Skip to content

Coaching KidLit Podcast-Episode 11: Plot

Episode 11 – Plot

Christy and Sharon talk about different forms of plot/subplot, some of the plotting tools  available, the dangers of complex plots, and dive into plot in KidLit.



[00:00:40]  What is the plot?

[00:04:11] Subplots: buoying up the story.

[00:14:35] Does that subplot that really need to be there?

[00:22:00] Before you torture yourself with multiple points of view.

 Books Mentioned

Book Cover: Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor Book Cover: Drawn Together by Minh Le, illsutrated by Dan Santat Book Cover: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen Book Cover: All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon illustrated by Marla Frazee
Book Cover: he Magic Words by Cheryl Klein Book Cover: Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston Too Bright To See by Kyle Lukoff Book Cover: The Healer's Legacy by Sharon Skinner


Sharon’s Action Item

Head back to your mentor texts. Look at the books that have been the most satisfying for you, the ones that have brought you joy, and start to pull those threads apart and look at plot versus subplot. See how those subplots work within the narrative to either support or contrast with the main story plot and the main character arc They really should be driving one or the other.


Coaching KidLit Transcript

[00:00:05] Sharon Skinner: Hey, Christy.

[00:00:06] Christy Yaros: Hey, Sharon.

[00:00:08] Sharon Skinner: So I thought that we could talk this episode about plot and we can get into the different forms of plot. We can get into what the tools are that are out there for plot. But what I really want to talk about is plot in relationship to KidLit because that’s what we coach, and that’s what I think our listeners are looking for.

[00:00:31] Christy Yaros: Sounds like a good plan.

[00:00:34] Sharon Skinner: I’m glad you’re in for this

[00:00:35] Christy Yaros: Well, if I wasn’t then I guess you’d just be sitting here talking to yourself. So I kind of have to be on board.

[00:00:40] Sharon Skinner: Fair enough. So one of the questions that we ask or that we have our clients focus on is what is the plot of the book?

What is the story that you’re trying to tell? But I think what happens is that plot can get very complicated for people and it can get very tangly. So I wanted to talk about, how depending on your target audience, how your plot needs to go from simple and then can advance to complex.

My thinking is, is that when you talk about picture books, you’re talking about fairly simple plots.

For example, Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor, which is a lovely, lovely picture book is really about facing your fear.

So it’s about a little bird feeling ready to fly. And everyone around the little bird is worried about the little bird and really, it’s all about the bird jumping off and diving and all the way down everyone’s worried about the bird. So there’s this lovely tension that you have throughout the book that sets up some concern, but really the plot is this little bird is ready to fly and does, and that’s it. I mean, there’s, there’s not a lot to it.

Now there’s a little bit of a subplot to it. Spoiler alert, because the bird is a king Fisher and dives into the water at the end of this long, long drop, dives into the water and grabs a fish and is flying back up. And so you’re worried about the fish now, right?

Because you were worried about the bird. Now you’re worried about the fish. I won’t tell you what happens, but I was happy with the ending, but that’s really, it. It’s very simple. The same thing with books like, Drawn Together [written by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat]. It gets a little bit more complicated because the plot is really about a grandson and a grandfather who don’t speak the same language.

 So, it’s a lovely story about them realizing that they have something in common, they both love art and they both love to draw and they experience that. It’s not perfect and they have some moments along the way. So the, the main plot is learning to talk to grandpa.

The deeper level of that, or the subplot, if you will, is learning to communicate beneath what’s on the surface. Again, though, it’s very simple. There’s not political intrigue. There’s not, you know, five characters doing things. It’s just, it’s pretty basic.

[00:03:26] Christy Yaros: Well, yeah. And since obviously there’s pictures in picture books, the illustrations sometimes tell a separate story, another thread that’s running through the book that’s not mentioned in the words like in Sam and Dave Dig a Hole [written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen], like the words are telling us this story about these kids digging this hole and trying to find it.

