Tags:
  1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Amateur Human Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    698
    Likes Received:
    1,207

    How do you know when a plot is novel worthy?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by J.T. Woody, Jan 1, 2020.

    I dont know how to word my question...

    So, i have this plot. I've had this for a few years now and I write on it little by little when I get the inspiration. I've made an outline and everything for it. But lately, I've been thinking that the plot has become convoluted and takes away from its purpose. The over all plot in its broadest is about change and takes place over the span of a year. As I have it now, its broken up into seasons. My main character goes through a different emotional change in each season. I've mentioned this story on here before, but (as i've hit writers block in my main WIP, i've decided to turn my attention to a WIP that I'd put on hold) its about an 11 year old girl in the 50's getting to know her mother who has been absent all of her life. She goes through feelings of loneliness when her mom moves back in with her and her grandmother. She goes through periods of curiosity as she tries to get to know her mom, periods of anger and depression. Her mom equally goes through these emotions and adjustments.
    A major recurring theme is water. My MC's mother had her really young and out of depression, tries to drown her baby (the MC). My MC becomes a swimmer and likes challenging the neighborhood kids to breath holding. She has frequent dreams about water, good and bad. Her mother, after being home for half a year, is so depressed she tries to drown herself in the lake and the MC jumps in after her.
    Originally it was supposed to be about my MC and her mom, but I've added more characters and more plot points (like her dad, and finding a half sibling, and going through her first crush, etc.) Dont get me wrong, I really like my outline and plot points, but as much as i WANT to include these things, i'm starting to feel that they are unnecessary to the relationship between my MC and her mom.

    I guess my question is, how do you know when to pull back and let that "novel" simply just be a "novella"
     
    peachalulu and jannert like this.
  2. Arsel

    Arsel Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2019
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    54
    disclaimer: I write fantasy, so I'm not an expert with non-fiction drama and I think novels like yours are way harder to write.

    What's important the way I see it is whether these side-stories tie well into the main story. Like if she meets her half sister and they chat around... how has this contributed to the main story (her season-feels, her relationship to her mother?) Maybe something the stepsister does makes your MC understand an action of her mother? Then the step-sister plotline sort of feels justified or even necessary.
    Truth be told, I have a hard time identifying what exactly made the side-stories of any novel I read decorative - or conversely, cumbersome.
     
    J.D. Ray and J.T. Woody like this.
  3. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    585
    Likes Received:
    988
    I would consider if each act stands on its own. If you imagined Act 1 as backstory, does Act 2 still hold as a story in itself? If it does, then it will allow itself to be expanded with subplots (which can of course overlap across acts, seasons in your case). If it doesn't hold, then it's probably not enough for an act, and you don't have a full novel. You need some sort of crisis in each act, and each one needs to escalate. And your character arcs still need to stretch across it all in a way that's not forced. There's lots of considerations to weigh.

    I've read a few books lately that shouldn't have been novels but had been forced to become them, and they were just terrible. The tension faded and things got boring. It felt like the authors were just killing time. I think you're very smart to be concerned about it.
     
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    13,627
    Likes Received:
    15,829
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    I'd be inclined to start writing it - i find a story is as long as it is... I've had books that l'd conceived as novels wind up as 37k word novellas and books conceived as novellas go to 110k word novels
     
    T_L_K, peachalulu, J.D. Ray and 2 others like this.
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    36,165
    Likes Received:
    2,776
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Write it. The plot is a living entity, and as you write, you will pare away subplots that don't work, and add in subplots that tie the story together. You will do the same as you edit it to make it publish-ready.

    Don't mistake plots for story line. Plots are functional units comprised of actors, motivations, oppositions, and goals. They interact to drive the events of the story. The story line is only the chronological sequence of events.

    The story line is WHAT happened. The plot network is WHY and HOW the events happen and interact.
     
    T_L_K, Steve Rivers, J.D. Ray and 2 others like this.
  6. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2014
    Messages:
    925
    Likes Received:
    779
    Location:
    London, UK
    You can always add all the parts you want to add and still bring out the strengths and weaknesses of your MC’s connection with her mother. A novel tends to be very long and gradual. So you’ll have plenty time to think about what exactly it is you want to get across. I mean your summary seems like a very interesting start to me and I like the part about the MC saving her mother from drowning. Realisations might begin at different stages. You do have a lot to work with but you have plenty time to think about it and plan it out and organise it and I’m sure that eventually it will get there. Just don’t rush it. GL.
     
