How do you know when you’re doing Too Much story-wise?

I have that classic author disease where you have a thousand different plot hooks and story concepts but only the energy to focus on one or two at a time. I think what my writing has always struggled with is me trying to pack as many concepts as possible into one project because I know I’ll probably forget or lose interest in X concept by the time I’m done fleshing out/writing Y concept. Or worse, X concept perfectly branches into X.1 and X.2 concepts (and X.3, X.4, etc…) and I can’t pick which direction to go in so I try to manhandle the plot into accommodating as many of those as possible in as short a span as possible.

Except when I’m rereading/editing my work, my brain always goes, yeah, this makes sense! Because of course it does- I have all the context, even the context I haven’t explicitly laid out for a new reader. And then I show my work to other people and they’re always like ‘you’re a good writer, but also what the absolute f*ck is going on here’.

I’ve tried letting my WIPs sit for a while, but unfortunately the ‘while’ that I’ve found most effective in hammering out what parts of a story make sense and what parts don’t is, on average, five years. I know the simple answer to this conundrum is to have beta readers, but I’d also like to be able to not waste my time planning for the thirty things that ultimately will not make sense.

(Obviously having branching storylines is much, much less of an issue in IF, but I’m talking more like basic world building concepts. So not whether or not X, Y, or Z happens- it’s more like whether or not the underlying reason for these things happening aliens, secretly sentient dogs, or both?)


I’m super confused… :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: can you try that again?


Like, how do I keep myself focused on One Plot instead of haphazardly linking several different story ideas together into one Frankenstein WIP? Or how can I tell if my story is doing too much, too fast? This might just be an issue of pacing. (Also I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not so if you didn’t want this clarification… :sweat_smile:)


Lol sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it but I was really confused .

well you can make a chart? Maybe that would help you. I know some peoples have charts inside their heads (I do), and some rather have a chart thats detailed with points and what not.

You can re-read yourself, but most of it probably come from feedback you’ll get .

There are others you can do, like some stuff don’t have to be said completely . Too much lore can be a bore . You can create a Codex and fill it with all the nerdy stuff you want for peoples to read , it doesn’t have to clog the story and make characters give long winded speech .

And as a writer, I’m afraid we all have to sometimes find that rabbit hole and cut some stuff out, cose it’s just too much or doesn’t fit .

It doesn’t mean it’s lost or has to be discarded. It can be used elsewhere, in a biography, in a stat screen, as a standalone story, in a sequel .


One thing I’ve done is made sure that are are a few key events (at least in the beginning) that always occur. It brings your story back to its roots, cleans up any tangents. If you can’t find a way to get back to the key event from whatever tangent you are on, remove it. Towards the end game, sure, branch out, go crazy. Then at least its more like writing a short story for each different ending rather than an entire book for each random tangent you created at the beginning.

Key events that always happen. Very important, at least to me. (if that makes sense?)


Write an outline. In my case, the act of trying to get down a blurb explaining everything that happens in the game has been helpful in itself, as it lets me spot right away when something feels too convoluted, a plot point doesn’t make sense, I don’t like a particular idea, or I have no clue how to continue after a given point.

Even if, for you, just writing it doesn’t help you spot these things, you can always request feedback on your outline, so hopefully people can give input on your plot without your needing to put in all the effort to write the actual WIP.


The best advise is probably “share your brainstorm with someone and ask for advise”.
I’ve a similar risk with my project but to me it’s not such a big problem because:

  1. Every subpplot brings something (even minimal) to either a protagonist or to the main plot

  2. I do’t plan to solve everething in one book anyway

  3. Some genres actually live because their subplots


Ideally, all your subplots should be related somehow. Maybe not in ways that the readers will expect, but still related. Rather than immediately introducing a bunch of different subplots for readers to keep track of, it’s easier to build complexity, letting one plotline diverge into smaller, interconnected mysteries or storylines.

