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I've Lost the Plot

I've been working on my novel. I even like what I've written. In fact there are moments when I am scrolling through the already written pages and I just sigh at how much I LOVE what I've written. I actually think to myself, I'd read this book!

A little background might be in order at this point: I began this book a few years ago. It's segmented into sixty-six chapters, told in alternating voices of the protagonist in Moscow and a year later in a small village near Lake Tahoe. I wrote the first half of the book, then jumped forward and wrote a few bibs and bobs of scenes toward the end of the book. Then I put it away for a year. I am currently at 60,000 words of what will be a 100,000 word novel.

In January, I opened the file again and started writing. Over the past three months, I've made progress and enjoyed the fact that I am writing again. There's just one problem: I've lost the plot. Ostensibly, I'm writing a murder mystery. Unfortunately, I have no idea who did it or why?

My protagonist witnesses a murder in the first chapter. She believes she knows both the murderer and the victim. She wants to bring the murderer to justice. The problem is, did she really see who she believed she saw? The victim is certainly dead, but she's no longer sure of the murderer.

And neither am I!

As much as I love what I've written, it may not be good enough for publication, but I want to finish it and polish it for my own satisfaction. I want to learn about craft, and become a better writer at the same time. I am impatient to continue writing, and would be thrilled if I had an outline of what to write next so that I could simply allow my curious fingers to fly across the keyboard. I'm itching to get the book done. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

I just don't know what to write next because I have no idea of where to take my characters. I need to make them do things, meet new people, make discoveries, create sub-plots, maybe even kill someone else. At moment, she's just wandering around not doing much, having conversations, but not confrontations (or action, for that matter).

This past weekend, as I read An Unfinished Life, I took the time to write a brief sentence or two about each chapter so that I could see how Mark Spragg created his plot. I also started reading Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel, focusing on the chapters on plot. Still, I feel stuck....I am anxious to get back to writing, but wary of just writing garbage. In fact, the last scene I wrote was so boring I will need to completely re-write it once I've figured where I'm going. The question is how to figure it out.

Has anyone else out there had a similar problem? If so, how did you solve it? Do you outline, do you just keep writing until you have a breakthrough? What do you do when you've lost the plot?


In my opinion, I think you should continue to write. Donald's book is most helpful, but right now, you need to figure out your story. So write and follow your characters. See what they do. Write to the end. Then, go back, take a look at it, plot it out, see what you might be missing, what roads needs to be joined or separated, etc. But if you can do the writing, do it. After all, writing is rewriting.
Good luck.
Keetha said…
Ugh. I know how you feel and it's no fun to be in that place.

My advice is unoriginal - I'd say keep writing. What Midlife Jobhunter said.

Good luck!
Erika Liodice said…
Maybe you should try brainstorming several crazy, unexpected paths to the end. I don't write mystery, but I would think you'd want to leave the reader thinking "I didn't see THAT coming." By brainstorming some really crazy stuff (even if you don't use it), you'll allow your floodgates to open up and hopefully the winning idea will appear.

Good luck with it! Can't wait to hear how it turns out!!
larramiefg said…
Try writing down an idea or key phrase and free-associate.
Suzanne said…
Thank you all for these great suggestions!
Suzanne said…
PS. I'm really glad no one said, "trash the book and start over, you loser!"
Anonymous said…
Ma'am. Did you take a day off? sometimes that helps too.

PS: the red headed bird is a Crimson crested cardinal ( I think) ..I put one in my blog in honour of you!

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