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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Tag: How To (page 1 of 8)

How to Become an All-Star Self-Editor

Quick Hits on Self-Editing

 

Okay, so I’m giving you a little rundown today regarding the rules on self-editing. As I mentioned in my previous article, this isn’t a complete rundown and it’s important you find a mentor fast.

However, it’s also important that you have an idea of what not to do as an author. Don’t follow these rules and you might have a hard time finding a reading audience. Follow them, and you’ll be set.

 

Rule #1: Show, Don’t Tell

It was cold doesn’t paint a picture in the reader’s mind, but saying Cain fastened his cloak around him as he turned his face against the wind definitely does. Lira didn’t just say something angrily; she narrowed her eyes and thrust her hands to her sides. Cheesy examples, but you get the point.

In show, don’t tell, just show the character(s) in action and you’ll be golden. If you go through your manuscript and are reading things like ‘she was scared,’ or ‘he was ecstatic,’ show this through action.

 

Rule #2: Omit Needless Words

Okay, take a look at the show, don’t tell section again and take note of the phrase ‘definitely does.’ Definitely could’ve been omitted. Always omit words that tell the reader something.

Why?

Because we need to trust our readers actually know what’s going on. See, actually could’ve been omitted here.

Because could’ve been omitted, too. We need to trust that our readers know what’s going on. Hmmm, sounds better. We need to trust our readers know what’s happening.

When we omit, our sentences are shorter. Our paragraphs are also shorter. Our words have more power. I could’ve said, ‘our words now have more power,’ but the reader knows our words ‘now’ have more power, so we can just say our words have power.

 

Rule #3: The Power of Said

“Why are we going here?” Savannah asked.

The question mark shows the reader a question’s asked. We don’t have to rehash on the fact.

In most cases, readers don’t need to be told someone asked or exclaimed. The question mark and exclamation point do their jobs.

Instead, just say said. People don’t grunt, cough, wheeze, or croak dialogue. They say things.

While my preference is to omit as many dialogue tags as I can, there are many situations where we can’t, like if a scene contains more than two people.

 

Rule #4: Cut the Throat Clearing

It’s a fancy term for overloading the book with backstory. I made this mistake during my first drafts of Northern Knights. These days, too much backstory will scare readers away. We live in a fast-paced society these days, and our books must be likewise.

Instead, get straight to the action. I learned this during my later drafts of Northern Knights, which eventually made up the final manuscript.

If backstory is important in your novel, tell it through action, or through dialogue. Show a conversation between your characters, but don’t show it through a thought bubble as the main character looks into the mirror and reminisces on how he or she got to such a stage.

 

Rule #5: On the Nose Writing

Hollywood loves this term. It basically means describing a familiar location. For instance, in Northern Knights, some of my settings include campus dining halls, emergency rooms, and hotel lobbies.

Do I really have to go into detail with any of these places?

Think along the same lines. If your book takes place in middle-class suburbia, do you really need to explain the neighborhood?

Unless something is there that is important to the story, you don’t have to get crazy descriptive with settings everyday people are familiar with.

 

Rule #6: 1 + 1 = ½

Two adjectives are nowhere near as powerful as one adjective, strong nouns, or strong verbs.

Further, when a reader reads a work, few of them are interested in picturing a character’s every detail. In Northern Knights, the reader knows both Cain and Lira are in top shape due to the fact they’re both college athletes. I don’t have to say ‘Cain stood at a compact five feet, seven inches, with a ripped, six-pack of abs, ringlet hair that fell into his hazel eyes, and possessed pasty white skin.’

The reader knows from page one that Cain is a college athlete. They’re already picturing an athletic-looking kid.
A few pages later, Lira’s athletic physique appeared in the doorway. Again, I don’t have to describe Lira’s toned, somewhat muscular arms, chiseled cheekbones, and defined legs. The reader knows.

Just hint at description and the reader will get it. Remember, in a fast-paced society, the reader is more interested in the action, the story plot, more than they are description.

