#1 Break free from past drafts with a plot outline

Writers often use plot outlines when planning a story, but this week I discovered how they can help in revising an existing manuscript.

My YA novel is currently in its third draft. With each version, I had gone through the manuscript cutting and reworking scenes to make significant plot and character changes. The changes were good, so the outcome would be good, right?

Wrong. I ended up with an inconsistent plot, based on a conglomerate of old and new ideas.

So this time I tried something new.

I stuck my manuscript in a drawer, took several sheets of old desk calendar and pinned it to the wall – blank sides out. Then I began outlining my story – not the story I had already, but the story I wanted it to be.

This was so liberating.

Could I see the perfect line on p.49 that I fought so hard to keep in? No. What about my favorite scene on pg 132? If it wasn’t on my plot outline, then it had to go.

By paring the story down to the bare bones on my plot outline, I was better able to see what I really needed: what actually advanced the plot vs. the hangers-on from a previous draft.

So, the next time you undergo revision, turn off that computer, put your manuscript under the mattress, and pull out some blank paper.

What’s that? Afraid you might forget a scene? Then you probably didn’t need it in the first place.

Next up in Heather’s Revision is Tough Love series: Use scene analysis to make a stronger, better integrated plot.

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