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The Joy and the Horror of an Outline

I've decided that my plot is too cliche. Seems to be a bad habit of mine. I wrote a back cover copy, which I then adjusted into a query, as a form of exercise. I discovered that, while the story has fabulously original elements, the actual plot fell flat once it was summarized.

I've got that whole "one against, death hanging over the MC, power plot" thing going on. Sounded good while I was outlining, of course. But actually trying to market it to an agent? Nope.


The joy: I haven't written 30,000 words before coming to this conclusion.

The horror: This puts my outline in shambles. Sort of.

I realize there are plot patterns and nearly every plot in every book falls into one, but I couldn't figure out how to make mine stand apart in the query. So... it needs tweaking or launching. I'm not sure yet.

Erg. I must be the worst plotter in the world. It feels like it. I spend more time trying to come up with a good plot than anything else and it still ends up sucking.

Your thoughts please. Is there a method to your plotting? And... how do you know when your plot finally sparkles with originality?


  1. I have no idea when/if my plot outline sparkes. And really, as you said, there is no such thing as an original plot.

  2. I tagged you.
    The rules are as follows: link to the person who tagged you; write down six things that make you happy; post the rules; tag six others and let them know you have done it; tell the person who tagged you when your entry is up.

  3. I read somewhere that to shake things up you should think of the last thing the character would do in that situation, then make him do it. Or look at the obvious way for the plot to go, and make it go in the opposite direction. I wish I could remember where I read that, but my brain is toast.

  4. Um, I don't? I've written a whole novel before only to realize there wasn't a plot, just a premise. So I can't help. I'm just too amazed at this whole "outline" thing.

  5. Nobody seems to know when they've developed a sparkly plot - yay! That makes me feel better. Heh.

    I'm thinking it just needs some tweaking. I'll try to bring in some elements that make it really unique. Hm...

    I like your suggestion, Lisa. I'll give that a try. I know James Scott Bell suggests coming up with hundreds of plot ideas before settling. That seems so daunting. I have trouble just coming up with a handful!

    Lol Lindsey! I'm new to this outline thing as well. It boggles the mind but it seems to be helpful so far...