Untangling Editing With Numerous Plot Threads

Sometimes editing can be straightforward. You read, insert dropped commas and perfect word choice, make sure time doesn’t pass backwards(unless its supposed to), and check for repetitive actions to make sure the main character doesn’t finish the same drink twice in one scene.

Doesn’t sound so complicated, right? But what about those novels with ten to twenty important characters,trident-gum-all-tangled-up-600-46814

each with their own plot threads, those sprawling epics of the novel world with prequels and sequels to consider as well? How on Earth are we supposed to know if everything has linked up properly, and catch and correct any dropped or tangled plot threads?

There are likely a number of methods that could work, but seeing as how I don’t plot while I write – instead flying by the seat of my broomstick – I had to devise something that would work for me.

Step 1. Read the novel and make basic notes of your impressions without changing anything except for the little edits like basic grammar and punctuation.

Step 2. Read and outline in this format:

Chapter 1 Page 1-18.5 (18 pages)

scene1—Genesis and contact discuss her choices/verbal sparring

scene2—colony meeting hall election talk/Captain reluctant to run again

scene3—Theresa and Em talk about Abby, David charms Abby with flowers,Em headache,Carla etc discuss viability ratings

scene4— David Questions G about staring and avoiding him


When making the outline, include every scene in each chapter with a short phrase to indicate each plot thread and main character included. Give enough info to jog your memory when you read it.

Step 3. After finishing the outline use your notes to find problem threads, and the outline to find each place in the book where the threads pop up. Pick a problem plot thread and read the scenes containing just one thread in sequence to see if they match up or not. This makes it clear what needs added, deleted, or altered to properly address that one thread.

Step 4. Go through and read and edit each thread using the outline as a map.

So far this process has helped me feel less daunted by the monumental task of editing my sequel, allowing me to streamline several plot threads. Now its time to get my novel into the hands of my alpha reader!


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