    Malisky and J.T. Woody like this.
  7. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Messages:
    288
    Likes Received:
    280
    Any plot is novel-worthy, depending on how you write it. Someone challenged Dresden Files author Jim Butcher to write a story combining Pokemon and a lost Roman legion and he did it. He's now 6 books into the Codex Alera fantasy series. Absolutely anything can be worthwhile. It's all up to your skill and cleverness.
     
    jannert, T_L_K, minstrel and 2 others like this.
  8. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    1,588
    Likes Received:
    2,478
    Location:
    The Middle of Nowhere The Center of Everywhere
    You don't. You write what you gotta write, you edit and then word count to see whether your baby's a novel or a novella. Plot has nothing to do with it. I mean, it's still a novel even if the plot is crappy, but whether a plot is good or bad can be only a subjective opinion so... I don't know what to say. Even if your book is a masterpiece with the plot you've mentioned, doesn't mean I would read it. Not because it's not good enough. It has got nothing to do with that. It's got to do with relativity and plain mood. I might read it ten years after though. Can't predict. But yeah, just write it the way you feel writing it, with the extra characters and all. Maybe, on the way your story changed. Happens everytime to me and then I have to restructure the whole damn thing, which can cause me a headache, but never have I had a change come in mind, which I regretted inserting. At least from my pov, these extra things (characters, plots, flashbacks, etc) I came up with made the story much much better. When I start writing, even if I was originally going for a short one, I don't word count. It limits me and I already know that if inspiration strikes and I keep going and going with it, there's no reason to stop.
     
    J.T. Woody likes this.
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,890
    Likes Received:
    16,521
    Location:
    Scotland
    That has the feel of a novel to me.

    Short stories are different from novels in more than just word count. A short story usually involves a single issue with few or no subplots. A short story's main issue can usually be resolved in a few short bursts of 'showing' and only a few pivotal scenes.

    Because your storyline takes place over a relatively long period of time AND includes other characters, intense backstory and gradual awakenings, I'd say it's a novel in the making. (And a good one at that—I'm interested. :) )

    Your subplots won't be distractions or unnecessary, if they are woven strongly into the main plot. What effect do they have on your main character's change of perspective? Subplots can add a lot of depth to a novel. Removing them can streamline a story, but is that really what you want? Life itself is complicated and people are interwoven with each other. Stories that simplify life's events too much or concentrate on only one person's dilemma can come across as shallow, or even unrealistic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
    Catrin Lewis and J.T. Woody like this.
  10. More

    More Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2019
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    28
    I'm relatively new at writing , so I don't feel qualified to offer any actual advise . I have tried a number different methods . The only one I can get to work is the press on and finish it approche . Bash the words onto the paper , even if it is not actuly connected with earlier chapters . I find it easier to edit and change something as whole , than fiddle at the edges .
     
    J.T. Woody likes this.
  11. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    10,660
    Likes Received:
    9,557
    Location:
    Near Sedro Woolley, Washington
    I agree with this. Look at Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway wrote it as a novella. A writer like James Clavell would probably have turned it into a thousand-page doorstop of a book. On the other hand, James Joyce's Ulysses is a long novel about a guy wandering around Dublin for a day; Hemingway would probably have written it as a short story.

    The length of a work of fiction depends on what the writer brings to it. What is your purpose in writing it? Are you highlighting an essential truth about family relationships? Are you taking your MC on a hero's journey over four seasons? Maybe you want to draw a parallel between your characters' relationships and some mythological mother-daughter relationship, such as that between Demeter and Persephone. Maybe (if you're James Joyce) you want to "forge in the smithy of (your) soul the uncreated conscience of (your) race."

    How do you envision your story? Is it just a quick just-the-facts newspaper report, leaving any depth of meaning up to the reader? Is it a Shakespearean tragedy? How do you see it?

    Any plot can be any length or take any form. Have fun with it, and good luck!
     
    J.T. Woody and jannert like this.
  12. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2018
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    446
    Location:
    Norwich, UK
    My answer to this question is: you don't know. You find out by eventually writing it. Planning out a novel can be very useful, but it can also become an avoidance technique. It's hard to talk in absolutes because some planning takes years because it may need to, especially if you have a very vague concept. But as rule of thumb, if a novel is taking years simply to plan then it's time to start writing it or discard it/add those ideas to a novel more ready to go. I did this recently. I had a character I loved but a plot that was going nowhere for years. I loved parts of the plot but felt others weren't working. So I discarded that plot (maybe I'll come back to it later) and took that character and put them into a new, fresh story.

