4 Ways to Identify Problems With Plot and Flow

When I edit another writer's work, one of the areas I focus on is plot and flow of the writing.

What is plot and flow?

According to Dictionary.com, plot is the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.  It is overarching and follows the story arc.

Flow is related to plot but looks at the work on a smaller scale.  Sections don't connect well, are awkward to read, or choppy. It could be a transition issue between words, paragraphs, sentences, sections, or chapters. If something in the piece makes you stop and re-read it in order to discern what the writer meant, it could be a flow problem.

How can you recognize plot and flow issues?

Short answer? It's not easy. Why? We know what we meant to say, so that's how we read it.  Our brains fill in the gaps.

I've found four ways that help me find plot and flow issues in my own work:
  1. Ask someone else to read it and identify any areas that confuse them or make them lose focus on the story.  This option works well if you know someone who understands how to write creatively. It shouldn't be your mother, aunt, uncle, etc. unless they excel in providing helpful writing feedback.
  2. Put it aside for a month or longer if possible, then pick it up again. If you start reading and find yourself asking, "What did I mean by that?" you probably have a flow issue.
  3. Read it out loud. It's amazing what you'll notice when you do this. You will stumble over the awkward parts and find problems you didn't know existed.
  4. Identify the plot and ensure each scene contributes to that plot. Each scene should move the plot forward. If you can't identify a purpose to a scene, you should delete it or change it to focus on the plot.

Writing critique groups can help you with most of this. A rule of thumb, for me, is to revise a section if several people in my writing group identify a problem with it.

Have you found a method for identifying and/or fixing plot and flow issues? Please share them in the comments section, below.


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