Posts Tagged Reedsy

How to Structure a Novel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to get started on a new novel. My usual strategy is to create a quick list of scenes that get me from beginning to end and then I start writing.
BUT, invariably, as I get to know the characters and the story-line better, I go off plan. My narrative goes around the houses and there’s a lot of wasted time and much re-writing. This time I want to avoid all that. So, I’ve been using a couple of resources to help me create a proper story structure and character arcs before I get too deep into the writing.

The Snowflake Method

The Snowflake Method was pioneered by Randy Ingermanson and was recommended to me by children’s author Lorraine Hellier.
This method dictates that the writer should start with the simplest premise possible and gradually expand to create plot and character details. For example, step one is ‘Write a one sentence summary of the story’. Step two is ‘Expand to a one paragraph summary.’ By following all six steps, the writer ends up with character bibles, a four-page synopsis and a scene list. The Reedsy website explains how to use The Snowflake Method in an easy to follow way. In addition, there are lots of useful resources on Reedsy such as character and story structure templates to download, which I found useful.

5 Secrets of Story Structure: How to Write a Novel That Stands Out

At time of writing this is a free e-book by KM Weiland. It’s short and easy to read. Most of us will be familiar with the three-act structure but this book provides more plot points on which to hang the story. For example it talks about pinch points which are small turning points between the main plot points.
I found the book very useful.

If you’re looking for more reading on the subject of novel structure, have a look at the five recommendations in this blog post by Rachel McCollin.

Finally, if you’ve got a tried and tested plotting/structure technique, please add it in the comments below!

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Three Free Competitions

I’ve got three competitions for you today. Two are short fiction and one is a giveaway on Twitter.

First up is the Writers’ HQ Flash Quarterly Competition. It’s an open theme, 500 words limit and, as the name suggests, it runs every quarter. The next closing date is 30th June. First prize is
12 months Writers’ HQ membership plus 3 free writers’ retreats (cash value £450). Second prize is 6 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £270). Third prize is
3 months Writers’ HQ membership and 3 free retreats (cash value £180). The writing retreats are 10 am to 4 pm in various UK cities. Writers’ HQ membership gives several benefits.
Make sure you read the full rules before entering.

The second competition is the Reedsy Short Story Contest which runs every week and has a $50 prize. The story must be written to fit one of a selection of weekly prompts and should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words long. In order to get the prompts each week (which can be used as general inspiration and ideas – you don’t have to enter the competition) you need to sign up for the contest email (sign up form should be on the right of the screen).

Finally, if you have a Twitter account, you can enter a giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners. Public Speaking for Absolute BeginnersSimply, go to my Twitter Account, read the pinned Tweet (i.e. the first one visible), follow me (if you don’t already) and retweet that pinned tweet. You can also find me by searching for @sallyjenkinsuk. But be quick; the competition ends at midnight tomorrow (4th May 2019).

 

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What’s Your Theme?

Having a theme for a novel or story is something I’ve always struggled with. I can cope with the internal and external conflicts that a character must have and the plotting of the ‘journey’ each character must go on, in order to emerge, changed in some way, at the end of the tale. The theme is something much bigger but also much simpler than all of this other detail. The theme will not be mentioned explicitly in the story but will occur and reoccur subtly throughout the narrative in the actions of your characters. The theme will generally be something to do with being human, for example growing old, maternal love or keeping secrets.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to have the theme before starting a fiction project because often it will evolve organically. For example you may notice that your characters are all motivated by greed, be it in slightly different ways, maybe one is greedy for money but another is greedy for fame and attention.

So what made me start thinking about theme?

A friend of mine, children’s author Lorraine Hellier sent me a useful link to an article on theme on the Reedsy blog. The article compares the structure of a novel to an iceberg split into three sections:

  1. Plot i.e. the events of the narrative. This is the smallest part of the structure.
  2. Story i.e. internal and external character conflicts.
  3. Theme. This is the huge chunk of iceberg beneath the water and drives both the plot and the story.

I’ve found this a useful concept to muse on as I ponder over what should happen next or how a character should act/react in my current WIP.

Knowing your theme makes it much easier to tell others what your book is about. Instead of delving into the detail of the plot, start with a sentence on the theme, for example, “It’s about how power corrupts.” (Animal Farm by George Orwell)

Why not take a look at the Reedsy article and let me know what you think?

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