how to get a request for pages · other · writing problems

Demographics, plus how to plot

In my last post, I gave 3 top reasons I rejected pages lately: small word counts, large word counts, and no plot.

Small word counts more often belong to male writers. On the flip side, large word counts often belong to female writers. However, this is not due to the stereotype that women communicate more than men.

Overwritten pages belong almost exclusively to male writers. These pages have long unnecessary words, use too much description, and don’t get to the point. I zone out before they arrive at the hook. Wordiness like this is usually a male transgression.

The women-write-more and men-write-less statistic is more interesting than base stereotypes. Both sets of authors fail to hit proper word counts because their plots don’t work.

In some, there aren’t enough plot points. The heroine faces the bad guy and wins: the end. In others, the plot meanders around too many themes, arcs, and plotlines. Too many skirmishes happen without a Final Battle tying everything up.

I don’t know why men struggle with the former and women the latter. But you can fix either problem by learning how plot works.

The synopsis how-to post discussed many plot theories: 7 points, 5 points, 3 acts, etc. All these theories leave the same silhouette.

There are certain things which make a story feel like a story at all.

“Plot structure” simply describes the features all stories possess. All stories have dark moments and shining moments. All stories build up to victories and losses. All stories have tension and stakes (that’s what makes us care). All stories develop something: character, theme, motivations, or series of events.

Established writers can afford to ignore plotting. Stephen King famously derides mapping a blueprint beforehand. This is because experienced writers’ brains are familiar with the terrain of story. They can work their way through the roller coaster by feel.

Beginning authors don’t have that instinct. They need to study. Dissect. Read good books. Analyze good books. (Not like you did in English class, looking for “literary devices.” Analyze good books for why they make you feel a certain way. How they make you hang on for dear life. Why you kept reading.)

My #1 resource on plotting is To start, read Story Structure in Harry Potter and practice the method on your favorite books.

I may sound like a broken record at this point. The same basic problems are at the heart of my rejections every day. You can fix this. I believe in you. It just takes a while to get it right.


3 thoughts on “Demographics, plus how to plot

    1. Of course!! Your site truly is my #1 resource for plotting. Your example breakdown of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone saved a book of mine, and I’ve been an avid follower since!


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