 

Rule #7: Simple over Complex

Choosing a simple word over a complex one will always win you readers. Unless you’re writing a piece for scholars, go with the common words. For fiction writers, this is even more important, as average people are reading your work.

 

Rule #8: Don’t be Redundant

Please, don’t add anything unnecessary. He clapped his hands, for instance, is redundant. If someone’s clapping, do we really need to be told the character is clapping their hands?

She nodded her head is another one. He shrugged his shoulders. Okay, you get the gist.

Just stick to ‘he clapped,’ ‘she nodded,’ and ‘he shrugged.’

 

Rule #9: Get Rid of Ups and Downs

Unless it’s needed, of course. You don’t need to say they flew up into the air. They flew. They descended down the chute is unnecessary. They descended the chute. Looked up, looked down, etc. Eliminate all of it.

He got up, she sat down, etc. It can all be avoided.

 

Rule #10: Get Rid of That (and other words)

That, very, just, suddenly, only, etc. You don’t need to use any of these words. That is overused, and for every sentence containing ‘that,’ see how it regards without the word. Ditto for very, which in almost every case a stronger noun or verb can take the place of very.

Suddenly has no more impact than it would if the author just states what ‘suddenly’ happened. Suddenly, the metal put a hole through the wall is weaker than the author writing ‘the metal put a hole through the wall.

 

Rule #11: Your Reader Gets It

In other words, resist the urge to explain. Many novice authors think they have to explain their character’s every action. Cain sets the story in motion when he attacks Southpoint police forces in Northern Knights when they invade the hotel lobby in an effort to round up high school and college-aged kids.

There’s no need to explain Cain’s actions; the reader knows why Cain is acting, especially since they know about his desire to play pro sports and live a self-serving life.

The same goes for any situation, especially controversial ones.

Or, there are times the author is explaining every little detail, which again, can be avoided. Many novice authors will say this: He opened up the car door and sat down in the driver’s seat.

For one, you can eliminate up and down. For another, an author can say ‘he entered the car,’ or a similar type of word choice.

 

Rule #12: Again, Your Reader Gets It

Avoid quotations except in dialogue. Again, if you’re quoting something outside dialogue, it gives off the notion your reader doesn’t get it unless you mark it otherwise.

Newsflash: The reader will get it.

 

Rule #13: Stop Saying What Isn’t Happening

You don’t have to say ‘she didn’t respond,’ or ‘he wasn’t talking.’

Scott told Ashley to leave the room, but Ashley refused.

If the character didn’t commit the act, the reader knows it’s not happening. If Scott asks Ashley a question, and she turns and gazes out the window, don’t say Ashley’s saying nothing; we know.

The same goes for ‘he didn’t move,’ or ‘she didn’t follow her mother’s orders,’ or anything similar.

 

Rule #14: Nouns and Verbs Outlast Adjectives and Adverbs

They say adjective and adverbs contribute to lazy writing while strong nouns and verbs reign supreme. I’m here to tell you that is definitely the case.

I never knew this until I incorporated it into my writing, but when I did it added so much power the reader could paint an accurate picture in the mind.

Doesn’t ‘she ran quickly down the field’ sound inferior to ‘she bolted downfield?’

Or, it’s so much better to show something through action, as if you can allow the reader to visualize your book like they’re watching a movie rather than reading.

“I can’t stand this,” he said aggressively.

Or…

He slammed his phone on the table. “I can’t stand this.”

 

Rule #15: Don’t Hedge

Avoid hedging verbs. You don’t need to say ‘he almost smiled’ or ‘she almost laughed.’ They either did or didn’t.
Never write ‘he slightly grumbled,’ or ‘she kind of frowned.’

There’s no hedging when it comes to verbs. Verbs state action, so they either did something or they didn’t.

 

Rule #16: Literally Isn’t Figuratively

You don’t need to say her or she ‘literally died’ when meaning it in a figurative manner. The same goes for all figurative language.

If you mean something in a figurative manner, ensure you say it as such. Something like ‘I literally laughed until my ribs cracked’ is useless unless it really happened.

