Sunday, April 27, 2014

Braids: A Writing and Revision Technique

Heather Seller’s wonderful book, Chapter by Chapter, discusses a technique called braiding. Now that I know the term, I see it everywhere. Even before I had a name for it, I’d been noticing it in books I enjoy. But I hadn’t found a way to keep track of the emotional, physical, psychological, and other sub plots and arcs that ran through my stories. I’d tried several paper models, but they hadn’t been effective in helping me see my novel clearly.

But, with my spreadsheet and a new understanding of braiding in hand, I thought, what if I make a new spreadsheet page to visualize the braids. Voila.

I used the information from my original spreadsheet to look at how the plot lines in Knowingintertwined. I could see when I left one plot for two long. I could see how plot lines and character arcs balanced and played off each other. I could see where there were holes and missing parts and I could make plans to fill them in.

In Knowing, Alex and Sophie have a cat named Ginger. While she isn’t a sub plot in herself, I found that I didn’t always use her well to reveal character and tension, so I gave Ginger her own small column in the Threads spreadsheet.

I’ve wondered if I might skip the plot-tracking step of the first spreadsheet and just make a threads spreadsheet. I might try that for later stories in the series where keeping track of what we know about each character might become less important, but for now, both the plot spreadsheet and the thread spreadsheet help me see my novel clearly so that I can make it an even better read.

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