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I have an extraordinary story to write having now completed the plot, character, subject, and conflict notes.

My problem is that the actual story is so vast, and I feel that the writing is going too slowly. Do you have any tips for efficient writing so that I may complete this story before the next bicentennial…?

-Nils Boisen

Hello Nils!

It is distressingly easy for a vast, complex novel to take hold and run with the ball. You must seize control and keep control. It's done through outlines:

Let's see if we can figure out what makes this story so vast and complex. First list the elements of your book under these headings: PLOT EVENTS, CHARACTERS, SUBPLOTS, LOCATIONS. If you think of other elements that don't fit under these headings, include them. Under each heading, list the elements out in order: first plot event, second plot event; main character, secondary character, subplot 1, 2, etc.

It may be that you have too many subplots. A good rule for fiction is that while the main character's plot is unfolding, another dramatic event such as war, flood, fire, Miss America contest, etc. should be happening largely off scene. This is the background against which the main plot is set. Examine your subplots carefully. Is each one necessary? What does it add to the story? If very little or nothing, dump it.

Develop these outlines by adding details until you feel you have all, or almost all, of the book outlined. Irrelevant details such as the color of the hero's eyes, etc. can be left out, also all dialogue.

Build your book with alternating scenes and narration. Big scenes can be labeled "A", smaller ones "B" and so on. All the plot events and locations should be scenes or scene/ narration.

Once you have done all your outlines you can start writing, going back and forth between the text and the outlines, making sure they match. If you make any changes they should be made to the outlines, in advance. You will find the writing going much faster now as you will never have to stop and think about what comes next.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 250+ questions.

And good luck with your book!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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