And the dog in the pictures is like, like, hello, it’s, it’s right here. It’s right here. And you guys are not, are not seeing that. And that’s a completely different story. All the World from Marla Frazee also does something similar. Liz Garton Scanlon wrote it, but Marla put a little subplot through, with a seashell, like there’s one seashell that has a whole story that if you follow it through the pages.

[00:04:11] Sharon Skinner: But they’re still both very simple. Right? They’re very simple plots. The story is, is pretty simple, but yeah, I love that in picture books that illustration is another language that’s spoken and tells either another part of the story or, a deeper level of the story or an additional story.

And that brings us back to, The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein, where she talks about how subplots should either buoy up the story by being similar or they can be a contrasting story or subplot that will illuminate the story in another way. So subplots can compare and contrast. So if you have, like in the story that you were talking about, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, where the dog’s doing his own thing and has that subplot story. So there’s a compare and contrast there of them searching, and the dog is actually successfully finding whatever it is they’re looking for.

What About Subplots?

[00:05:14] Christy Yaros: And then of course the number of subplots is going to depend on the level of, book that you’re writing, because a chapter book can maybe only handle one subplot before not only does the book become too long because you have to have all of these threads, all of these subplots that have to be tied up as well as the main plot, but also it becomes too much for that age of a reader to really be able to follow the story and keep all of those open threads in their minds.

[00:05:41] Sharon Skinner: Right. So we’re back talking about target audience. And when you get to middle grade, you can get a little more complicated. You can have more subplots, you can have more open threads weaving through the story at any given time, but sometimes the main plots are still pretty basic like in Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, which is another book that I read recently, the main plot is about a girl whose brother disappears and she wants to find him. Now this whole paranormal supernatural world exists, that he was a part of and she discovers that he was a part of, and then there become these other subplots about friendship and being bullied and there’s politics at the school where they run all of the paranormal teaching and training. And they have agents who manage all the supernatural beings and stuff. And so you have these subplots that are woven in that are about things like friendship and, being your own true self. And so now we’re in middle grade and we can have several subplots running through, especially if they’re age appropriate subplots.

[00:06:57] Christy Yaros: And, and if you wanna think of, even in terms of visual media, if you think about television shows or movies, especially sitcoms, that have episodes, there’s only, you know, 20 minutes to tell a story.

So there’s a main story with some of your main characters, but at the same time, there’s the little side shenanigans happening with the other characters that are variations on the same theme that the overall episode is about, where they’re all telling a similar type of story, but again, it’s got 20 minutes, so they have to wrap it up.

So think of that in terms of a lower aged novel. There’s only so much time again, to clear it out, but a movie can have more sub plots because you’ve got an hour and a half and or two hours, or, God, some of these movies, three hours where you can carry all of these things, but like you said they are all related. They all are either variations on the theme or it’s a character showing how one of the sub characters has the growth that our main character needs to learn by the end of the story. Like that’s their lamppost to see where they’re supposed to go, or it’s a contrast between this character’s story and that character’s story.

[00:08:10] Sharon Skinner: Or it’s someone who’s trying to keep that character from growth. In KidLit we do see stories where a character is trying to change and there are characters who are pulling them back and saying, no, don’t change. Don’t change. Because that other character may not be ready to change, whether that’s the protagonist, antagonist, however that can be couched.

That is also a story because kids mature at different rates. And you’ve got kiddos who become best friends. And then they reach a point, especially when you get near puberty, which we’re talking about middle grade right now. And they start to change and grow in different ways. And they have to find themselves.

So there becomes this friction and this conflict as they grow and change. And we get to see again, these variations on a theme of how do you do that? How do you navigate that growth? What direction do you go in and how do you allow your friend to be who they are or who they need to be along the way?

Another recent book that I read along those lines would be Too Bright To See [written by Kyle Lukoff]. It actually does delve into that whole idea of who are you and who are you becoming? And are you becoming the same as your friends are or not? And that’s a big deal at middle grade age.

[00:09:40] Christy Yaros: That that is, you’re going into middle school and maybe you’re changing classes now.

