Several times in my blog posts in December I mentioned that I was working on novel structure. Thanks to the writings of K.M. Weiland online and in her books, the light bulb finally came on in my head. Everything fell into place and made sense. At least, I think everything fell into place.
As a reader of fiction, I just knew when I liked a story and when I didn’t. I never gave the structure of a novel any thought. I didn’t know a novel was supposed to hang on a framework. Call me slow, but I just didn’t.
Over the years, I’ve read about novel structure; however, I started writing a novel without giving structure any thought. I thought the words would just naturally flow in chronological order and, when I had written 100,000 or so of them, it would be a novel.
That’s an over-simplification, but it’s not too far off the point.
I read numerous articles that said a novel has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, duh! Of course. How hard can that be, right?
But there’s a lot more to novel structure than that – and I’m still learning.
I worked on the manuscript for the novel mentioned above for more years than I want to admit. (The working title is either The Spanish Coin or The Doubloon.) Then, I made some major changes in the story because what I thought was a fact turned out to be a legend. There was an ounce of truth in it, but I didn’t want to perpetuate a myth.
I didn’t write for about a year. I didn’t think I could face starting over, but that’s what I did early in 2019. New story, new characters, same old location, and same time period.
Yet again, I plunged into writing without any structure. I wrote a long and detailed outline and thought I had everything right. Some 90,000 words later, in December 2021 the concept of novel structure kept gnawing at me. It wouldn’t let me go until I put everything else aside and focused on it.
When I thought I had a fairly good grasp of novel structure, I set about to compare it to my manuscript. I was relieved to discover I had some things in the correct order and the correct place. There were some scenes, though that had to be moved. That was a scary proposition! Thank goodness for the “cut and paste” buttons on the computer. If this had happened to me in 1990, I probably would have just thrown the manuscript and my typewriter in the trash.
So, what are the basics of novel structure, as I understand them?
Remember – I’m still trying to grasp all the details and nuances. Don’t use me as your source. Please use K.M. Weiland’s books and online articles as your source if you plan to follow this structure to write a novel. Here’s the link to her website: https://www.kmweiland.com/book/structuring-your-novel/. Here’s the link to her series of online articles about novel structure: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/secrets-story-structure-complete-series/.
The following percentages are approximations, and the explanations are very brief and written to the best of my understanding.
Hook – Close enough to the beginning to “hook” the reader.
Inciting Event – Approximately 12% into the novel. Introduction to the main conflict.
Key Event – The protagonist’s response to the inciting event.
1St Plot Point – Approximately 25% into the novel. Ms. Weiland calls this the “Doorway of No Return.’ This is when the protagonist decides she’s all in. There’s no turning back.
1st Pinch Point – Approximately 37% into the novel. This is a small turning point. The protagonist is “pinched” by the force of the antagonist.
The Midpoint/2nd Plot Point – Approximately 50% into the novel. (No surprise there.) Internal and external conflict come together and the point of the story comes together. New information is revealed to the protagonist resulting in a paradigm shift. She has a clearer understanding of the threat against her.
2nd Pinch Point – Approximately 62% into the novel. The protagonist realizes like never before just what is at stake.
3rd Plot Point – Approximately 75% into the novel. Ms. Weiland says this includes the “dark night of the soul.” The protagonist must decide if she has it in her to keep fighting for her goal. She might make some progress toward reaching her goal, but then there will be a “low moment” where a lie she’s been telling herself all this time will die. She must face the facts.
Climax – Approximately 88% into the novel. This is where the protagonist confronts the antagonist and we find out if she achieves her goal.
Resolution – Loose ends from the story are tied up, unless the book ends with a cliffhanger to entice the reader to want to know more about this character.
It almost takes the fun out of writing a novel! Writing is hard work, but I’m happiest when I’m writing.
Where my novel stands now
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I’ve been inspired to write a novel series. After brainstorming the backstories of my protagonist in The Spanish Coin/The Doubloon, I realized her backstory would make a good novel.
I don’t outline my writing projects in a rigid outline form like I was taught in school. I outline in paragraphs, throwing in bits and pieces of dialogue. The first draft of my outline for “Book One” now stands at nearly 4,000 words, and I’m eager to expand that into a scenic plot outline. (That outline is also in paragraph form, but gets into more detail than the first outline.) Next, comes the writing of Book One.
Book One takes my protagonist back to her childhood in Virginia, moving to Salisbury, North Carolina in 1766, and meeting her first husband. The Spanish Coin/The Doubloon will be the second book in the series. I have the bare bones of the third, fourth, and fifth books planned.
Call me overly optimistic, but that’s where things stand today. If my novel(s) never see the light of day, at least I’ve had the utter enjoyment of researching and writing them.
Since my last blog post, in addition to the above outlining
I’ve done a lot of decluttering since last Monday’s post. I’m getting to the age when I need to think about the fact that someday someone is going to have to dispose of my stuff. I need to make that task as easy for him/her/them as I can. I organized my stash of fabric and filled one large plastic storage bin with “unfinished sewing/quilting projects.”
I scanned some old photographs using the Photomyne app on my cell phone. I watched an hour-long webinar about organizing a large collection of photographs.
It seems like half the things I do these days are to decrease the amount of “stuff” my niece and nephew will have to deal with when I’m gone. I’m not trying to be morbid, but the closer I get to 70 the more I need to realize I’m not going to live forever. I’ve already lived longer than my father.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
I hope to spend as much time writing as I do reading in the coming week. I hope you also have productive creative time.
Stay safe and well. Let me know what you’ve been doing.