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How to Break Up Your Novel into Definable Sections

Last week I started diving into the three-act structure and explained that such structure is random and arbitrary. While many writing instructors swear by this structure, I feel it’s too pat and restrictive to be a “one size fits all,” and, really, it’s the story that should determine how many acts it needs. And even with that, it’s up to the writer to decide if he wants to break his story up into acts or sections.

This isn’t just about “breaking up” a story or creating actual parts to a novel. While I’m going to share more examples of this, be aware that fashioning your story into sections is extremely helpful, and it’s something you can do without labeling them as such for your readers.

Sometimes, after I’ve put all my scene ideas on index cards (as many as I can think of for my novel I’m about to write), I’ll lay them all out on my dining table. Usually I have between thirty and fifty scene ideas before I start writing my general outline. Continue Reading…

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…

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