Tuesday, 25 September 2012
HOW TO STRUCTURE A BOOK
What holds any great story together is its structure. A well written book is never an accidental splurge of inspired prose onto the page, and it certainly doesn't appear fully formed and without revisions. Writing is a complex skill, and to do it well you need to be aware of what works, and why.
Take a look at the very first Harry Potter. Of course it's a cracking story, but what struck me most on first reading it was how tight the plotting is. Nothing is in there that shouldn't be, and everything you are shown is revealed as relevant when it's picked up again later in the narrative. It's one of the factors that makes it such a compelling read, and the more you write, the more you will recognise this skill in successful authors.
Having said that, if you attempt to begin writing with a fully imagined novel in your head you will almost certainly do yourself a permanent injury. Brains aren't designed that way, and neither - generally - are novels. Try thinking of your story as a journey. To get to your destination successfully, you'll need a map and some signposts if you're not going to end up wandering aimlessly in circles. Granted, you can make some great discoveries en route, but the chances are you'll end up neck deep in quicksand wondering how on earth you can get yourself back on the motorway.
Here, to get you thinking, is an excellent post from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. It can help you formulate your plot from scratch, or act as a tool later in the process to see if your manuscript has enough story to drive it forward. If this isn't how you approach writing don't worry - everyone is different. But I hope it will give you some idea of the landmarks to look out for along the way.