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Avoid tangents in your story

Posted by Maria Murnane | September 23, 2014

When I was writing my first novel, I was so excited to be WRITING A NOVEL that I ended up with a lot of scenes that had nothing to do with the actual plot. But I didn’t care because it was so fun to be WRITING A NOVEL! When I finished the first draft I was so thrilled to see my own words on the page that I didn’t consider that readers might be confused by the superfluous scenes sprinkled throughout the manuscript. I found them entertaining enough to include simply because I’d written them. That was enough for me.

Tangents can leave your readers scratching their heads

My agent, however, had other ideas. She had me cut out several scenes, gently explaining to me that, although mildly amusing, they had nothing to do with the plot. She also explained, again very gently, that it was important to keep pushing the story forward.

I am forever grateful to her for that sage advice.

If you’re anything like I was when I was working on my first book, you’re so excited to be creating an actual book that it’s easy to go off on tangents here and there without realizing it. To avoid doing this, I suggest periodically asking yourself questions such as “Is this scene advancing the plot?” or “Is this going to tie back into the story at some point?” Checking in on occasion will keep you from veering too far off track. And bonus: It will also allow you to finish the first draft of your book much faster. In the time it took me to write (and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite) my first novel, I wrote four more – not kidding.

I applaud anyone willing to put in the effort it takes to write an entire book, but while it’s undeniably exciting to see your own words on the page, staying focused on the plot will make the process much smoother - and make for a better story.

-Maria

 

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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