Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Okay, okay. I admit it. I had to look up "denouement." You laugh because you already know the definition. Then what does it mean? Without looking! Ah, see, you had to look too.

Denouement: the outcome of a complex sequence of events.

If you’re reading this you must be familiar with books. The tricky part of writing a book is the writing part. No, I’m serious. You’ve got to get it done. You wouldn’t believe how many writers write and write and write and never finish the manuscript. But that’s not the trickiest part, no, that honor goes to the editing of that first draft. The critiquing of your words by other people who are familiar with writing, the rules, and know what to look for. I’m not talking about line edits--where someone slaps your palms with a ruler for misspelling a word or a participle that dangles, or sentences that end with a preposition. At this point you need someone able to read your entire manuscript--yes, you read that correctly--and offer a denouement.

In my case, the denouement means Jamie is summarizing major and minor plot points to make sure that she is understanding how (and if!) they relate, and to also make sure that what she is comprehending is lining up with the ideas I had for the plot/characters/pacing.

What this bit of work generates between Jamie and I is a dialogue that will identify and strengthen weak points in the plot, characterization and pacing problems, plot clarification and probably a few other elements that aren’t coming to mind at present. With the denouement revealed, I have a playmate who is as interested in helping me make my book the best it can be.

The other sections of the editorial letter were instruments in need of individual tuning. The denouement is the conductor trying to work on bringing all those instruments together to create a sound that is pleasing to the ear and properly paced.


  1. It's the "complex sequence" part that always gets me. I'm constantly having to go back and revise those little subplots that keep wanting to wind their own way in my story. UGH! I'd like writing more if it was easier. :-)

  2. Well said, Sandra! Although I hasten to add that it's most often a mystery that gets notes structured exactly like yours. Sometimes it's just a Big List of everything that happens, and I try to decide if it's too much (or not enough). Sometimes I play a game with myself around the 100-page mark: I make a list of where i THINK the plot is leading, and/or what the themes are...and then check back at the end to see if I was close. If I'm way off that's either good (it means the plot isn't predictable) or not-so-good (author may not have done enough work setting things up). Regardless, the big picture is just as important as the individual details). :)


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