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Writing Books/How many plots within a novel


Thank you for reading my question. My question is how many plots are too many within a novel. I am writing another novel. I am about 75% finished. I notice that I tend to get so involved in my characters, I think I am creating too many sub-plots. Last night I decided to cut a sub-plot (20 pages. I saved it in case I changed my mind). What I cut out I liked, but it may drag the story on. I really like what I wrote, but would a reader want to spend that extra time reading those 20 additional pages? This is the question I asked myself. This is a young adult/sci-fi fantasy novel.

Hi, L.Marie!

Are you talking about actual "plots" or "subplots"? A book really shouldn't have more than one main plot. But it can have multiple subplots, depending on how many primary characters you have. Think about Lord of the Rings. Each character has their own life---their own subplot that is fulfilled on the way to resolving the main plot: Get the ring to the volcano.

Whether it's too many is only discovered when it distracts from the main plot. How many subplots do you have in your own life? Let's say you have a day job. But you have kids and a husband. The main plot is getting to work on time because of a huge meeting. The subplots are the distractions of your daughter telling you she FORGOT to tell you she needs cupcakes to take to homeroom. Your husband reminds you to stop by the laundry at lunch because he's out of clean shirts. The dog threw up on the rug and is acting sick. Dealing and resolving the subplots are interesting, but you still have to be at work on time! Or, you have to call in sick, or you have to be late and risk getting yelled at. If there's a crisis that had to be resolved at work, one of the subplots might help you actually achieve the plot. You might run into your boss's wife at the grocery getting cupcakes, who sympathizes with you and wins you an ally. Or, you might run into the person on the other side of the crisis at the vet where you have the same kind of dog who is sick and suddenly, what was going to be a huge problem later is now a warm and fuzzy meeting where you surprise everyone. :D

See how subplots can fold in, even though there are many of them? But distractions have to go (notice I didn't mention the laundry or the shirts. ;) They could have been distractions. )

Does that help?


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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