How to Structure a Novel…

It is a commonly held belief that there are seven basic plots and, invariably, your novel will fall into one of those seven categories:

  • Overcoming the monster
  • Rags to riches 
  • Voyage and return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy 
  • Rebirth

You may be looking at that list and already seeing your novel reflected back at you.  Or you might be thinking, “hey, mine has at least two of those components!”  That’s awesome! It’s great when a novel has more than one arc or theme. 

However to simplify things further, Eli Landes would argue that in fact, there are only two types of stories.

– Stories with abnormal circumstances/situations 

– Stories about abnormal/special people

(For more on her theory follow this link >> and for an even more complex story trajectory I strongly recommending reading up on Joseph Campbells monomyth entitled The Heroes Journey.)

Once you have decided what type of story your story is, you then need to go about writing it.  Generally there are two schools of thought on how to exactly go about doing this; plotting or pantsing. 

Plotting is the idea of creating an outline for the trajectory of your book so that you don’t get lost while writing.  You have a course, a guide to follow. 

Pantsing is the idea of sitting at your desk with your pen in hand and just seeing where your characters and story take you.  No planning, just writing.    

 Both have their merits and both have produced amazing authors.  JK Rowling is a famous plotter, while Stephen King favours pantsing.  

I personally think plotting is easier.  

Now we all know the very simple “Beginning > Middle > End” story map.  But in order to plot successfully you need to have a bit more detail in order to outline what’s going to happen in your novel. 

This is my favourite, The Seven Layers:

  1. INCITING INCIDENT – Wahey something interesting just happened!  Now you have the beginning of your story…
  2. CATALYST – Uh-oh a complication has occurred, now the story is moving forward.
  3. COMPLICATION – Well, life as a fictional character is rarely ever easy…
  4. MIDPOINT – You have reached the halfway point, thumbs up! Where are all your characters at in the story?
  5. ADDITIONAL COMPLICATION – Please see no. 3
  6. CLIMAX – Sh*t is going down! Battles are happening, explosions are exploding, he’s finally going to kiss the girl, your entire book has been leading up to this!
  7. WRAPPING UP – You’ve reached the end, time to wrap things up with a pretty little bow, or not, if you are so inclined…make your readers suffer!

So in short you have your set-up, build, climax and resolution.  But divided so that you can more effectively plan your story-arc. 

I genuinely think this is a great way to start the writing process and it takes away some of the fear of sitting and staring at an empty page.   It also helps in the long run when you come to writing your synopsis and elevator pitch.  (More on that later!)

Anyway, I hope this was useful! Let me know what you think or even if you have a better method!

Have a wonderful day sweet things,

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