The same goes for anything of its kind.

 

Rule #17: Readers Don’t Care About Stage Direction

Related to on the nose writing, we don’t need to know everything that’s going on in the scene unless it has something to do with the story. If you find yourself giving off-stage direction that has nothing to do with the story, delete it.

Before describing any location, object, or action, ask yourself if it contributes to the story. If not, cut it.

 

Rule #18: Don’t Head Hop

This is a tricky one because it involves mastering point of view. Whose point of view is the story taking place in? Or better yet, the scene?

If the scene (or whole story) takes place in Cain’s point of view, but the author instead tells the reader what Lira is thinking, that’s called head hopping and it will confuse the reader.

You only need to convey the point of view character’s thoughts. I like picturing the point of view character as myself, only seeing my own thoughts and not knowing the thoughts of non-point of view characters.

The reader will know what the non-point of view characters are thinking with their actions the author describes. If Lira’s angry with Cain (point of view character), she’ll thrust her hands to her sides, or scoop her books and storm out of a room.

Always describe non-point of view characters’ emotions through action and you’ll be gold.

 

Rule #19: Stop the Clichés in Narration

You might have a character that speaks in clichés, and that’s cool. What you don’t need, however, is to narrate your story in clichés, as your writing will get old fast. Clichés are ideas or expressions that have become so overused they’ve lost their original meanings.

Avoid them in narration. It will tire the reader as clichés aren’t original. If you want a solid readership, make sure your writing style is something original. If not, you won’t last long in the writing craft.

 

Rule #20: Shayna and Savannah Didn’t Cut It

Okay, Savannah stayed, Shayna got written out.

Why?

Because while I proofread Swords of Destiny I kept getting the two names mixed up, even if their voices were distinct. Instead, I thought typo, then no, then another typo, followed by another false alarm.

Luckily, Shayna had a group of friends in Northern Knights.

Enter Kiya, one of Shayna’s mind traveling best friends.

The voice remained the same. The character was the same. I just changed the name and altered the character’s appearance somewhat. And you got Kiya while Shayna stayed in North Columbia.

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How to Fit Writing Time With the Dreaded Day Job

How many of you are stuck in the cycle of waking up, fighting traffic, arriving at work for eight to ten hours, then repeating?

A lot of us do so six days a week and with it we sacrifice writing time and other passions for the sake of a place we admittedly would rather do without.

We want to pursue our writing passion and make a full-time living off our writing, but man, where do we start and when do we find the time?

It’s a question all aspiring writers ask themselves.

I’m currently working a 2pm to Whenever work shift and I’m in this thing strictly for the money. I fit in with warehouse work about as well as one of my favorite symphonic metal bands would at what used to be Jamboree in the Hills (the Super Bowl of country music).

So comes the obvious: Focus on both my writing to make money in it and return to my old fitness passion and start making money in it again after I turned my back on it not so long ago.

The goal for all of us is to get the hell out of these dreaded day jobs society has trapped us in as soon as possible. Only then can we start to experience life to its fullest.

 

Your Writing Time is Sacred

I’ve touched up on this in previous articles, but I like doing so every few months as reminders to my reading base. You need to choose a time to write and stick to your guns no matter what.

It’s like when I choose my workout times; nothing and nobody will stop me from working out at those times.

If your writing time is 6am, then it needs to be that way every single day. Ditto if it’s on your lunch break or 6pm.

Nobody can take this time from you unless there’s a legitimate emergency going on somewhere in your life. Don’t allow anyone to take this time away from you and if they’re confused regarding your writing time, be real with them.

If they try to guilt-trip you, then get rid of that person. True friends and understanding family members won’t do this; they’ll support you.

 

Speaking of Support Systems

A lot of writers out there, even those who have accomplished a thing or two, have dreaded day jobs they’d rather not be at.

Like you, they want to be at home, in libraries, or in coffee shops, or wherever their sacred writing place is, doing what they love.