And so you have, you’re not gonna be with the same people all day. You’re gonna have sports after school and not all of your friends are gonna be doing the same activities. And that’s where we start to see some of these subplots coming in.

I just wanna point out that you probably see the same thing, but I’ve been seeing this has kind of been a big talking point with clients that I’ve been speaking to lately is over complicating. Personally, I always do it anytime I sit down to write something and it’s like, you know, you give a little backstory or something to a side character and then you realize like that’s a whole book on its own. Like, why am I wasting? And so I feel sometimes like, why am I wasting this thing on a side character that could be a whole other novel. And I find that people tend to put too many things. You wanna get all of the stuff in there and then that’s where you’re dropping your threads and it doesn’t make sense anymore. Or you find out, your story is 120,000 words and it’s a middle grade contemporary but because you’ve put all of these extra things in there that now have to come out.

[00:10:49] Sharon Skinner: And they’re threaded through so it’s a little complicated to pull them out. And again, that’s the difference between life and novels right. Life and books is that life is very complicated. We’re all running on multiple plots and subplots any day of the week. We have jobs, we have families, we have spouses, we have other responsibilities. We have all these things going on and any given day, some of those are more plot and some are more subplot, but they all these threads running through it. But when you’re in a book, you just can’t put all the things in there. It’s just, it can be overwhelming. It can be far too much.

There are epic fantasies and some of the more deep science fiction and things like that, where they do get very complicated, there’s social, political threads running through there’s all the cultures. There’s the different religions. There’s all these things that complicate the story.

A lot of that is really world building but sometimes in order to world build, you need those subplots to run through so that you can show the world rather than telling us about the world. And so that the character’s experiencing the world so the reader can experience the world and those get a lot more complicated and a lot bigger.

But when you’re talking about contemporary and especially in KidLit, you’ve gotta pull back a little bit and you’ve gotta know what to keep and what to get rid of. Just what do you wanna focus on and what are the key things?

And sometimes some of those subplots can either be discarded or combined. Characters can be discarded or combined. If you have a cast that’s too large and it’s too complicated, sometimes you can pull those threads together and you can combine them rather than getting rid of them. And sometimes they’re just not as critical to the story. I think Cheryl Klein in the magic words talks about weighing or scoring somehow the different subplots to determine which are the most critical and then dumping the ones that don’t matter as much because you just can’t have it all.

[00:13:03] Christy Yaros: And I think sometimes it comes from you wanting to tell a story about something that maybe happened in real life. And so of course, like you said, in real life, there are all these other subplots and these things happening. So you’re trying to get that in there. Uh, I had a conversation this past week with a writer who knew that her book was way too long and she wanted to figure out what she needed to do in revision.

And we were talking about all of the subplots and it was, why is this one in here? Why do you feel like this is important to the story? And sometimes the answer is, well, I needed to explain this one thing that happened. And so in order for that event to make sense, I needed a reason, but then because I added that reason, it needed to have a whole plot that runs throughout the book.

And so every time we do that, it becomes more complicated and more complicated. And now, because you’ve added that subplot there needs to be another one to explain and pretty soon you’ve got this giant web of things that are going on and you can’t even keep track of it yourself.

And if we can’t keep track of them, ourselves, our readers certainly are not going to be able to keep track of it. But going back and saying, is this really part of the story, or is this a device that you used just because you needed this one part to make sense. And if it’s just something you needed for this part to make sense, how else can we make that make sense with what you have. What would make sense without it adding to all of these things, if you took this part out and it’s hard, it’s a lot.

[00:14:35] Sharon Skinner: I think you’re right on, because it is a matter of, is it a subplot that needs to be there?

Or are you using that where you could use something else. Where you could do something else in the narrative that will have the same effect without creating another thread that has to be woven in to the tapestry. You can get a lot more complicated in YA than you can in picture book. And then middle grade. You can get much more complicated in YA because now we’re dealing with kiddos whose focus is not quite so much on just who am I in the world. And the kinds of things that a lot of middle graders are dealing with and they’ve hopefully adjusted a little bit more to the world. I mean, being a teenager is very difficult. We know this. We were teenagers. I remember it very, very intensely. That’s why we write and coach KidLit. Right.

