BrewGirl, NaNoWriMo, Writing

The NaNo Diaries: Day Five – Attack of the Subplots!

Word Count: 9,289/35,000 (shooting for the big 10K mark by the end of Day Six)

Sanity Level: 7 (Things are getting a little shaky…but I am still in control here!)

What I Love: My MC Zoe’s a glass case of emotion.  It brings me joy to bring her pain.



It’s always inevitable with any NaNo event for me: the words flow freely during the first week and somewhere, somehow, I deviate from my carefully planned plot. Soon, I find myself drowning in words and the threatening question looms over me as I bang away on the keyboard: how many subplots is too many?

Because subplots – much like sugar, reality TV, or a man who’s great in bed but terrible at everything else – can be good in doses…but too much can warp everything, specifically in a romance novel. I’m only a little over 9,000 words in on my 35K goal and I feel like I’m losing Zoe (my MC) in a whirlwind of cocaine, flirting, and Sangria consumption.  Oy!


What’s A Subplot & Why Do You Need One? A subplot is a secondary story (stories???) that you can weave into your main narrative. While it may or may not involve your main character, a viable subplot should have its own objective and purpose. When used wisely, subplots help to create a fuller story while giving your readers an alternative glimpse of your characters outside of the circumstances surrounding the larger story.

My Camp NaNo project, BrewGirl in Vegas (the sequel to my NaNo-winning effort this past November, BrewGirl), is clunking along as expected. What was unexpected was the onslaught of ideas that invaded my brain the more I typed. As of the date of this post, I have inserted four subplots into this story. FOUR. The only romance writer that can get away with four (or more) subplots in one book is Jackie Collins and I ain’t Jackie Collins (yet!). So, needless to say, there will be some killing of the darlings during my rewrite, but which darling?

Here are a few questions to help you (and I!) decide whether your subplot is extra helpful or just extraneous:

  • Is it information that matters? This is especially important to consider if your subplot contains any flashbacks. Does the reader really need to know how your MC spent their Saturday mornings as a child, eating Honeycomb cereal and watching Muppet Babies (yes, that’s totally how I spent my Saturday mornings)? Or that the antagonist once slept with LL Cool J after a concert in the Nineties? (Okay, that one might not matter but if you plan to use that plot bunny, you can have it.  Just send me that ARC for review – and it better be kinky!) Bottom line: if the information doesn’t really matter to you as the writer, it’ll matter even less to your reader. Delete it.
  • Is it a ‘subplot’ or just a ‘hurdle’? Determine whether what you’ve written is really a subplot or just a complication designed to create a larger conflict for the character. If it doesn’t have its own story arc, it’s probably just content meant to move the narrative along. Keep it…but get a real subplot elsewhere.
  • Could this subplot stand alone as its own story? You may have one particular subplot that takes up major space in your narrative. Copy + paste that baby into a separate document and play with it a little; you may have the seedlings for a second (or third?) book on your hands! Save it.

I plan to come back to this post come rewrite time in June. This will be my reminder that while my cherished multiple subplots may need to be extracted from my current WIP, they might be useful in the future. Choose wisely, my writer friends!


What are your thoughts on subplots?

Hit the comments below with advice on how to manage those mini-plot bunnies.

(c) Eliza David – FacebookTwitterInstagram

3 thoughts on “The NaNo Diaries: Day Five – Attack of the Subplots!

  1. At 35000 words and two protagonists, I think, you can only really have two or three subplots. Of course, this depends on the prose, voice, and writing style.
    Mind you, when I attempted novel writing, I was halfway and hit 45k with no subplot, so I’m not sure how to go around writing subplots.
    Or at least, I don’t think I had any.

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