The Plot Outline Exercise in Advanced Plotting goes into a lot of detail, but for now we'll stick with looking at some of the big picture issues. As I said yesterday, you can adapt this for your own needs. Some questions may not be relevant for an individual novel – but take time to consider them seriously, to see if you can learn something or get new ideas.
Analyze Your Main Character:
* Do you have a single MC? Can the reader identify the MC at the start of the story? Does the story maintain its focus on that character throughout? If you have several MCs, is that the best choice for this story?
* Is your MC well developed, so he or she feels like a real person? Does she have strengths and weaknesses that play into the plot? Does she have quirks that make her interesting and well-rounded? Is her personality and behavior consistent throughout the manuscript? Will your readers like and identify with the character to some extent?
* If you have several MCs, are they all equally well developed? Do they each have a consistent, major role in the manuscript?
* Does your MC control the story, staying active and making decisions? Does he solve the problem at the end? Avoid having an MC who is simply a victim throughout the story or who is rescued by outside forces at the climax.
* Are you in your MC’s point of view (POV)? If not, is that the best decision? Would you be better off switching viewpoint so the reader feels closer to or farther from the character? If you have several viewpoint characters, is each viewpoint strong, consistent, and appropriate? If you are trying to use omniscient viewpoint, are you truly omniscient, or are you really awkwardly jumping between viewpoints?
Analyze Your Subplots and Secondary Characters:
* Look at your subplots. Are they woven evenly throughout the manuscript? Do you need to give more attention to some or space them out more evenly?
* If you have a lot of secondary characters, can any be combined or eliminated? Do you have more than one secondary character filling the same job? For example, if the MC has two best friends who are essentially the same and are both supportive, either eliminate one or change her so she has a different role.
Analyze Your Plot Outline for Theme:
* Do you touch on your theme throughout the manuscript? Are there places where you can add references, perhaps oblique, to set it up better?
* Look at your character arc. Does the MC experience an epiphany? Does she see herself differently at the end? How will she behave differently now? (This might not apply to novels that are part of long series, such as mysteries, where the MC can’t change too much in a single book. Still, a minor epiphany, insight, or change of view can add emotional impact to your ending.)
As you use the Plot Outline Exercise, you may come up with additional questions. Make notes on anything you want to cover when you use the exercise with future manuscripts. You can download a copy of the Plot Outline Exercise from my website http://www.krisbock.com/blog.htm (top of the left-hand column) to more easily edit it to suit your own needs.
I realize not everyone may be ready to do this kind of analysis, or have time this weekend. If you have specific questions or concerns – or additional advice – feel free to post that here or in the thread on "Post Questions and Comments on Your Work" from yesterday.
Also, Advanced Plotting has essays offering help on how to deal with problems you may identify through the analysis. And of course, you can find a great deal of information online on various blogs. So please don't feel overwhelmed if you start to recognize the problem. Good writing is rewriting, right?