Help for novel construction

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A request to beta-read an as-yet-unpublished novel recently brought to mind again the challenges of writing a novel-length story. Two books that were a lifeline for me when I was writing my two Bible fiction novels were How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson and The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction by C. S. Lakin.

In the Snowflake Method, Ingermanson starts writers off by planning from their main concept to ever more detailed aspects of the book. The genius of his method is that you assemble the bones (setting and characters) and construction plan (plot) in its entirety before you ever begin writing. You won’t spend weeks at the computer just to discover that your story comes to a dead end.

He describes his method in detail in the book but he also describes it in short on this page of his website: The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.

I used his method to do the groundwork when planning both Destiny’s Hands and Under the Cloud.

I purchased the C. S. Lakin book, (The 12 Pillars) while working on Under the Cloud and spent several months making sure my story had each pillar in place. Here again the focus begins with story basics. Lakin identifies four main pillars as the basis for a good story: 1] Concept with a Kicker; 2] Protagonist with a Goal; 3] Conflict with High Stakes; and 4] Theme with Heart. With these established, she goes on to talk about eight additional pillar: 5] Plot and Subplots; 6] Secondary Characters; 7] Setting; 3] Tension; 9] Dialogue; 10] Voice; 11] Writing Style; and 12] Motifs. A downloadable checklist/worksheet (link provided in the book) is available for each of these pillars.

For myself, making sure that I had considered my story in the light of each of these pillars gave me confidence that I hadn’t missed anything major.

So if you’re writing a novel and struggling with any aspect of it, either or both of these books, along with books by James Scott Bell (especially Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing) will prove helpful… or they sure were to me!