Skip to content

On Revising Your Manuscript: Plot Your Plot

So now that you know what you’re supposed to be changing, and what you’re supposed to watching for, you’re ready to get started revising your manuscript. Dive into a second read-through, and start making your book better.

You do know what you’re supposed to be doing, right? I only ask because I understand the whole revision process can be a little confusing.

Overlapping Purposes

That’s because there’s a ton of overlap at every stage along the way.

  • The first time through, you’re getting a feel for the story.
  • The second time through, you’re getting a feel for the way you used the language to tell that story.
  • The third time through, you’re looking at the building blocks of your story, trying to figure out the best structure.
  • The fourth time through, you’re rewriting the blasted thing.

And at each stage you’re making changes. You’re constantly copyediting, constantly evaluating, constantly tweaking — whether that’s the assignment, or just a compulsion you can’t suppress. I know. I’ve been there.

I tend to call the four phases Review, Revise, Rework, and Rewrite. There’s some heavy synonymy in there, and it’s deliberate — it reflects the fact that every phase really is a lot like all the other phases.

I still find it beneficial to approach each read-through with some specific focus in mind. I’m almost always looking forward, too.

Finding Your Plot Arc

In the next phase, as I said, you’re going to be analyzing the scenes you use to build the story. First, you need to know what your story is. You got an idea of that back in the first review, but as you go through this time, let’s formalize it a little.

Remember what I said last week about going back to your prewriting? We’re going ahead with that this week. In addition to your consideration of the language use in your story, I want you to re-evaluate your Conflict Resolution Cycle.

We talked about that back in October, when I assigned you the Conflict Resolution Cycle worksheet. It’s a handy little tool, but it’s also probably incredibly wrong — or at least imprecise.

The Conflict Resolution Cycle in Your Story (Creative Writing Exercise)

The lovely Kelley, writing at a coffee shopYour assignment for this week, once you’ve finished your revision, is to go back to your CRC Worksheet and update it to describe the story you actually ended up telling. What’s your plot arc? What’s your Big Event? What’s the Conflict that drives the story?

In the original worksheet, I suggested you name five complications that could arise over the course of the story. At the time, I said the order didn’t really matter. They didn’t need to be the most important, or the most interesting.

That was in the prewriting. Postwriting, that’s the biggest element of the worksheet you need to correct. I want you to choose five major plot points, in order — things that happen in the story to drive the plot forward.

It’s an opportunity to see exactly how you build your own plot arc. Do they grow and grow toward a climax? Are they equally interesting? Are they completely random?

There’s no wrong answer. What you’re describing right now is still a rough draft. You don’t need to feel bad about the plot arc, you just need to understand what it is, so you can work on turning it into what it needs to be.

While you’re at it, make sure you do give some attention to every question on the worksheet. They all matter, and they’ll all prove helpful when you’re reworking the story next week.

One Response to “On Revising Your Manuscript: Plot Your Plot”

  1. Courtney Cantrell says:

    Gah! I sooooooooooo want to be finished with this first draft so I can start working on all of this stuff!!! 😀