After attending Jay Asher’s suspense workshop (No Bookmarks Allowed) at the Houston Writers Guild Conference, I became inspired. It was a major “ah ha” moment for me. I decided to re-outline my novel to create more suspense. If you’re worried that your manuscript isn’t the page-turner you want it to be, feel free to copy my methods.
In typical Brittany fashion, I created a spreadsheet to create my suspense outline. I listed each scene with the following columns:
- Chapter number
- Scene Name
- Point of View
- Additional characters present
- Plot: Here I include any important plot information that occurs in this scene.
- Stage: This is an optional one that I don’t always use. It’s meant to denote which point of the manuscript the scene belongs to by using Freytag’s Pyramid (Exposition, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, Denouement).
- Conflict: This is where I list new questions (suspense injections) that the reader should be asking by the end of the scene.
- Resolution: This is where I list the answers to previously asked questions which are answered in the current scene.
For the conflicts and resolutions, I gave each new question a number. When it was answered in a later scene, I used
strikethrough for that particular question, so I knew it wasn’t an unanswered question at a glance.
First, I used the sheet to list the way my novel was currently laid out, then I used that template to create a new version. In the new version, I made sure there were new questions (suspense) by the end of each scene, which was amazing.
Some scenes ended up being split in half because the question and answer were both provided. Some scenes got removed because they didn’t really move the plot forward. And some scenes got combined into one because, while they moved the plot forward, they didn’t really add any suspense to the novel.
After re-designing each scene, I reviewed the entire list of scenes with someone who had never read my entire novel: Peretroopah (the husband). As I read through each scene’s major plot points, he offered his fresh perspective on what seemed realistic or not, areas that didn’t make sense to him, scenes that didn’t have enough suspense, and a thousand other helpful things.
Using this road map, I’m now rewriting each of my scenes so they each have more suspense. After each chapter is complete, I send it along to my sister, Peretroopah, and some writer friends (who attended the conference and workshop as well) for feedback.
Thus far, the feedback has been really exciting. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to the next major step: querying.