My story is missing something, but what? A novel is a complex creature. At some point in the writing process, I find I must closely re-examine the plot in order determine what the story needs.
Seeing your novel on one page will help make story needs clear.
Another basic tool Shawn Coyne offers is the one-page story summary form.
It’s well worthwhile to read his blog series from beginning to end. I’ve highlighted quite a bit. For example:
The crisis is the time when your protagonist must make a decision. And the choice that he makes will determine whether or not he’ll get closer to or further away from his object of desires (both external and internal). Often a particular choice will move a character closer to one object of desire while moving him further away from the other… [Link]
A detailed scene-by-scene spreadsheet helps reveal what’s needed.
A third visual on the Shawn Coyne’s resource page is an example of a more detailed breakdown of story, using Excel.
I’ve evolved the Excel worksheet concept for my own purposes: I’ve cut columns and added others — what a scene reveals, for example, and another for unanswered questions.
I’ve listed scenes down the left, and themes/sub-plots/plots across the top. This makes it easy for me to see if a thread has been dropped and what needs to be picked up.
I haven’t filled out the worksheet for the entire novel — at least not yet — but it has helped me identify the story needs in the opening scenes, which concerns me the most right now. This process has made me a convert to using Excel for working out a plot.