Cuz we are still those people in many ways. The point being that they can hold more, the brain is developed to a point where they can think further ahead. They can understand longer term consequences. And that frontal lobe is more developed to manage more of that kind of reasoning and thinking, because that’s part of the process of growing.

Brain science. Who knew? But the point being that you can add more subplots and have the ability for your reader to hang in there, get it, even if it’s really subtle, it’s in their brain and it’s moving along and they’re not going, “Hey, wait, what?” And that’s really the critical piece, right? We just don’t wanna be so complicated that we, like you said, lose our reader in a tangle that, they don’t know where they’re going anymore or why am I here? When I’m in a book and all of a sudden, I think why this side trip, why this tangent, why am I here? And I can’t quite put my finger on it, there better be a good reason why you’re taking me on that journey. There better be a good reason before the end of the book, too.

Not just because, oh, this is a thing that I wanted to include, or this is part of real life that happened to me and I need it to be part of the story. We’ve got to whittle it down. And this goes back to a couple of things that we’ve talked about in the past. Emotional truth. You wanna whittle it down so that it really serves the point of your story, which we’ve also talked about and to be careful because source material, especially if you’re writing from real life can be pushy.

The Dreaded Synopsis

[00:17:11] Christy Yaros: Right. And when you sit down to do the dreaded synopsis, when you’re gonna query or whatever, you can’t put your subplots in your synopsis. There’s no room for it. Especially in the shorter ones that want, 300, 400 words. You’re just telling us the main events that happen in the book and the main characters arc.

So a good exercise, I think, to determine, how much stuff you have going on is if you cannot whittle that down because you’re like, no, I can’t tell you this without telling you about this and this and that and this and that. And now, there’s no main thing. It’s just a bunch of interconnected things, which is maybe a different kind of story, but that’s where you start to see. And if, like you said, if your subplot is not adding something to the main story, is it giving the character more information in order to solve their main story problem? Is it complicating the main story problem, or is it just a device that you needed to throw in there?

Because you felt like there needed to be more. Maybe sometimes the action in your main story doesn’t feel enough. And so you complicate it by adding more subplots rather than addressing the actual problem, which would be the main story that you’re telling or that your character isn’t developed enough or your character isn’t forcing the action because plot comes from character in the first place.

[00:18:31] Sharon Skinner: That’s part of the reason why we do the Inside Outline so that they can drive one another so that the plot connects to the character journey. And that we ensure that the plot is the buttons that we’re pushing on the character and the pressures that are being put on the character to force a change or force a reaction or force the character to make a choice, because that is part of the character journey.

And if those things are not push-pulling, then it’s time to go back and figure out why. Again, you can have subplots, you can have political intrigue, you can have all these other things going on, but if they are not in some way, shape or form shaping or forming the character journey, then you’re missing out.

So you have to decide what the purpose is. Now, in a number of my books. I like to use, for example, in my middle grade, dual viewpoints for my stories because I have multiple things going on to keep the action revved up. And I have a couple of stories going on.

I’ll have maybe two main characters, but it’s still one major plot with one major character arc . It’s very difficult to have two characters , two stories that tie and thread really well together and not get so complicated that you lose sight of whose story it is.

[00:20:05] Christy Yaros: Absolutely. And also having two characters with two arcs who are interconnected through a thing.

If each of those characters stories has multiple subplots that are not related, if this character has something going on with their boyfriend, that’s not related to the other character or the story, and this one has something going on at home and yet you’re trying to fill all of those things while still telling this one main story.

It’s just overly complicated and you’re gonna again, have way too many words on your page trying to fill that all. And you’re going to lose some of those threads and it’s gonna make your revision a lot harder. If you can’t say that this subplot is here, how it’s connected to the main plot, then it can’t be there.

