Do you believe everyone has a novel inside of them?
At my last bookclub for CATCHER’S KEEPER, I was asked this very question. My answer? A resounding YES! Since launching my book, I’ve been astonished at how many people have confided in me: “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” Wow. Look how many books this world is missing. I’m sure most people believe they don’t have the time or dedication it takes to complete a 60,000+ word manuscript. But perhaps also they don’t know where to start. In hopes to encourage future novelists, I’d like to share a tool that will make the task of writing a novel not quite so daunting.
I had the honor of presenting to a group of very talented summer enrichment students at Exeter High School on Monday. During this two hour presentation, I was asked to first talk about my book and my writing process. Second, guide students through a writing activity that will focus on the craft of writing.
Knowing the group consisted of new writers, I wanted to give them a tool they could use if they ever wanted to tackle a big project (i.e. writing a novel). For those visual learners, we can start with Freytag’s Pyramid.
Gustav Freytag, 19C German novelist, invented this diagram to analyze a story’s plot and can be applied to most any story, from picture books to epic novels. When teaching Freytag’s Pyramid, I would always use Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a model because the Acts fit stages of the pyramid perfectly. It’s good to keep this pyramid in mind as you build your story, but you may need a more detailed template to ensure you have the “essential ingredients.” The 9 story structure checkpoints, invented by Doran William Cannon and refined by Steve Alcorn, can provide a map of sorts from which to outline a novel.
In ACT I we have the “exposition”
- Hook – Grab readers’ attention!
- Backstory – Provide some character background
- Trigger – Event that causes crisis (attacks main character’s flaw, shows main source of conflict)
ACT II will be the longest part of your novel and can be broken down as follows:
- Crisis – Main character reacts to Trigger (emotional moment)
- Struggle – Rising action in Freytag’s Pyramid. The struggle should be a series of setbacks to conflict resolution.
- Epiphany – Main character realizes his or her flaw. Understands how to solve his/her problem.
ACT III should be quick and exciting.
- Plan – Main character works to solve his/her problem.
- Climax – Problem solved! Antagonist defeated! Highest point of intensity of the story.
- Ending – (Falling action and resolution) All questions should be answered. Readers should feel satisfied.
There you go! Imagine. Your novel could be outlined in just nine sentences. Of course, there is a lot more to it. I highly recommend taking an online Novel Writing Workshop through Writing Academy with Steve Alcorn. He will guide you step-by-step through the process so you can turn your idea into a novel, from planning and character development to structuring your story and actually creating and polishing your manuscript.
I have a confession to make. I enrolled in this class with Writing Academy dubious that I would learn anything. Oh my, was I wrong. I realized, I’d been a total hack. I had some talent, but my “novels” were so unstructured and problematic they could barely be called novels. It’s a wonderful thing to go with your instincts, unless they’re wrong!
So, get going! I’m so eager to read that novel that’s inside you. Because, even if someone has the same idea, no one will be able to write it the way you do. And that’s something special.