Even if no one in your personal network understands or supports you, there are a lot of writers out there that will. While they’ll be online for the most part, remember that these are real writers and real people.

Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized global communications and you will find a lot of good people on both sites if you haven’t already done so. A lot of them are just like you and we all want the same goals.

While many writing fields are competitive markets, it’s important to remember each writer has their own niche or field that they write in, so don’t think of other writers as your competition. Many won’t be. And even if they are, we’re all on different levels as it is.

The only person a writer needs to compete with is themselves.

 

Self-Competition

As someone who used to compete in men’s physique between 2012 and 2015, I’ve come to learn one thing: It isn’t simply about the competition on stage as it was to me becoming the best version of me.

In other words, if I took the stage in the best shape of my life, I knew I’d done my job. The same goes for you as a writer. We still have about 45 weeks left this year, so if you can start today if you haven’t already done so and by the end of December, truly state you’ve come a long way, you’ve already won.

Set goals and commitments, such as:

1. Write every day during that sacred writing time.

2. Make at least three new writing friends per month.

3. Turn what you’re writing into projects and watch them grow throughout the year.

Guys, the possibilities are endless when it comes to self-competition, and soon you’ll be setting goals like:

1. Minimize adverbs to X amount.

2. Stop using two or more adjectives to describe, instead use stronger nouns and verbs.

By watching yourself grow, you’ll add tougher challenges for yourself over time.

 

The (Not So) Long Road Ahead

A year really isn’t a long time, though it seems so to many.

It’s already the middle of February, so the first six weeks of the year have flown by.

Did you do anything to better yourself yet in 2019?

If the answer is no, today would be a great place to begin.

Here’s why you need to pursue your writing dream despite the 40+ hours you’re working already at the DDJ.

1. Writing is a great escape from reality.

2. Writing will provide you a sense of accomplishment.

3. Writing is a process that you can see through from beginning to end.

4. Writing is work, but it’s fun and fulfilling work.

5. Writing is a form of self-care. If you haven’t researched the importance of self-care, I urge you to.

6. Writing will open the doors to new friends, both online and potentially offline.

Imagine accomplishing just these six examples over the next ten and a half months. Look at where you are now and ask if you want to be in the position you’re in. If the answer is no, then by all means, it’s time to pursue the passion you’ve always had in you and wanted.

Why wait another second?

Why continue to procrastinate?

It’s about time you started enjoying your work, feeling successful, feeling as if you did something other than the 9-5 (or in my case, 2-10) grind.

Get out there, write, make time, find a support crew, set goals, accomplish them, grow, and you will soon find that the full-time writing dream really isn’t as far off as it appears.

Oh, and always, always, always keep learning. Invest in courses, find ways that make you better as a writer.

Never think you know it all. Never assume just one or two people know it all. Invest in ways that will take you to where you want to be in the writing field and no one can ever stop you.

How to Avoid Brain Drain at the Keyboard: Two Simple Steps You Can Take Today

 

Okay, so what is brain drain? I first came across the term back in the sixth grade when my teacher defined it as coming back to school on Monday after the weekend or coming back after Thanksgiving or Christmas break.

Yes, she was one of those old school teachers who gave homework as if she was the only one giving it out.

Needless to say I passed her classes with a ‘C-minus’ and a 2.2 overall GPA back in the sixth grade.

Anyway, enough for the throat clearing. Today I want to talk to you about how to avoid the dreaded forgetfulness at the keyboard.

Recall my previous article where I stated my four awesome ways to get motivated to write.

Something I neglected to mention: Always have a notebook on hand or at least make notes in your phone when the inspiration pops up say, if you’re gazing into the sunset at your favorite place where the memories stir up.

If I’m gazing at the good old Wintersville water tower it’s wise to have something to write with so I don’t sit at the keyboard and wonder what the hell motivated me in the first place.

So, embark on the following steps in the following situations.

 

Journal

I don’t mean a daily journal. Instead I mean an idea journal. Jot down the thoughts, emotions, and inspiration. Sure, you can use your laptop in such situations, such as if it were a clear summer evening when I gaze into the lost horizons behind the tower and write down every single thought that crosses my mind.

