on craft but until we struggle through our writing and experience the light bulb moment, they are nothing more than black words on a white page.

What are your newbie mistakes?

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How I Write: The big black hole (or an open post)

(Click here for a list of participating writers)

What? I have to think up an idea for today’s How I Write post? Okay, fine.

I want to talk about the nitty gritty. The bleeding eyeball work known as revision. Not macro. Not rewrites. Not adjusting your plot arc, or character arc, or deleting a scene. Think smaller.

I’m talking sentences and words. Just as beginner writers aren’t sure how to approach revision, some might not be aware of the art of fine tuning the words on the page. (I’m still a student of crafting sentences that impact your story and character, and probably always will be. I don’t think it ever ends.)

I’ve mentioned Margie Lawson. Her courses are not about plot but about the sentences. And how to write sentences that impact your story. And today, Ansha is covering Margie’s classes more in depth. So hop on over, and then check out Margie’s online courses (or self-paced packets) – if you are looking to improve the power behind your sentences.

Thanks to Ansha for creating this summer writing series that forced all of us to really examine our writing process! She put a lot of work behind coming up with the post ideas, recruiting writers, creating the banner, and uniting all of us. Thanks Ansha! And thanks to all the participating writers. I loved learning from all of you!

Tell the truth time – how many of you truly examine every sentence and paragraph in the final steps of your revision process? Or do you just do a read through for awkward and poorly written ones?

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How I Write: Boxing match of the century: Revision vs. Writer

Announcer: Hello folks and welcome to today’s exciting event. In one corner is the Writer, and in the other corner, Revision. 

 Crowds go wild.

Announcer: It’s been six weeks since the face off when the writer left the ring. You heard it right, folks. But the Writer is back and in top shape. She’s been training for this night for over a month. Let’s see if she’s got what it takes.

Revision curls its pages and glares at the writer. No words are needed.

The writer chews on peanut MnMs, then cracks her knuckles.

Announcer: The bell rings and the match has started. Writer jabs to the right and leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the manuscript.

 Revision curls over, gasping for air.

 Revision: You’ll never fix me now. Your line edits won’t make a dent.

 Announcer: Writer doesn’t give in to Revision’s trash talk. Instead, she attacks. She cuts and pastes and rewrites. She trims and tightens. She checks each scene for goals and motivation. We’ve never seen such action from our Writer. Revision is folding under the weight of sensory details and strong verbs.

Crowds throw red ink pens at Revision.

Announcer: Writer backs away, exhausted, her fingers limp, her eyes crossed from the strain. Does she have the strength to make this a knock out? But wait, folks. Revision is back on its feet.

Revision flaunts the typos, overwriting, and forced emotion.

Writer wobbles on her feet.

Announcer: This is not looking good for our Writer.

Crowds quiets. Everyone bites their fingernails while clutching onto their favorite novels.

Writer: Help!

A murmur spreads through the crowd.

Announcer: By golly, folks. Three crit partners have stepped into the ring and hold up our Writer by the arms. They whisper and point and then leave the ring. Writer stands tall and with one last KAPOW, the Revision crumbles.

Our Writer is the winner!!!    

Statement in Newspaper of play by play plan of attack by Writer:

Take a 4-6 week break from your manuscript. Then print out and read through.

Macro Edits:

  • Goal/motivation
  • Inciting incident
  • Three-act structure
  • Big twist in middle
  • Plants and payoffs
  • Emotion
  • Tension
  • Time line

REWRITE and repeat as needed.

Micro Edits:

  • Strong verbs and nouns
  • Dialogue
  • Sensory details
  • Internal thoughts
  • Micro tension in each scene
  • Description/setting

 And that’s it, folks. That’s how the Writer defeated Revision. Writer is open to any tips or suggestions.

 (Check out Ansha’s blog for a complete list of participating writers!)





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