Plotting a Novel: Part 9 - Fixing Plot Problems

Throughout the year, author Tracey Kathryn (T.K.) Sheffield and I have offered a series on plotting from the beginning developmental stage through the messy middle and all the way to the end, including editing advice on how to fix plot problems in a completed manuscript. This is our final installment, but for ease I've linked each part in this handy list. 

In Part 1, Tracey lists wonderful resources that are great for those that are new to writing or looking for a new approach to plotting in: "Plotting a Novel: Resources for Those Just Starting Out."

In Part 2, Tracey discusses how to use plotlines, tropes, and conflict to test your story ideas: "Testing Novel Ideas

In Part 3, Tracey and I discuss the virtues of outlining your novel vs. pantsing (aka: writing by the seat of your pants.) Watch the video here.

In Part 4, I write about the difference between the hook and the inciting incident

In Part 5, Tracey gives tips on how to avoid the dreaded messy middle of the novel. 

In Part 6, Tracey and I discuss the different types of novel endings and the tips and tricks for writing each well. Watch the video here.

In Part 7, I discuss the preparing to edit stage in a short video you can view HERE.

Part 8 covers the six different types of editing and details on how to approach each. Read it here. 

Now in our final installment . . . (drum roll please) . . . we discuss how to fix specific Plot Problems you may identify while you're editing. 

NOTE: We spend the first six minutes of this video discussing the Wisconsin Writers' Association Fall Conference that we both attended as well as Tracey's soon-to-be-released Cozy Mystery (set in Wisconsin!!) So, if that does not interest you . . . start at the 6-minute mark. 

Our three-part framework addresses ....


Does the plot make sense? Are there any gaps in the logic? Do any parts of your plot contradict each other? Are the questions that were brought up in the novel all answered—no subplots were dropped?

The Fix: rethinking parts of the plot … rewriting / filling in missing links/info … deleting/amending problem details that contradict with others . . . add details to wrap up any unanswered questions/subplot details. 


Is the narrative always moving forward? Do any parts of the story lag?

The Fix: Go back to plotting diagram to make sure the pivotal action/scenes are happening at the right point. Potentially rewrite/rearrange to fix those issues. 

Check out Beat Sheets . . . and see if those can be useful to you for pinpointing where your story pace is off. Jami Gold's website is a great resource. 


Does the book start where it should/ Could it be improved by starting elsewhere?
Are there any structural devices - like shifts in POV or timelines that aren’t working or are causing confusion.

The Fix:  Probably rewriting or rearranging -- possibly eliminating a POV that's not working or perhaps adding one to augment the story. 
These are all TOUGH decisions to make because this type of editing takes time, but it can salvage a manuscript that has plot problems. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about the plotting process! And, please let us know if there's a topic you'd like covered in 2024.

Click on our names to email us: Valerie Biel  |  TK Sheffield


T.K. Sheffield, MA writes books for readers who want to laugh and escape.

The Backyard Model Cozy Mysteries: Book 1 Model Suspect releases on November 14! A retired fashion model uses her skill at spotting posers to solve murders in her touristy Wisconsin town. 

Follow Tracy on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest for writing tips, author news, and to share my Wisconsin backyard.


Valerie Biel is the author of the award-winning Circle of Nine series, book promo and marketing expert, and author coach. (and if you're reading this -- you're already on my website -- so hang around and check out my books, social media links below in the footer, or my other blog posts!)





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