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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.

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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…

Why Layering Your Novel Is the Method for Success

Last year I spent some months talking about layering scenes. As time goes on, I see how few writers—especially aspiring novelists—have any clue how to organize their scenes. They brainstorm their scene ideas once they’ve settled on a premise of sorts, and then they just start writing from scene one.

The result is usually disastrous.

While we read books from page 1 to the end, that is not the best way to lay out a novel. In fact, it’s probably the worst way.

Novels need to be built like houses. You don’t build a house by framing up a door, sticking the door in the doorway, then entering into . . . nothing. You don’t build in a linear direction, from front to back. And even though you do build vertically, from the ground up, there’s the issue of framework.

You have to build off your concrete slab or perimeter foundation first with a framework. If you’re building a house, that framework will consist of wood studs and posts hammered together according to your blueprint. Walls are built with studs at specific spacing, and the spaces for doors and windows are framed in with headers and supporting studs on the sides and where the sills will go. Continue Reading…

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