Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (Part 21)

This entry is part 21 of 27 in the series Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass


Ok, this is a 260 page book and there are three chapters on Plot that take up nearly 100 pages. If you don’t think writing a breakout novel is about plot, you’re crazy. Of course, plot is one of my weakest areas. I suppose that’s because plotting is where the real work takes place and I’m just a hobbyist after all, not a professional.

So, you might expect me to go on for another 10,000 words or so about plot since I need the work. Not only are you right, but I’m going to try and live up to work because I don’t want to be a hobbyist anymore. I want to write that breakout novel.

Plot is the organization of a story: its events and their sequence. What events? Which sequence? The choice you will make will mean the difference between a gripping manuscript and a dull pile of paper.

Maass begins, after explaining the stakes, by pointing out that most beginning novelists tell their stories in a linear fashion. In other words, they tell what the see from beginning to end (and all the dull stuff in between) because that is what they see when they close their eyes and follow that very interesting character they created from room to room and place to place. They write everything, including the travel scenes in a car.

I’ve done this. In fact, my first novel starts out in a car. There are plenty of scenes with characters getting from place to place through the rest of the book too. In fact, so little happens, that the book should have been called Places I Went Between Scenes of Action I Was Too Tired to Write. Or something like that.

But there is a cure, folks. One so pure and powerful that once you have learned its ways you will be bound to it because it will keep you from writing scenes where characters stand around with the proverbial thumb up their backside.

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