[00:20:55] Sharon Skinner: Right. So the boyfriend needs to somehow tie into the main story for the protagonist, which could either be because there’s a similar feeling for the boy or because the main character hates the boy or doesn’t understand why their friend has a boyfriend or something. It’s got to be there for a reason.

It can’t just be, oh, I’m gonna add a boyfriend for this other character, ’cause that will make them seem more real.

[00:21:27] Christy Yaros: And again we have all of these ideas. And I think especially as beginning writers, we just wanna put all the things on the page at the same time, in one story. And when you break it down and you say like this is a whole book that I’m trying to cram as a side story into this. you know, put it aside and make that your next book or your third book. And I would just like to stress just try and write a story with just one one point of view if you’re starting out. Just one,

[00:21:59] Sharon Skinner: one viewpoint character.

Single or Multiple Viewpoint Characters

[00:22:00] Christy Yaros: Before you torture yourself with multiple points of view and trying to tie together, all of those things.

[00:22:05] Sharon Skinner: Well, that’s a part of learning your craft is that it’s hard enough to write a good story and write well and apply all these craft elements in a good way and do a solid job of it with one viewpoint character. When you start to complicate it, when you start to complicate the narrative and you start to complicate the world and you complicate the number of people. Every additional layer adds to the difficulty of the work.

It’s a lot like when you first start sculpting or drawing or painting. You start with the basics, get those down before you try to paint a huge canvas with multiple people and things going on. It’s all about building your way up. But a lot of people like to read very complicated stories and so they want to write a complicated story and they think that’s the story they need to write.

And so we get clients who come to us with these tangles that as book coaches, it’s our job to help them untangle and to pull back to that vision, that point that they’re trying to make.

[00:23:24] Christy Yaros: And sometimes your draft is just your main plot. And maybe the subplots are things that after you know exactly what story you’re trying to tell and how you’re telling it and what’s gonna happen that you say, okay, I need something here and making sure that it goes all the way through and I don’t know. I guess it depends on what kind of person you are.

Are you comfortable with having a million words that you need to pare down or are you better off having a bare bones thing that you then go in and add to? I guess it depends on what kind of reviser you are.

[00:23:53] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. I used to be a big time overwriter. But I have a lot of clients who are, well, I have some clients who are over writers, but a lot of them are underwriters.

And I don’t mean as insurance. They’re the kind of people who, it looks more like a very heavy outline by the time they’re done. And then it’s a matter of layering in the materials, the costuming, the world building, the subplots and all those things that make it a full blown story. But it does depend on what your process is.

Do you wanna build on a framework or do you wanna pare down from a big clump of clay that you have to then pull chunks off of and toss to the side? And when I first was writing, because I didn’t want to throw anything away because I slaved over these words. I worked so hard. I never wanted to throw them away.

I just used to put a file up and drop those words into a file. That was, oh, these are cuts. I might use them later. I’ve almost never gone back to that file and used any of that, but it was a place for me to feel like I could put them in a holding place where I wasn’t throwing them away forever, because that’s the kind of personality I have, you know, there might be a lot of Marie Kondo kind of people who are like, yeah, I’ll just throw those words away.

[00:25:17] Christy Yaros: No. you know what? Never throw anything. Okay. Not anything. Don’t throw your writing away. Don’t throw your writing away. Put it in a separate file. Like you said. For just in case you delete the wrong thing and you, and it doesn’t make sense anymore. I mean, I’m working with a writer, who’s been through many rounds of revision before they came to me.

And as we are discussing certain things, and this happens when you’ve done a lot of revision on something, things don’t make sense anymore because you’ve cut and pasted and moved around and added. And so, something doesn’t quite make sense. And as we were talking about it and really went into it, they were.

Oh, you know what, a previous version actually had that, but I took it out and they were able to go back because they didn’t delete stuff and grab it. And it made more sense once we fixed it.

[00:26:07] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. For me though, that is the difference between a holding file and a, I save a new version every time I work on my work with a new date. And I rarely go back and delete any of the old versions until the final book is published. Once it’s out there in the world, then I might go back and delete a bunch of that older, original drafting, especially the ones that weren’t complete.

