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What Writers May Not Know about the “Required” Three-Act Structure

I’m going to spend some weeks on tearing apart novel structure. I’ve hesitated over the years to get into this.

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

Because the longer I thought about it, the more I realized I have some unique approaches and twists to the standard three-act structure. Well, let’s just say I’m not always a team player on this court.

And, as well, I want to share with you a method of building your novel’s framework that I’m playing with. I call it the 10-20-30 Scene Builder. The purpose of using a “staged” or multilevel process is to help you flesh out that basic story idea you have. And one thing I’m excited about showing you is my special way of layering subplots. Continue Reading…

Tips to Crafting a Successful Novel Series

Many authors plan to write a series, but I’ve noticed when critiquing and editing novels that are part of a series, they often fail to keep in mind important elements that may not pertain to a stand-alone novel. Navigating through a series can be a kind of obstacle course, keeping focus through the many story developments to reach the finish line.

I’m not talking about a series of stand-alone novels that just feature the same character(s) but in different situations, such as in a mystery series showcasing a particular detective. In novels like those, just as with many TV series episodes, the plot is set up, developed, and resolved all in one book.

However, even in such series, you’ll often see characters grow and change. There may be long-term overarching storylines involving the characters that play out over many books.

There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding how to craft a series, but there are some things a writer should be careful to do.

Each Book Must Have a Plot That Resolves

Just as with a singular work, a first book in a series needs to present the characters and their goals and needs. The basic novel structure applies—a protagonist going after a goal, with him either reaching or failing to reach that goal at the climax.

When writing a book series, it is important to know that each book must have its own plot, one that is concluded by the end of the book. You can’t assume readers have read your first book. And even if they have, it may have been a year ago, and they aren’t going to remember all the details. Odds are they will end up confused and frustrated if you make that assumption. Continue Reading…

Grand Finales: Tips for Writing Great Endings of Novels

Today’s post is reprinted by permission from editor Alan Rinzler. Alan worked for years at the top publishing houses with some of the most successful authors (as you’ll see below). I feel his terrific post on book endings ties in wonderfully with our look at scene structure. Be sure to check out Alan’s website to glean more from this very insightful and knowledgeable editor!

Writing a great ending for your book is just as important as a dynamite opening that rivets our attention and compels us to keep turning those pages.

A well-written book requires some kind of symphonic climax that resonates in our heads and hearts like the famous 40-second E-major chord at the end of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Our response may be filled with joy, hope, and happiness, or it may lead us to feel uncomfortable, to frown, scratch our heads, and worry about the unknown mysteries of life.

I’ve worked with many fiction and narrative nonfiction authors to achieve such closure for plot-driven thrillers, mysteries, romances, literary novels, memoirs, and young adult books, but also histories, biographies, travel books, and other stories. Continue Reading…

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