Mastering the Puzzle

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, creativity, Learning, Organization, Outlines, Plotting/Outlines, tips, writing 9 Comments

By Loretta Eidson

Most people enjoy putting puzzles together. We know it can be quick entertainment or a time-consuming, tedious challenge, depending on the number and size of the pieces. Separating straight edges from the others and forming the outline help bring the size of the picture into focus.

Some may dump the remaining pieces on the table for a hit-or-miss process, whereas others are more methodical. They search and separate matching colors, lines, and shapes to bring some semblance of order before zeroing in on one small section at a time.

We’ve got to love those special pieces with distinct curves, points, and odd sizes. They draw our attention and help us find where they fit. Some think puzzles with geometrical lines or similar colors or even faces of people or animals would be easy. This simply isn’t true. They can be the most difficult.

Disappointment arises when you’ve spent hours deciphering every single piece, pulling the beautiful design of the picture into clear view, only to find one piece missing. A search ensues. Look under the table. Check around everyone’s feet. Shake the box to see if it will fall out. Sound familiar?

What does all this talk about puzzles have to do with writing? You guessed it. Writing a novel is like putting a puzzle together. It has a format. A beginning, middle, and end. Each segment must contain specific information that moves the story forward. Writing a novel takes days, weeks, and months to complete. If a piece of the plot comes up missing, the story suffers.

Start from the beginning and link each fragment to create your masterpiece. For example:

  • Decide what you want to write and start writing.
  • Select the setting. City, small town, ranch, mountains, etc.
  • Develop characters as though they were real people. Seriously. Give them a background, a family, a personality, a profession, hurts they’ve suffered (inner conflict), and problems they face (external conflict).
  • Even though it is a fiction novel, it still needs to be realistic. Use as much factual or believable information as possible.
  • Once you finish writing your story, reread, edit, and revise where necessary. Note: Avoid repetitive words—that, just, was, said, etc.
  • Seek feedback from a critique group. You’ll enjoy your group’s suggestions and find them beneficial.
  • Proofread and edit again. Make it as flawless as possible before submitting your work to an agent or editor.

Some writers are called plotters. They outline their stories and develop a synopsis as a guide for writing novels in an orderly, complete fashion while others write by the seat of their pants. These people are called pantsers, while others are a hybrid blend, operating somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter the process as long as you organize the plot, prose, and dialogue pieces correctly.

A well-crafted novel paints an amazing picture in the minds of readers. They envision the setting, relate to your hero and heroine, and see the action as it plays out. The stakes increase, tension rises, and suspense builds. Readers keep turning the page simply because the author worked the puzzle, fitting the pieces together perfectly.

Award-winning author Loretta Eidson loves writing romantic suspense. She believes in the power of prayer and puts her characters in situations where they must trust God. Tamela Hancock Murray is her agent. Loretta is an AWSA certified coach. Her Love Inspired Suspense novel, Pursued in the Wilderness, won AWSA’s 2023 Romance Novel of the Year Award. Visit Loretta at

Comments 9

  1. See, I’ve always started out with the characters. Once I have a character nailed down, I start to think about the other elements. My favorite characters are ones that are flexible, that I could reuse in different stories but are diverse enough that they’re never boring. My best characters come from fanfictions; I flesh them out there, figure out what their core is, and then after the fanfic, I look them over and ask what story they could be put in on their own. My best characters have been created this way, and it’s always something fun to share with the fans, the “original format” of the characters.

    1. It’s my favorite way to develop characters. I have the brain break of working in someone else’s world while also keeping my skills sharp and fleshing out characters in a low stress environment. Most recently, an Extension Squad fanfiction helped me find the mentor character for my current WIP (which is chock full of fanfic characters from a variety of fandom), and this character actually helped fix a MAJOR plothole in the rewrite.

  2. So interesting and very helpful, Loretta. I always been a panster. This weekend in the middle of wildness, I became a plotter. Oh my! The story fell right into place and is written. It finally clicked for me.

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