Of Subplots and Shelves

I’ve spent the last week trying to rework an old story, hoping to figure out what’s missing, why this story doesn’t read as well as I want it to.

First of all, I’m so happy to see how much better a writer I am now. When I wrote this middle grade novel, I thought I was brilliant, ready to hit the big time, thank you very much. How wrong I was. The funny thing is, now that I’ve learned so much, I’m realizing how much more I still need to learn. Will I ever get to a point where I feel like I’ve mastered this writing thing?

I needed some inspiration, some guidance, so I started watching all the Plot Whisperer videos (again!) and the sixth one struck a chord with me. According to Martha Alderson (The Plot Whisperer), the purpose of the subplot is to reinforce the main plot, to provide further depth and give more meaning to the story. As she said those words, I realized that was part of my problem. Not enough subplot, not enough depth, no apparent theme.

I also pulled out my Save the Cat! Beat Sheet, tried to make the turning points more clear and do a better lead up to the catalyst moment in the story.

Between Martha and Blake, I think I might be able to whip this story into shape. Because I’m not ready to give up on it. Not yet.

After all, how do you know when it’s time to shove a story under the bed and never look at it again? Is there any hope for a shelved novel?

16 thoughts on “Of Subplots and Shelves

  1. There are some stories I would like to go back on work on – and when I do, like you, I'll turn to the masters to see where I'm lacking. It might turn out that they'll have to stay where they are. Good luck with yours!

  2. I ended up so overwhelmed with revisions on my latest WIP, I shelved it for a couple months. Took it out today and immediately saw where sentences needed to be tightened and how some points didn't work.

    I honestly believe sometimes we have to shelve our work, in order to view what we wrote with fresh eyes. I'm excited to jump back into where I left off. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. Hey Sherrie–I just sent you an email. You won my contest from last week! Let me know what book you'd like and where to send it…

    BTW I shelve my WIP all the time. 🙂

  4. I'd like to think my shelved books are actually in the recycling bin, meaning I can look at them again and see if there's anyhthing I can use out of them. Or quite possibly revise them one last time.

  5. I have several stories/novels that I think could be reworked. The basic ideas are sound…it's the execution that sucks. The question is, do I want to take the time to work on them or do I just want to delve into something new.

  6. I have two shelved novels that I will rework when I'm ready. I think I need to look at them as fresh rewrites, not revisions, knowing that it's structure that needs rebuilding. I wouldn't bother if I didn't like the characters and their story. It sounds like you still love yours, so go for it!

  7. I don't know how to answer your question. I haven't yet given up hope on my novels; have reworked them many times though.

    From the sound of it, yours is definitely one that should be worked on. Keep us posted.

  8. Nora Roberts said she has never let abook beat her. I think she even went back and reworked her first few manuscripts that were never published.

    know my first manuscript will never be published–at least not in its original form. But I do already have a plan to rework it, and I do believe that most stories can be saved, even if there first versions cannot. It all depends on whether you still have passion for not.

  9. Difficult question to answer. I've definitely been frustrated enough that I stop, and let's face it, breaks are good for your writing/revising (and other things in general). I've shelved some things, but I still like the characters and general ideas enough that I do want to go back to them and see if there's anything that can be salvaged.

  10. My copy of SAVE THE CAT is in the mail. 😀

    I would go back to work on my first novel (which I loved), but I've moved on from writing YA fantasy to YA contemporary. Plus, I'm afraid at how much groaning I'll be doing as I read it.

  11. Oh, I think there's always hope for a shelved novel. It may require complete rewriting, but presumably something about it drew you in the first place that might be worth reviving. The question is, do you want to? Only the ones that draw me back to revive, that really suck me in are probably worthwhile. The rest, I say let go and work on something you're passionate about.

  12. I was just going over my Beat Sheet today! I had not heard of the Plot Whisperer, so I shall be going there next!

    I don't know when you give up on a story, but I think when the force of a new story pulling you forward is greater than or equal to the gravity of fixing an old story is sucking you in, then you break free. I recently did a FINAL revision on a story, deciding that I wasn't able to make that particular story any better than it was, short of re-writing it. And I had learned everything I could from it: time to move on.

    But I know your story has great promise! 🙂 I'm glad you're diving into it.

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