Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 17, 2015


One of several "Bad Grammar" photos posted to Facebook from

I have encountered this particular error - misusing a possessive pronoun for a contraction (and vice versa) in all too many books I've edited. Just a reminder - "your" is possessive (your book, your name, etc.); "you're" is a contraction of "you are." Just as "their" is a possessive, and "they are" is a contraction - both mistakes I encountered just this morning while editing.


 When I ran a search on Amazon, I discovered they offer 1,059 books on the art of plotting. (And I admit I've never read even one of them!) But the number makes it clear how important plotting is to your book. And if you want detailed help, your only problem is plowing through all the possibilities to find the books that are right for you.  I will, however, in the short space available, attempt to hit a few highlights. My experience is based not only on writing close to thirty books but my long years as an editor of both fiction and non-fiction and as the judge of more than 400 RWA chapter contest entries. 

1.  Whether your plot is simple or complex, at least a hint of it should be apparent in the first chapters, Chapter 1, if possible. Example:  I once judged a contest entry which sounded like a classic category romance centered around a class reunion. But when I read the synopsis, it turned out the author intended it to be a complex romantic suspense. Yet there wasn't a hint of RS anywhere in the pages of the contest entry. This won't work with readers any more than it did with me. Know what genre you're writing and make sure the reader gets the genre he or she expected right up front.

2.  Sub-plots are okay in a long book, but don't stray into sidebars that don't advance your plot. Example:  cute dialogue that doesn't move the plot forward; secondary characters who push the hero and heroine off center stage.  People sitting around chatting, to no purpose, simply distract, slowing your book to a crawl.

3.  Avoid "too much plot." I've judged a number of contests where the entry read well, but the synopsis had enough plot for a 3-book series. Since "showing" a book takes up more room than "telling," a plot with a zillion twists and turns is likely to run out of room. J. K. Rowling may be able to get away with a 700-page book. The rest of us can't.

4.  Plots have "rhythm" - character introduction, personality development, action, introspection, romantic developments, action, introspection, the high point, the black moment, resolution.* Unlike, say, Vin Diesel's Fast and Furious movies, romance plots have to allow time for breathing, for getting inside the hero's and heroine's heads, time for romance to develop. And even action/adventure movies have their more quiet moments when the main characters get a chance to slow down (and maybe a wee bit more - what would James Bond be without his throng of women?)

*Under no circumstances take this sentence as a "plot arc." I do not believe in arcs or outlines set in steel. I am merely giving examples of how the rhythm of a book varies. (A terrible blow is all the more powerful for coming directly after a moment when everything seems to be going well.) 

5.  You can get away with almost any plot, no matter how outrageous, if you provide an explanation good enough to coax your readers into "suspended disbelief." Conversely, your book becomes a "wall-banger" when you toss in something incredible without taking the time to justify what happens.

6.  Amendment to #5. There are certain things you must not do, things that cannot be explained away. If you want to believe your readers are dumb enough not to care, well, that's your choice. But among the accepted no-no's are such things as the laws of British inheritance: you cannot have a bastard become a duke. You also cannot toss a murder into a book without providing strong motivation. Basically, you cannot avoid the laws of common sense without an adept set-up.

7.  Most authors plot on instinct - at least that's how I do it. They learn from the ebb and flow of the books they've read over the years. Some authors, like me, start with no more than a basic premise and build from there. Others need to meticulously plot out every chapter. No matter which method you prefer, remember that if you need help, there are all those 1,059 "How to Plot" books on Amazon.

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For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

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