But yeah, for me, it’s all about backup and redundancy for saving the work. But this other piece would be more like, oh, I don’t need this whole chapter that I wrote my way into the story with, so I could get to know the character. Oh, we don’t need that. I’m gonna put it over here. I might revisit it later to look at some personality quirk that I gave the character.

But other than that, that writing is done. I’m probably never gonna use it. So I do both, but I think that when it comes to plot and subplots and complications, my example of my own process and my own journey would be The Healer’s Legacy trilogy, because I started that with a single viewpoint.

And that first book then moves into three different viewpoints, but it’s basically, adding subplots that again, push on or support or push against the main plot of the book for the character and the character’s journey and who the character is. The second book got more complicated. I had more viewpoint characters.

A lot more going on and more political intrigue. And then the third book is a huge cast, in my opinion. It’s quite a cast of characters and it’s lots and lots of threads that are woven together to tell the end of this story. But the story itself grew organically into that. It’s almost like you can watch my progression of my ability as a writer to get to that point.

And I’m just pleased that I pulled it off well enough that readers like it and are giving it good reviews because it was a struggle to get there.

Plot in Series

[00:28:28] Christy Yaros: But you bring up an interesting point now that we haven’t talked about yet is series. Now, obviously when we’re starting out, we should not write a series and expect to necessarily sell a series.

Our first book has to be standalone that could survive without being a series. But when you do have a series, you’re going to have your overarching plot that would cover all of the books. But then each book also needs its own plot. Each subplot has to have its own trajectory and maybe some subplots carry over from one book to another.

And maybe they don’t, maybe some don’t start until the second book. That’s a whole other beast there, is your series. There’s a writer that I’m working with that is planning a series and they have written most of the books for the series, but as we sat down and saw how complicated book one was, I wasn’t working on them with the series, I was working on them on book one.

But when you sit down and you say, there are a lot of subplots going on here, there’s a lot of things and it actually made more sense to take some of those things out and move them to a later book. While still making sure that that first book could stand on its own. So, yeah, I think when you’re planning a series, it’s different kind of thought process and planning process.

[00:29:43] Sharon Skinner: It’s a different kind of thought process in the planning because of the way you have to break it up because it’s a lot. And again, the growth of the character and the growth of the story. I am not a believer in any kind of cliff hangers. Yes. Leave some threads open.

That’s fine. You can do that, but you can do that in any standalone. When I first was writing The Healer’s Legacy, I thought it was going to be multiple books, but I hadn’t planned it fully out because I was still early in my writing journey and I thought, oh, I’ll just do this. But I did leave some threads open so that I could potentially write additional books.

But the book itself was very standalone. It was not a cliff hanger. It left something open to the imagination. And when you leave threads open at the end of a book, whether it’s a standalone or a series, if you’re leaving some threads open, it leaves the reader feeling like they get to believe what they want or think what they want for the characters moving forward.

So there’s a little bit of that. I could have left it there, but I had a lot of people wanting to know what would happen next. They loved that book enough that I had a lot of readers who wanted the next book. So I wrote the next book and I found out very quickly that that’s not how you do a trilogy.

You don’t just write the second book because I wrote myself into a corner and had to then in book three, write myself out, which was complicated and took a long time. It was quite challenging because I didn’t quite have the chops for it when I first started out. And that’s part of the reason it took time.

And I had to write some other things in the meantime to get me there. But, yes, you’re talking about a very big overarching plot and you’re talking about a character arc that has to keep growing throughout the series. And there are some series out there where there’s 20, 30 books that are like mystery or thriller, or what have you, where there’s not a lot of character growth, it’s not a lot of character arc.

Those are adventures and that’s okay. That’s the genre. So that’s not what we’re talking about.

[00:32:01] Christy Yaros: Or with chapter books where chapter books, have the same characters going through a series, it’s more of an episodic series then an overarching story series.

[00:32:11] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. And they might learn something. They usually learn something, but it’s not like a huge growth learning, it’s they learn something new.