Remember, you aren’t writing a novel idea here; just write your feelings and analyze them later on. They don’t even need to make sense.

For instance, if I’m gazing into the tower (see picture above), I’m writing something like this:

1. Time

2. Gin Blossoms

3. Not only Numb

4. Congratulations, I’m Sorry

5. New Miserable Experience

6. Goo Goo Dolls

7. Only Wanna be With You

8. A synopsis of my own, personal music videos for some corresponding songs like Lost Horizons, Hey Jealousy, Found Out About You, etc.

Notice that I’m associating time in Wintersville, Ohio with alternative rock songs from the 1990s plus some other subgenres.

Also note that what I wrote doesn’t even make sense, but that’s not the idea here. The idea is to know exactly why I drove to that abandoned grocery store parking lot to catch a view of the Wintersville sunset falling behind the tower.

At least I have an idea on what to write about.

 

Make Videos

Yes, make a video of your ideas. If I’m running around town during a summer morning I might make a video as they spark my creative juices.

Since Northern Knights was set in a Wintersville-like area, I did this constantly. Some of the more notable landmarks in Wintersville were also set in Northern Knights, such as shots of the water tower, the mural, Kettlewell Stadium, which is actually mentioned in the book, and the “location” of Summit University.

Note that no actual university is located in Wintersville and the nearest one is Franciscan University of Steubenville a few miles away.

I also snapped a little picture montage as well, which I’ll share below.

The pictures and videos both allowed me to be more descriptive while writing and editing the work.

 

Take Action

It’s more than just me stating this is what you need to do. You actually have to get up and do it.

I know the weather is still somewhat cold, but don’t worry, we’re only eighteen days from March 1st when the season changes in my neck of the woods.

Your homework assignment is a simple one, and don’t worry, it’s nothing like the mountain of work my sixth grade teacher once gave my class.

All you need is a notebook or laptop and a cell phone. Write your feelings and ideas, snap photos of places that provide inspiration, go home and get writing.

Trust me, you will be inspired by what you find and your creative juices will start flowing immediately.

How to Earn Google Indexing

Google indexing is your key to an awesome future in both blogging and finding your own target audience. In fact, when you know how to use “mysterious” terms like SEO and keywords to your advantage, a new readership can and will open up.

This will allow you to accomplish a few things, WITH TIME, OF COURSE!

One, increased traffic.

Two, as established above, increased readership.

Three, increased loyalty.

Four, increased brand identity.

 

How to Blog

First, before you learn how to get indexed, you need to learn how to blog. As most of you reading this post are either authors, writers, or bloggers, you may have an idea on how to create and implement an effective blog.

For those of you already writing or blogging and aren’t acquiring the amount of traffic you’re expecting, let me help you out.

Here’s how to create an effective blog:

1. Choose a niche, which is one, and only one topic that the blog covers. My niche is how independent authors and writers can gain exposure and credibility. Sometimes, your niche is broad, so you might have to down-niche.

2. Write within this niche, utilizing keywords and SEO. Don’t worry, I’m showing you how this is done.

3. Make sure your articles are at least 1,000 words, though Google will index posts that are fewer than 1,000 if keywords are properly utilized and the content reaches a certain standard of quality. Don’t freak, if you stay on topic your quality is high.

4. Talk to your audience and solve their problems. People aren’t searching through Google to hear you talk about your life unless something happened in it that’s interesting enough to help them solve their own problem, then by all means, carry on.

5. As I implied above, don’t talk about yourself. You won’t build a following.

 

SEO and Keywords

These go hand in hand. Basically, it’s Search Engine Optimization, hence SEO, plus keywords, which optimizes Google searches.

What is SEO?

Keywords that you use which Google will index.

My keywords? Google Indexing.

Notice these keywords are in my title and first paragraph, preferably first sentence.

Now, in my WordPress back office, when I click on this post to edit it, I’ll see an SEO Title, SEO Description, and SEO Keywords. This is located below my post’s body.

