Editing Rant: Homeschool Plotting

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Several of my sisters homeschool their children and one with several in her brood texted me about a writing issue she was having. Below is the whole exchange, spelling and grammar errors corrected for clarity.


“How do you tell your authors that they need a plot? (or at least a conflict/dilemma and resolution)”

“Since we (Falstaff books where I edit) are action adventure genres, conflict is fairly integral.

Age of the offender?

Mostly I focus on beginning middle end. What is the BME of the character development, and what is the BME of the action development? You aren’t saying something is missing so much as asking for them to define it for you and they then know where to beef it up. By asking for both, you hide where you think the problem is and make them find it. I do this with newer authors when they ask me to quickly look at their stuff. Those under contract would not have gotten the contract if they are missing plot.”

“K is 12. For language arts she was to write a story. I thought the conflict was going to be the last part of her outline, but it wasn’t. She wants it to be a different part, but does not want to make the protagonist work for the solution, nor to express distress beforehand, nor satisfaction with the resolution.”

“So the question is where is the change, or why is there no change? Mom went grocery shopping and brought back food, is a change in the house. She didn’t bring back food is a different story and also interesting.

Sounds like you also want to see both a climax and a resolution. The solution and the reactions to the solution. That one I do need to talk to authors about. The emotional need of the reader to be released from a story …. otherwise known as why people hate cliffhangers.

A question to ask her, maybe, is why is the main character interesting? How is the reader identifying with her? Do you want to show thinking, feeling, action, or reaction to have the reader know her? What character have you read or watched recently that drew you in? Why? What did they do or feel? Were they satisfied with the story resolution? How do you know?

Just realized she is still mostly a concrete thinker. Asking her to think like a reader or the character is likely at the edge of her abstract thinking. A good learning experience, but an additional layer to the lesson.”


Yes, I am that wordy texting on my phone. Sister didn’t get back to me about how things turned out with K and her plots. I remember the fights I had with creative writing at that age. Abstract thinking, figuring out how the reader sees the words is tough. And I have seen adult writers not wanting to make a protagonist work for a solution. Torturing your characters – these parts of you being put on paper – is tough, especially when they look up from the page with distress. Be interesting to see where K is after a couple more years of brain rewiring from concrete to abstract.