Untangle Plot Problems With This Quick Tip #MondayBlogs #amwriting

Writers talk about their characters being disobedient all the time. It’s like some kind of cosmic joke, we spend weeks planning, checking, re-checking. We dust our shirt collar in a smug, ‘I’ve defeated my story outline’ pose, only to get 30,000 words or so into our novel and the little darlings bastards have pitched a killer twist that’s so far out of left field even book-God himself wouldn’t have seen it coming.


I’m telling you.

Those little story critters know exactly what their doing. Lulling us into a false sense of security and then when we’re balls deep into the flabby middle, they slap us upside the head with something so good, we can’t ignore it. Tyrants. Heathens. Thou cullionly idle-headed hedge-pigs!

And so, the plot is messed up, the timeline fudged and your brain a crockpot of drafts, twists, confused dialogue and stroppy characters.

What to do?

Here’s a quick tip to help you beat those little darlings back into shape.

The reason why most of us get confused when a left field twist appears at an inconvenient time, is because the timeline is inevitably bumfuckled. Subplots need pulling out, crunching up, shredding and peppering back into the right place. But if your plot is even remotely complicated that is no easy task. After all, it’s why you wrote an outline from the start.

So. Here’s my quick tip:


  1. Obscenely large paper (or normal bits stuck together)
  2. Post its (in a variety of colours), or if you don’t own post its (WHY NOT, YOU STATIONERY HEATHENS?) coloured pens for differentiation purposes.
  3. Your brain (if an introverted thinker)
  4. Or if an extroverted thinker – another person if you have one available. If not, try kidnapping, bribery or blackmail.


Take each chapter in chronological order, and talk (or think) through every point that happens in that chapter, then write it down. Go in chronological order, from start to finish.

On your bits of paper, use each column (vertically) to represent your chapter. Each key point from a subplot should be colour coded:

This is so you can:

a) see how your subplots move through the story

b) whether or not you have a gap

c) and if they’re rounded off nicely.

Keep going until you hit the final chapter. Once there, review each coloured subplot for the above points. Then review your entire story, notes, text or info you’re holding in your head to look for gaps – you would be amazed how easy it is to leave things unfinished.


There we have it. One super quick tip to untangle plot problems.

What methods do you guys use to work out your plot issues?

If you liked this post, why not get even more awesome writing tips in the book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and just tap the logo of your device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.

Read Keepers, the first book in my Young Adult fantasy series nowOr to hear more about the release of the sequels as well as get regular CogMail updates you can do so here.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestGoodreads


  1. Most excellent! This post-it – I mean post – couldn’t be more timely, if you’d been living in my house and standing in my writing-thinking space, Sacha. *Looks round the room…* 😀

  2. I’m a pantser so I have no plot outline when I start. The only thing I have is an idea where I want to be at the end of the journey … and even that is not set in stone because the characters, even characters I never imagined in the story, decide where the plot goes.

    Therefore, I write the entire rough draft and don’t give a shit what happens until I’m done and start to get feedback from my beta readers and/or editor. Then I do something like you suggested in this post and then start mending.

    That’s where I am for my next novel. I created that plot outline from the finished rough draft (that had already been revised twice without a plot outline) and yesterday what used to be chapter 1 became chapter 3.


    1. You’re 100% pantser? I’m super impressed. I don’t know how you do it with no outline at all. That is one of the things I love about writers – no two processes are alike. 😀

  3. My characters do this to me all the time. I make little notes and when I edit I check for any inconsistencies that may have happened because they were so cheeky. I’m not much of an outliner so I have a basic idea about how my story begins and ends and then I let my characters do what they will.

  4. Sounds like an effective solution, Sacha. I tend to work out most kinks when outlining, so rarely do I get a surprise coming out of left field that shreds my draft and tosses it up in the air like confetti. But when that does happen – like two characters falling in love who aren’t supposed to! – I find it hard to straighten out the situation on the laptop. The solution seems to require a more fluid approach, including a switched up visual and working with my hands. I’ll give this method a try! Thanks <3

    1. PLEASE tell me how you do it at outline stage? I don’t seem to get the storylines come to me in complete form until I start writing. Like I get a good solid outline but there’s always bits that come later. SIGH. I am so old school when it comes to working out problems, it has to be with my hands and bits of paper!!

      1. I do a ton of daydreaming. How’s that for a technical answer? Ha ha. Seriously though, lots of musing in combo with detailed outlining, character bios, and world building up front really help to ground the story before I start writing. And things absolutely change as I write (those darn characters!), but they tend to be small adjustments. Watch me jinx myself. Ha ha.

        1. haha I doubt you will jinx yourself. I find it super frustrating that they mess shit up for me! It makes me slow – I am determined to speed up this year. Hope you’re well 🙂

  5. Excellent advice, thank you, Sacha <3 I might just need this for my current WIP (the on I'm revising, anyway – not to jinx it but my characters are behaving in the one I'm writing)

    1. They’re behaving? hehe, you lucky thing. Write like the wind and smash out as many words as you can while they’re toeing the line. Lol. I love the writing process and how crazy it is – isn’t it bizarre how something that is only a figment of our imagination can have a full blown row with us! – only a writer!

  6. WOW what a great tip… will be sure to use!! Plots are so hard to sort out, especially with subplots – but this provides a quick and easy way to view and fix up every scene in my book!! Thank you for this. Lifesaver xD

  7. Bumfuckle… my new favourite word! 🤣 I don’t outline in depth, so when this happens it’s not so much of an issue. I have one sheet of paper divided into the various plot lines (for Conor Kelly #3 I have 4 columns). If the plots iend up deviating from that I use another page with a flow chart to show where the new development slots in. That’s all. But if that ever happens (when I finally start writing again!) I’ll be sure to use your tip… its a thorough no nonsense detailed approach… with pretty colours! 😆💕

  8. Good timing. I had just pasted the paper to the wall. I took a break to eat and check my mail. I was going to use colored pens, but post-its are better. I tried to straighten it out with the cards in scrivener, but that didn’t work out as well as I liked because each character had a different chapter. In one character case, tasks mattered but not necessarily the day carried out. The other character’s actions were timed more precisely. Posts-its on the wall are better.

Leave a Reply