[00:32:20] Christy Yaros: So plot is complicated. We wanna leave our listeners with something. My action item is gonna be more revision related. I don’t know if yours is more planning or writing or revision.

Actionable Items

[00:32:33] Sharon Skinner: So because we always like to leave our listeners with an action item related to the topic that we’re discussing, I’m gonna send you back to your mentor texts. I’m going to send you back to look at the books that have been the most satisfying for you.

The ones that have brought you joy and start to pull those threads apart and look at plot versus subplot and see how those subplots work within the narrative to either support or contrast with the main story plot and the main character arc, because they really should be driving one or the other.

And that is my action item for this month.

[00:33:14] Christy Yaros: I love that. That’s great.

And I have heard that using a verse novel makes life a little easier if you wanna do something like that, because you can quickly find the stuff that you’re looking for. That was a tip from another writer. So my action item, I’m gonna focus more on your actual writing.

So if you have a manuscript that you’re looking at and you’re thinking, oh my God, there’s so much going on. I have no idea where to start. And you have not made a list of your scenes, which I think everybody should always have a list of what’s actually on your page. I’m a spreadsheet person.

I will have a spreadsheet. And if you’re a spreadsheet person, I would suggest having a giant chart where you list all of your plots and subplots along the top or along the side, and then your chapter numbers and mark off every place that that appears in your manuscript. And if you notice that a subplot starts in chapter two and you don’t touch it again until chapter 22, maybe that subplot doesn’t need to be there, or if you drop it and it goes for three chapters it’s not resolved.

And then you never pick it up again. And then if you’re not a spreadsheet person, but you’re a visual colored notes kind of person, then Darcy Pattison has a very interesting method; her shrunken manuscript, which can also be very terrifying. But we’ll put it in the show notes where you can find where she describes her method.

But one of the things that she has you do is. You’re basically gonna shrink, make your text as small as you can, until it fits on about 30 pages. And then you highlight certain elements in different colors that you wanna track. So if you highlight events in your main plot in one color and events in subplot, one in another color et cetera, and then look at it and just see what it looks like from a 500- foot view there of the color coding and kind of similar to the spreadsheet.

How much space is this subplot taking up and does it get dropped and etc.

[00:35:18] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, I love that you mentioned Darcy’s method because it was on my mind as we were just talking about this. And as you were going forward and talking about your spreadsheet, ’cause I’m not a spreadsheet person.

[00:35:27] Christy Yaros: I know. That’s why I threw it in there just for you, Sharon.

[00:35:30] Sharon Skinner: I appreciate that. And for those people who have brains like mine. And she actually has you before you shrink it. So nobody freaks out before you shrink it to where you can’t read it. You go through and make a list of components in each chapter.

And then that’s what you use as your color coding guide. So just. Do check that out . I’ve used it. It’s fabulous. It really is a great way to visualize what your manuscript looks like. And now with everything being digital, you could actually do it with highlighter and do it all digitally on your computer and then put it on your screen and really shrink it down and see what it looks like. It’s a great tool.

[00:36:12] Christy Yaros: Oh, that’s right. She does have you print it out and lay it on your floor. Right. And in my mind, no, that’s all digital. We’re highlighting in word or it as a PDF and we’re keeping it on our screen, but you do you .

[00:36:22] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. Whatever works.

[00:36:23] Christy Yaros: Process is personal, Sharon.

[00:36:25] Sharon Skinner: That’s right.

Thank you. Thank you for saying that. I just love that saying. So thank you everyone for showing up, for doing the work, for joining us because we love doing this, but it wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t listening and we’ll see you next month.

[00:36:43] Christy Yaros: We will see you next month, which is gonna be our one year anniversary episode. So we look forward to seeing you and seeing what we come up with. Thank you everybody and happy writing.

[00:36:54] Sharon Skinner: Bye.


Are you interested in working with a Book Coach on your KidLit book? Check out my KidLit Coaching Page  or fill out my inquiry form for a FREE Consult call and let’s get started!

Published inCoaching Kidlit Podcast Episodes