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Insights into Your Inciting Incident

I want to take a look today at your inciting incident (since it’s one of the ten key scenes you need to have in your first layer when plotting with my layering method.

Since I did a lot of posts on the ten key scenes you need to layer in first, I’m not going to go over all that. If you don’t want to wait for my book Layer Your Novel to come out to start mastering your turning points and pinch points and midpoint and twists, jump into those posts and be sure to download my ten key scene chart.

While not every novel is going to follow this basic novel structure (and I’ll be sharing some examples and how, if you are writing in certain genres, you can tweak this framework), I’d suggest you at least start by identifying, at very least, those basic key scenes.

Let’s first consider the inciting incident. Every great novel is going to have something happen at the start of the book that sets up the premise. Most novels will have that inciting incident (or opportunity, or initial disturbance) that shifts the character’s focus from their ordinary life or routine or opinion and gets them turning in a new direction.

This can be big or subtle. It may be one specific scene; it may take place over a few scenes. It all depends on your story. But it needs to be at the start of your novel.

This should answer this oft-asked question: Where should I start my story? Continue Reading…

Getting into the Layering Frame of Mind

Do you do this? Maybe you have an idea how your novel will start. You might also picture the climax scene and the ending. Then, you possibly have some great ideas for scenes showing conflict or some plot complications. But this isn’t the same as starting with a list of needed scenes and brainstorming to design those scenes to frame your story.

Framing is everything. I often liken writing a novel to building a house. I talked about this last week. If you want a sturdy, well-built house, you can’t just cut a bunch of neat-looking two-by-sixes and start hammering. You need a strong framework built on a solid foundation. Once you have that, you can proceed to the next tasks, like running electrical and nailing siding.

I go into great depth in my book The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction to show writers what the major novel components are and how to build them. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. This is about the body of your scenes and how to puzzle-piece them together the best way—by layering.

Continue Reading…

How Layering Your Novel Brings Order out of Chaos  

I’ve been writing novels and teaching novel structure for many years, but I’ve shied away from going into detailing what scenes should come where in a novel.

Why? Because there are countless books and blog posts that cover story structure, and a lot of great ones too, so, I figured, why should I add my two cents to the mix?

But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized I have some unique approaches and twists to the age-old question: “How do I write a great novel?”

By layering scenes—that’s how.

I searched through titles and descriptions of dozens of writing craft books specific to structuring novels, and it hit me. None of these books talk about layering. Continue Reading…

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