Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tips for When Your Plot Derails by Dora Hiers

Dora Hiers
It was a long weekend, and I was armed with a plan. Hubby was scheduled to attend a public event on Monday, and our precious grandkids would be picked up from their overnight stay around noon. 

That left an entire afternoon to curl up in my recliner and lose myself in a sweet romance. Ahhh...

My plan derailed, starting a little after midnight, when our three-year-old grandson snuck into the kitchen and sprayed heavy-duty insecticide on the floor, a product our son used to douse his clothes for his trip to Myanmar. I heard the little guy and got up to investigate. Twenty minutes later, I slipped back into bed and relayed what happened to hubby.

“That label has some strong warnings.” Hubby, being the hero that he is, got up and, after verifying the label, rushed back into our bedroom. “You’re supposed to rinse the affected area under cold water for twenty minutes. Then call poison control.”

We inspected the now sleeping boy for any unusual symptoms. Satisfied that he wasn’t suffering any ill effects, we crawled under the covers again.

Two hours later, another unusual noise had me bolting out of bed. What trouble was Little Man getting into this time? I was relieved that the culprit was my teenage granddaughter, using the bathroom. She doesn’t spend the night much at our house, so I waited to make sure she wasn’t afraid.

The toilet flushed, once, twice. Then a plunger rooted around in the bowl. “Meme, help.”

After a couple failed attempts to loosen the clogged toilet, I gave up and headed back to bed, intent on salvaging a couple hours of sleep. Little Man’s an early riser.


Reluctant to leave for work with two kids and a stopped-up toilet, hubby insisted on dragging out the plumbing snake. At three a.m.

Hours and five trips to Lowe's later, hubby surrendered the battle and I relinquished the dream of losing myself in a book. I flopped onto my recliner, drained, exhausted.

Has your plot derailed?
The next day, with renewed vigor and only one trip to Lowes, we had a new, working toilet. --->

As writers, we may start with a germ of an idea. Maybe it’s just that, a seed, or perhaps we’ve fleshed out the entire story into a synopsis.

What happens when that plan goes awry? Or our plot derails?

Pray. Ask God for wisdom and direction. In the wee hours of the morning, I was praying more to go back to bed than fixing the toilet.

Step away from the problem. In his haste to get it fixed, hubby kept attacking the problem, even though he was exhausted and worn out. Sometimes, it helps to take a step back, away from the problem. It’s the same for your manuscript. If your story derails, leave it alone for a bit. Take a walk. Rest.

Reevaluate. Hubby checked problem areas and attempted different solutions until he finally identified the problem. Do the same with your plot. Apply different scenarios. Ask yourself “what if ‘this’ happens?” Make a flowchart and continue until you’ve covered all possible situations. Then, implement a new plan to wrangle your story back on track.

Forge ahead. Armed with a new plan (just like hubby with a new toilet), step back into your story with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Give thanks. Don’t fret. Yeah, I didn’t get to settle back with that book like I’d planned, but you know what? God’s plan for that day was different from mine, and it was so much better because He allowed me to be the helpmate my husband needed and I got to spend time with him. Give thanks for the change of events. Trust that God has a plan for you and your story, even in the midst of your turmoil and indecision.

 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. ~Proverbs 16:9 NIV

What about you? Has your plot ever derailed? 
What steps did you take to fix it?

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After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer's block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal's heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?

Dora Hiers is a multi-published author of Heart Racing, God-Gracing romances. She’s a member of RWA, ACFW, and the Treasurer for ACFW-Charlotte Chapter. Connect with her here on Seriously Write, her personal blogTwitterFacebook or Pinterest.


  1. Love those tips, Dora! (And your illustration made me giggle more than once -- sorry, Dora's Hubby!)

    Whenever I get stuck, I always give it back to Him and ask what He wants me to do next. If I listen, I usually get the inspiration I need. And I love the What-if flowchart! I'm going to go try that right now.

    Thanks so much. I always enjoy having a cup of coffee with you. :)

    1. This message was approved by Ernie Hiers. lol
      Glad it helped, and same here, Angie. But wish it was an actual cup of coffee, and not just a cyber cup. Must make it happen! xxoo

    2. LOL--I was with you all the way until you mentioned a flowchart!!! That just sounds way too "plotty" for me, girlfriend!

    3. haha, somehow I knew that wouldn't pass your eagle eye, Myra. Seriously, though, what do you do when you get stuck, my "writing into the mist" pantser friend?

    4. To paraphrase Dory in Finding Nemo, just keep writing . . . just keep writing . . . just keep writing . . .


  2. Oh Dora, what a night! I so identified with the prayer to get back to sleep! LOL

    I had a book once that I thought I had finished only to discover I had major plot problems. Hard to admit at first, but once I did and worked through them I had a much better book.

    Speaking of books - yours sounds great!

    1. Edits, and editors, always bring out the best in our books, don't they? :)

      Thanks for your kind words, Terri. Wishing you many restful nights of sleep. lol

  3. Hi Dora, you got me laughing out loud (having two little grandsons of our own),, tying it in to just what I needed to hear. Like always!

    Can't WAIT to get to Truth...I've got a YA clogging my time right now, but it's all good. Love you, my friend! xoxox

    1. Glad I was good for a chuckle today. Don't remember chuckling too much at 3 am...or at 6 that day. But now? Oh yeah.
      Just adore my grands. They're such fun, aren't they? Hugs and love backatcha, Tanya. Can't wait to finally meet you in person this fall!!!

    2. Same here, Dora. A dream come true for me! I'll keep ya posted. xoxo And speaking of grands, we're off to the seven year old right now! He's my angel

  4. Thanks for the chuckles, Dora! Love the tips.

  5. When it goes wrong, it goes REALLY wrong doesn't it? My hubby would have been up all night too. :)

    All great points, Dora. I like that "step away from the problem" part. That's always so hard to do. We think doing so means giving up.

    1. "Stepping away" doesn't have to mean for weeks or months. Sometimes just leaving your ms alone for a few hours allows your mind a brief rest, long enough for God to plant more ideas or give you the insight you need. Thanks for the encouragement, Sandy. :)

    2. So true. If I step away too long, I lose the momentum. Then it's even harder to get back into the story.

      But, yes, a little time away does renew perspective. That's one reason I habitually shut down the computer around the same time every day so I can enjoy a relaxing evening with hubby. Somehow, overnight, the story ideas get refreshed for the next day's writing.


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