Writing tip: Managing multiple subplots

Tip: Try color-coding your subplots 

Currently, as a part of NaNoWriMo, I’m working on the second novel in my Runes Trilogy, titled The Wolf in His Arms.

The novel continues the plot from the first book, but goes in its own direction and adds a number of interrelated subplots that begin and end throughout the book. To make sure I keep them all straight, I wrote a chapter outline (think table of contents) then color coded the chapters according to subplot. Every chapter in one subplot is green; every chapter dealing with a different subplot is yellow, etc.

Here’s why:

1. It helps me make sure I resolve every subplot to complete satisfaction. Leaving a subplot dangling is a no-no. By color-coding every subplot, I can quickly look for beginning, middle, resolution.

2. It helps keep an eye on pacing. Subplots help move the main story along. However, I never want to stray from the main plot for too long. Having a color-coded grid helps me see if I am spending too much time in any one area on a subplot instead of the main story. Likewise, it helps me not neglect a subplot for too long.

3. It keeps me focused. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost within a complicated novel. This method helps me keep track of my own storyline. And with a simple trick like this one, I can complete a story line all at once and then place it within the novel, if I find completing the subplot easier to deal with all at once.

If you’re getting lost in your own writing, give it a shot.

Happy writing!

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