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Building Your Novel with a Holistic Approach

We’ve spent a whole year looking at the twelve pillars of novel construction, and I hope you’ve gained a lot of great, new insights on how to “build” a novel. I want to take a little time to go over some points about construction that I hope will stick with you through the years as you write your many novels.

There are plenty of books that teach novel writing. I probably have most of them in my library, and there are some great ones, to be sure. What prompted me to put this material together for my blog (and which I’m now compiling and expanding to release as a book in a few months as part of my Writer’s Toolbox Series) is that, despite all the great writing craft books available, many writers are struggling with novel structure. Continue Reading…

Layering Motifs in Your Novel for Powerful Effect

When our beach house fell off a cliff due to El Nino years ago, we felt a horrible sense of loss at this sudden catastrophe. We had been married on the back deck, and the spot we’d stood upon and said our vows now hung out sixty feet in the air, a hundred feet above the roaring surf. In combing the beach after the disaster, I picked up one brick from the fireplace that we’d spent many long, peaceful hours in front of, watching the crackling fire and listening to the pounding surf.

I kept that brick on my kitchen window sill for years, and you can imagine the symbolism it held for me—and not just reminding me of my loss. For it also symbolized for me that something solid was salvaged from the wreck of my house (and of my family, which suffered massive emotional destruction). Seeing it gave me resolve, comfort, inspiration. Continue Reading…

How to Come Up with Motifs in Your Novel

Motifs are powerful elements that writers can take advantage of when constructing their novels. But few novelists ever give thought to adding motifs. They might do so subconsciously or inadvertently, but I’d like to encourage you to take some time and deliberately construct some motifs so that they serve as superglue in your story.

We looked briefly last week at what a motif is, and how it differs from theme. However, the best way to bring a motif into your story is to tie it intrinsically into your theme. We looked at The Hunger Games and saw that not only does author Collins use an actual object or thing—the mockingjay itself, and the metal pin Katniss wears—the “song” of the mockingjay is used symbolically. The characters adopt the bird as a symbol for their revolution, and so the object and the theme are bound together. Continue Reading…

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