The SEO Title is 60 characters, and that’s it. Usually, I can fit the keyword-containing portion into my SEO Title.

For my SEO Description, the keywords appear here as well. The SEO Description is a short summary, 160 characters long, describing your post.

And finally, SEO Keywords, which I usually just place my article’s keywords into.

Many novice bloggers tend to freak when they hear they need to utilize SEO and keywords as if there’s some magic and insane mathematical equation involved.

Nope, just proper placement of a few words.

You can also use semantic keywords, which gives you a list of words related to your post’s keywords, but these aren’t necessary to get indexed. They do help, though, as they will increase your article’s relevance in the search engines.

 

Tricks to Increase Traffic

1) Share to every single social media site you can think of, especially the Big Four (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+). Your traffic will see MODEST increases with these sites, but by sharing to Google+, you can gain faster indexing.

2) Invest in a keyword tool. There are free keyword tools, but investing just $50/month in a keyword tool will always give you more accurate information. I use a tool called Jaaxy, which allows me to see how often certain keywords are searched per month, average traffic each keyword earns if ranked on the first page, and Quoted Search Results (QSR), which allows me to see how many other blogs utilize the same keywords. Shoot to include keywords that rank low in QSR, preferably below 100, and definitely below 200, as you’ll face lesser competition.

3) Blog regularly. Regular blogging includes posting at least twice a week, but you can go as many as all seven days a week. With my current day job at eight-hour days with the same work schedule, I can time when I post my blogs. Regular posting helps you gain a readership as they know you’re in this for the long haul. It also builds trust for your brand and grants credibility.

4) Seek to help or educate. Far too many bloggers, especially novices, believe they need to just write without purpose, which leads to skewed results at best. Sure, you may get lucky and have a few posts that take off, but for the most part you aren’t building a readership. To build one, seek to have a purpose behind your blog. What did you look up when learning your niche? What keywords did you type into Google? That will help you start your blog and gain a small readership.

5) One niche only. As I stated earlier, stick to a single niche only. Don’t deviate. While it’s okay to do this every once in a while, even a deviation post must contain some kind of connection to your blog’s topic.

6) Use Evergreen posts. Just like how an evergreen tree keeps its coating year-round, Evergreen posts won’t die out anytime soon, as I stated in my previous article. They’re timeless. This post here is Evergreen because Google indexing and keyword searching is here to stay. Any topic that’s here to stay qualifies as Evergreen.

7) Do NOT keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing, however, is a thing of the past, and that’s where bloggers once used keywords in almost every paragraph. For this post, if I used Google Indexing in each of these points plus in each paragraph above, Google will never index this page. Instead, use keywords only in the title and first paragraph in the body of your post, as well as once or twice throughout, but this isn’t required.

 

Work on Your Blog

Your tasks today are simple: If your blog isn’t up to par with keywords and SEO, make them so. If your blog is more about you or random topics, it’s time to delete a lot of posts and start over.

You don’t have to change the name of your blog unless it appears to have something to do with another niche.

For instance, My Freedom Flame was named after a defense force in my book, Northern Knights (Freedom Flames), but I also coined the phrase because I believe writing can free you from a DDJ, or Dreaded Day Job, with time, effort, and focus.

And if writing is our escape, especially if we find ourselves moderately good at it, wouldn’t it be great to free ourselves from the restraints of the real world and allow writing to pay our bills?

How to Incorporate Subplots

 

I took a page from J.K. Rowling’s book while writing Northern Knights and used a fictional sport as a subplot because a) I’m a sports fan, and b) I always wanted to write a book where the main cast were athletes. But first, I had to find specific ways to incorporate subplots and at least link them to the story’s main plot.

Coming up with a sport called shotball (think rugby where downfield passing is allowed and soccer nets instead of goal posts) before I even thought of Northern Knights way back in 2009 when the National Football League started to go soft, I knew it was my sport of choice to infuse into the main plot.

But how?

