Story Plot Problems: 7 Writing Taboos that Guarantee “No Sale”

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

Story Plot Problems: 7 Writing Taboos that Guarantee "No Sale" 

Seeking ideas for a story plot that will end your book with a bang?  Trying to beef up a weak story resolution so your novel catches the eye of a book editor? 

You're not alone.  At writing conferences around the country, I’ve heard book editors say they reject a large percentage of genre fiction manuscripts for two reasons:

#1.  The conflicts are so weak that they cannot support a full-length novel.

#2.  The story plot is contrived.

So what did the writer do to get his manuscript rejected?

He may have resorted to one of the seven book plotting pitfalls.

Here's a quick refresher so you can recognize these story plotting traps and avoid them in your novel.

#1.  Hopscotching

When writing novels, genre fiction writers will often devise a conflict, solve it, and then scramble to find another unrelated conflict to throw at the protagonist. This process, called hopscotching, creates weak drama. Your story plot starts to feel more like a series of episodes rather than an intricate tapestry of intrigue and action.

#2.  Sagging Middle

A weak or unfocused story plot often leads to a sagging middle.   Your genre fiction may lose the reader’s interest for a variety of reasons:  no character growth, weak conflicts, scene-dominant sidekicks, little action, predictability, and slow pacing.

#3.  Stampede

When writing complex novels, fiction writers sometimes resort to what book editors call “the stampede.” In this situation, the story plot is so convoluted that the author runs out of page space before he can tie up all his loose ends. As a result, he rushes to address reader questions by jamming all the answers into the last few pages of the manuscript.

#4.  Bloat

For genre fiction writers who are writing novels with simpler story plots, “bloat” can cause a problem. As the name implies, bloated books are full of unnecessary detail, usually related to descriptions of furniture, flora, fauna, clothing, transportation, etc.  Most genre fiction writers pad their prose because they’re aware, if only intuitively, that they don’t have enough story plot to carry the novel to the end.

#5.  Background Dumping

Another type of bloat is called background dumping. In this case, fiction writers pad their story plot with trivial information about a character’s past, the history of the town, instructions for performing an autopsy, etc.

#6.  Weak Resolution

If you're among the fiction writers who consider themselves superlative story plotters, then you would never allow your explosive set-up to end with a whimper, right?  Good!  Because a weak resolution will tempt your readers to fling your book against the wall.

#7.  Bolt-out-of-the-Blue Ending

A resolution that strikes like a bolt out of the blue is another pitfall to avoid in your story plot.  If you’re writing novels with a surprise ending -- believe it or not! -- you have to drop hints so a reader can look back and say to himself, “I should have seen that coming.”

Writing good novels is like surfing the crest of an ever-rising wave. To achieve the sense of escalating conflict in each manuscript, you must keep sight of every subplot and increase the emotional stakes for your readers.

If you fail to accomplish this goal in your story plot, your manuscript is likely to return to your mailbox, accompanied by a polite little letter that begins, “Dear Writer, thank you for your submission, but . . . “

Adrienne deWolfe, writing novels that sellWant to learn more secrets about writing a novel that sells? Check out the e-book, How to Write a Novel that Sells and these characterization worksheet templates for fiction genres or Romance novels. 

If you're a Romance writer, you may also be interested in my bestselling ebook series, The Secrets to Getting Your Romance Novel Published, including a discussion of the 14 bestselling Romance novel storylines in How to Write Wildly Popular Romances,; 50 Tips for Making a Hero Lovable in How to Write Romance Heroes with Sex Appeal, and How to Write Sensual Love Scenes.   ‘Til next time, keep the faith, and keep writing!