The # 10 Key Step:
Imposing a structure on your book. When I was writing my first published novel, The Piercing, I imposed a structure on the plot that complemented the religious overtones of the book. As a specific time frame for my story I chose the 40 days of Lent. I then divided the book into 40 chapters, one for each day. This structure enabled me to pace the story while always having an overview of where the plot was going.
You will be surprised that even an artificial structure, like a scaffolding to a building, will help you write your book. You can discard the building blocks later, if you want, but the device will help you write your novel. For example, if you want to write a novel that takes place all within twenty-four hours, you have that security of a structure to pace the story but don’t have to break the book down into hours on the page. Left unsaid, the reader might come away from the book and realize then and appreciate what you have cleverly done without creating fanfare for it.
Rick Bass, a really fine writer, makes the point that a writer has to be like a mason. You need both power and precision to construct a good story. As he puts it, “You’ve got to lay the stones one onto the other so they fit together, but you’ve got to have the strength to lug them around.”
Or think of your structure the way that Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River, puts it. “In most novels, any given scene is proportionally a small bit of the story, and yet the scene still needs to reflect all that’s essential about the novel, must acknowledge the scenes that came before and lay groundwork for what comes after, while, hopefully, being compelling in its own right. To be honest, I don’t know how anybody writes a novel.”
Now, isn’t that encouraging?
Why write a novel in the first place, you might ask. Well, Gloria Steinem has the answer for all of us: “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
That’s reason enough for me.