    Again, you don't know for sure. Novels tend to ed up being how long they need to be and trying to force yourself into a word count can limit the story (although for some writers this can be a helpful exercise). Does it really matter whether it's a novel or a novella? True, it seems harder to publish a novella but if you're writing it just to publish it maybe that's not the best reason to be writing it.

    If I were you I begin with writing it and see what happens.
     
    jannert, Steve Rivers and J.T. Woody like this.
  13. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2019
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    234
    Location:
    Birmingham Uk
    Keep a distance from your plots/subplots and you story telling. Remember these are two separate disciplines although they need to be synced. Swapping between them can lead to writer's block unless you are ultra organised. Whenever you find clouds of confusion forming, step back get organised and go again. Hope that makes sense!

    BTW, sounds like an interesting plot.
     
    J.T. Woody and dbesim like this.
  14. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,319
    Likes Received:
    3,141
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I would start writing. The novel I'm in the second draft of I started writing as a novella but after five pages in I was so into the characters I knew I had a novel on my hands. Just last night an idea that has been plaguing me for weeks (I came up with it years ago but it's has sat but for some reason has cropped back into my thoughts) and I wrote eight pages and feel pretty confident it will be a novella because for one -- I'm interested in the scenario more than exploring subplots, and huge scenes and two -- I wanna keep a cap on it to give it more impact.

    The idea you presented - love the theme - could work well either way. You could keep a cap on the amount of scenes you do with a novella or you could fully explore the relationship between her and her mother and how it impacts other aspects of her life with a novel.
    I don't necessarily see either as the better choice or easier but you could always write it as a novella and expand it if you feel you've got more to say - I've done that before and it's actually not too hard.
     
    jannert and J.T. Woody like this.
  15. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2017
    Messages:
    270
    Likes Received:
    268
    Location:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Somebody...sorry, somebody did WHAT

    I mean, on the one hand, you could be being facetious and that's not what happened. On the other, that is 100% something Jim goddamn Butcher would do, I'm sure of it.
     
  16. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Messages:
    288
    Likes Received:
    280
    That's exactly what happened back in the early 2000s. It's well documented.
     
  17. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2017
    Messages:
    270
    Likes Received:
    268
    Location:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Oh, Jim, you absolute madman. OP, this proves that anything can work as a novel concept.
     
    jannert and J.T. Woody like this.
  18. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2019
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    75
    You can have as many plot points and interesting ideas as you want AS LONG AS they serve a very clear theme/message. Most if not all of these points should help to move the story towards the end goal of your novel. If the ideas start branching off or weakening your theme then the issue is not that it is "too many ideas" but "too little focus". A novel can contain a great deal of ideas and plot points as long as they are not pulling the reader into random directions.

    If you are not quite certain of what your theme (purpose of the novel) is yet, then try starting there and see how your plot points fit.
     
    Some Guy likes this.
  19. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    3,232
    Likes Received:
    2,950
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I like the idea of this: theme, format, organization plan. Heck yes, include the other characters if they illuminate the MC's motivations and forward the plot. It makes the whole story more rounded and real. And yeah, it sounds like it'll make a great novel. Have at it!

    The only thing I'd poke in with--- and this may be appropriate or not--- concerns your statement "the MC jumps in after her." Oh, ouch, please, let it be to save her mother's life (that would be a neat irony), not to end her own!

    No, all right, I'll be mature and writerly--- if it is to end her own, if you're writing this as a tragedy, make sure the MC'a depression and emotional change lead up to that. Not that you need to make the story a downer the whole way through, just don't leave the reader thinking you pulled a fast one just to be mean.

    Though I was hoping it'd be a redemption story . . . :bigfrown:
     
    jannert likes this.
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    13,627
    Likes Received:
    15,829
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    I don't think I've ever decided on a theme before writing a novel... but then i generally pants so i have only a very rough idea of character and direction when i start... it works for me but its not for everyone.

    the other thing to bear in mind is that a complicated novel can tell more than one story, and it is not compulsory that they all unify at the end... so you can have varying plot point/ideas serving different parallel plots.
     
    jannert likes this.
  21. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Amateur Human Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    698
    Likes Received:
    1,207
    noooo, the MC jumps in to save her. She waits on the bank thinking "she'll just swim up for air like any normal person would" and when she doesnt come up for air, she goes in after her to save her!
     
    jannert and Catrin Lewis like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice