Planning a Novel

Successful writing begins with a plan. This novel is no exception. On this page, I expose some of the structural considerations that go into writing a book. I hope dedicated readers will find this inside look intriguing while aspiring writers get an encouraging peek into the process.

Book of the North contains the same three act structure that you will find in any novel. My writing coach, Steve Alcorn, breaks the three act structure down into nine check points:

Act 1
Hook: An event that gets your readers involved in both plot and story.
Backstory: Introduces your protagonist and the situation—it’s both plot and story.
Trigger: An intense plot event that propels your protagonist into crisis.
Act 2
Crisis: A story moment when your protagonist is overcome by her flaw.
Struggle: Your protagonist struggles against ever-increasing obstacles (plot) with deeper despair (story) after each setback.
Epiphany: A story moment when your protagonist realizes her flaw and decides to change (unless this is a tragedy).
Act 3
Plan: Your protagonist, as a result of the epiphany, can now devise a plan (plot).
Climax: Your protagonist confronts the antagonist, who is defeated (unless this is a tragedy) in plot-heavy action.
Ending: The plot and story conflicts are resolved.

Using this basic narrative arc, I created a map of the entire story. Once the overview was complete, it was time to tackle individual scenes. Steve Alcorn provides a nifty formula for that, as well. He calls this the scene and sequel method. Scene and sequel divides a novel into a number of actions and reactions that keep the narrative moving forward:

The scene consists of three elements:
• Goal
• Conflict
• Disaster
And the sequel consists of these four elements:
• Emotion
• Thought
• Decision
• Action

The outline for the first act of this novel illustrates how Book of the North follows this scene and sequel method.
Of course, outlines should not be viewed as a supporting structure, like the steel beams of a skyscraper. Instead, view them more like a rough sketch under a painting, a compositional guide that can be altered as the story unfolds.
If you are interested in taking some of Steve Alcorn’s courses, they can be found at writingacademy.com

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