Tag Archive - Novel Structure

The Secret to Writing Commercially Successful Novels

I’ve been writing novels for more than three decades, and while I have learned a lot about how unpredictable the market is, there are some specific characteristics that have consistently set apart novels that see success.

Regardless of genre, today’s novels are primarily cinematic, which is a huge shift from the way novels were written back when I started. All you have to do is open a Michener or Steinbeck novel, flip some pages, and no doubt you’ll land on excessive (by today’s standards) narration. The author telling you about a place or characters, albeit in an engaging way (usually).

But what truly stands out is the “telling” of the story. Not “show, don’t tell,” which is what today’s novelists are urged to adopt as their mantra.

While there are exceptions to this (see Diane Setterfield’s novel Once upon a River or Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome for terrific examples of “old-fashioned” storytelling narrative), most successful novels read like movie scenes. The scene is in deep POV of one character, starts in the middle of something significant already underway, gets right into action (which can be dialogue), and builds with rising tension to a high moment at the end. That, in a nutshell, is the typical scene structure.

I teach the “twenty-minute rule” for scenes: not more than twenty minutes should pass for your character from the first line of a scene to the last. Of course, you can have multiple scenes in a chapter, but each scene needs to be a capsule of time; if you need to jump ahead an hour or more, end the scene. Then start your next scene in the new time period, with something already underway. Continue Reading…

Master Your Novel’s 10 Key Scenes

I never planned to write books on novel structure. Nor create online video courses to help teach writers how to craft a solid story.

But after years of blogging on novel writing, producing hundreds of blog posts on the topic, and editing hundreds of manuscripts, I realized writers needed more. Though there were (and are) hundreds of books teaching how to write a novel, I kept wondering why writers were having such a hard time crafting a solid story.

Sometimes too much information is just too much. You know what I mean? There is so much great info on the internet. There are so many terrific online courses and super helpful writing craft books. I hear from writers about their extensive libraries of books designed to teach them how to be great writers.

That’s all good. I have a huge library too, and I buy books all the time. It makes me think of the Scripture in Ecclesiastes: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh” (12:12 NKJV). Continue Reading…

How To Write A Killer First Draft In 6 Steps

Today’s guest post is by Gilbert Bassey.

A killer first draft, the holy grail—who doesn’t want it?

Conventional wisdom says that you can’t write a good first draft. As Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

No doubt, he makes a valid point, but, as with everything, just because it sounds true, doesn’t mean it holds true all the time.

I don’t believe the first draft has to be shit, and I’ll show you the 6-step process I use to create killer first drafts.

Before going on, it makes sense to come to terms with what a “Killer First Draft” is. Continue Reading…

Page 1 of 1512345»10...Last »