How does a story about a colonial revolution in any way make sense to place a sport inside it?

What I did was establish the fact Cain Riscattare and his clique were athletes, and this starts on my book description where the reader knows that while this is an action-packed urban fantasy, Cain’s a college athlete.

It’s right there in black and white.

After not only establishing this in the description but hitting hard on it early in the book along with a few hints that trouble is on the horizon, the reader would come to expect to read a few action-packed sporting chapters.

 

A Subplot Example

Let’s take the historical fiction route. In Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder (yes, I read this book each year) Mary Alice falls for Royce McNabb but the real plot that was established from page one dealt with how she was going to make it through an entire year of country life.

Remember, the year is 1937, so without cell phones, or any luxury we have today if you were far out in the country, you were stuck.

Royce McNabb arrives just before Valentine’s Day and a subplot ensues.

Some can also make the argument that Mary Alice submitting her Newsy Notes to the local newspaper that causes a stir in the small town also qualifies for the subplot.

And you can always have more than one but it must make sense.

If you do take the romantic subplot route, it’s one of the easier ones to infuse with the main plot and many authors will do this, because for one reason or another, if you add romance into your novels they draw a reader’s interest.

It should be no surprise that romance is the bestselling genre on Amazon.

 

A Second Example

Using my first book, Northern Knights as an example, I stated earlier that shotball was a subplot, but established this at the beginning of the story.

This, in my opinion, is an easier route because the reader expects a subplot. Sometimes if an author infuses a subplot in the middle of the work it might make zero sense to the reader and they can’t wait to get back to reading about the main plot.

I’m sure we’ve all read books like these at least once. Even if the subplot makes sense, introducing it too late can turn a reader off, so by letting the reader know there’s more to the main plot than meets the eye is a great way to pull off the subplot.

It was something I picked up on when writing Northern Knights, where early drafts focused on the main plot before it branched off into shotball, where I realized very early on this made zero sense and the reader would be confused as to why there’s a sport involved, even if the shotball subplot made sense.

 

How to Pull off Subplots

If you’re adding it in or mentioning it early, explain through dialogue and even through the main plot how the subplot works into the main.

For instance, here’s what pulled off shotball, which readers found compelling:

1. Cain and a few friends’ biggest rivals since high school played for the Santos Knights’ main rival, the Leistung Monarchs.

2. These rivals were mentioned earlier and established as primary antagonists later.

3. Through dialogue, the reader understands that the sport of shotball is like American football in the US, soccer in most of the world, and rugby in countries like Wales. In other words, it’s a big deal.

Again, the reader realizes Cain’s a college athlete in the book description and it’s reinforced early in the first chapter.

But what if you’re adding a subplot later in the work?

All you have to do is to let it infuse right into your text.

For instance, in A Year Down Yonder, Royce McNabb arrives as a new student who Mary Alice takes notice of. You know as a reader this is going to evolve.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rita Skeeter becomes a major subplot, and again she comes in as she’s reporting on the first Triwizard Tournament happening after a long layoff. It makes sense to the reader that a reporter from the media is coming in to cover the event.

This is one of my favorite subplots because it’s Rowling’s way of showing how slanted mainstream media can be at times, so reading this subplot has always been satisfying.

Always remember, the subplot must fuse with the main plot. If it doesn’t, leave it out of the story.

I like subplots that give the reader a break from the tension, yet still holds true to the story you’re telling as if it’s something that’s worth saying.

Given Cain’s rivalry with another clique that dates back to before his college days and how they become primary antagonists in Northern Knights has allowed my readers to look forward to shotball matchups against the rivals, knowing such a rivalry will move the main plot along.

But it still gets rid of the tension for a chapter as what do most of us find in sports?

Entertainment.

You won’t believe how many people watch sports simply for entertainment. While some of us have niche websites based on sports while others analyze and break down each game, the majority find sports to be entertaining and nothing more.

So, implement your subplots to add more interest to your story and reinforce the main plot. Either cue the reader in early or add them in a way that makes sense to the author, the plot itself, and the reader.

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