I personally find it useful to give my plots an “illusionary merge.” Since IF is usually from the perspective of a single character, it’s likely that the MC will look for patterns and see things as being connected that actually aren’t. If there’s three different villains, make it seem like only one. If you have two side stories, one about a Bishop and the other about a King, connect them by having the same nun accused of both their murders (even if it turns out to be two totally different people in the end).

I also use the general rule of thumb to never introduce more than 3 important characters in a single chapter (and never two at the same time). Simply spacing out when each subplot or person is introduced makes things a lot easier for readers to juggle.

My point (longwinded, because I’m tired, but hopefully semi-helpful) is that having a bunch of different story ideas Frankenstein-ed together isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be amazing. The trick is to make sure no one sees the stitches until the grand “ta-da!”

. . . In retrospect, I’m not sure this was at all what you were asking. Like Cinderella, I really should disconnect my internet after midnight.


Okay. I really feel you, I have the same problem, but in a way you are doing the right thing already, you just need to do some weeding. Focusing on one project and finishing it is how you get things done, so you are on the right path there. So what to do about everything else?

  1. Every time you get a new cool idea or plot, take an hour or so to write down the synopsis, even if it’s nothing but a headline and a few cool sentences. Save these documents in a folder of their own marked ideas or something. You need to get it out of your brain immediately. Another way is to have a notebook where you do this, if you like working in paper.

  2. You also need to trust your brain. If it is a cool idea, you won’t lose interest. It can be in that folder for years and years, and one day it will be exactly what you need. You don’t have to do everything at once. This is also why you write it down so you know it will not be forgotten.

  3. But what about fusing ideas? That could work, Fallen Hero is fusing the plot and characters from one book, with the setting and characters from another, and adding imagery and minor ideas from a third.

BUT I still have a massive folder filled with cool stuff, how do I know what to add?

  1. Mood. You need to settle on what the mood and theme is for your story. This is not detailed, these are the big strokes. For Fallen Hero I had paranoia, lost friendships, reconnecting, depression, ptsd and healing anger. This sort of general feel of the story directed what kind of plots/subplots I could add. If I had a cool idea but it didn’t add to the central themes, it went into the ideas folder.

  2. Characters. It is very easy to get carried away by plots, because as you say, they split and become complicated and adding things is easy because the world is huge and surely there is room. That is why it always needs to come back to the characters. No plot should be used unless it’s in service of the characters. Let’s say you get an idea about a really cool espionage plotpoint where a trusted advisor is in reality a spy. So, which main character in your story would be enhanced by that? Can you fit it in a way that would make the character and the central themes stronger? Or would there need to be a lot new characters added instead? If your new idea/branch makes what’s there better, go for it. Otherwise it goes in the new idea folder.

  3. Remember your main character. Don’t dilute their story. If you have a cool plot that they need to be shoehorned into, you either need to skip the plot, or pick a different main character.

  4. Why? A lot of the time it’s easier to focus on how things fit together and how stuff could work, but the really important question is why: Why would adding this make the book better?

In short, try to take a breather before you add new things, and trust yourself not to forget cool stuff down the road by making notes immediately. Figure out if it helps or distracts from your main story and characters, or if it can be used to make already central themes stronger.


I don’t think that’s a bad thing! You know how you work best, and if you want to only focus on one or two concepts/WiPs at a time, then I think that is perfectly valid.

I have had the same experiences and I share your frustrations. I use a very high-concept tone in a lot of my writing because that is how I like to write, but it can easily get confusing to readers.

This might not help, but maybe you can think of it like this: the people that are going to leave reviews on your work are a minority of those that have read it. There will be some sour people that are going to be overly cerebral about something and want to have the plot spoon-fed to them, but I think those type of people don’t understand that part of the fun of fiction is reading about things that might confuse you – it’s not real, it doesn’t have to make sense! (:

I know how this can be frustrating, but I don’t believe that it is a bad thing to work on something this long. Writing can take a very long time, and it is not uncommon at all for a project to take years to complete.