Mapping Out My Plot

Drafting a novel is one thing, but figuring out where in the heck to start with your revision is an equally daunting task. After reading my first draft and recording all plot, character, setting, and other problems in a notebook, I still felt overwhelmed at all I had to fix. I knew I needed to start on my plot first, but I wasn’t sure how.

After combing the internet, I stumbled upon this DIY MFA article on mapping out your story like subway routes. It calls for identifying the important scenes of your plot and subplots, and then marking where they stand alone and where they converge. The point is not only to analyze the arc of each storyline, but to see where they come together.

Because this visual exercise called for me breaking out my markers and crochet yarn (yay!), and because my plot needed some TLC, I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s my subway map:

I was immediately able to see that my subplots were competing for the spotlight with my main plot (orange yarn). If I were to make the green yarn the central storyline, or even the pink yarn, the route would still look the same: a few isolated stops in the beginning for one subplot, but shared stops for most of the middle and end.

I now know that I need to beef up my main plot and explore the subplots to make them stand on their own without overpowering the main storyline.

So I did the technique in reverse to determine how I might accomplish this. I drew various subway maps with possible storylines.

And eventually decided on one that felt right.

I’m in the process of revising my novel now and I know it likely won’t follow my new map. But if it weren’t for this visual exercise, it may have taken me longer to get to the root of my plot problem.

I hope this exercise might help you too when you face plot woes!

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