Novice to Novel: Part 3 – Structure


I. Fucking. Nailed it! I am so happy to share what I mean, but first, The Stats:

Words: 52,355

Chapters written: 25

Words written this week: 1,381

Version 3, Rough Draft

Let me explain why I am so happy. I have been making my way through Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and I am extremely impressed with the content. I have heard it called the best book on writing screenplays and now I see why. While it only has 180 pages, there are absolutely no wasted words. It contains only important information, no filler. I have already had multiple revelations about my novel and things that I can do to improve what I am working on.

But enough gushing, time to get down to what I have learned.

Here is my “new and improved” logline:

A lonely young man fights to save his life after a god-like being offered him everything that he thought he wanted.

That is the story and everything I write from now on has to serve that sentence. I haven’t had a lot of chances to write this week but I have to say that the few time I have gotten to write it has been a whole lot easier with that frame of reference in mind.

Next, the book said I had to come up with a title. To be honest, if this story did get turned into a movie, it would probably need a new title, but I already have a title and I am way too in love with it to ever change it. It is:

Absurdity; and the inevitable heat death of the Universe.

Now onto the exciting part, plot structure. I was very nervous about this stage because I have my snowflake method all done up, 5 pages of my whole story, and I was worried that what I had done would have to be completely changed.

It was just the opposite! The section on plot structure is thorough and explains what Blake Snyder calls the 15 beats that must be hit. I found it to be a simplified Hero’s Journey and honestly it was very effective. My favorite part though is that he put what page in a typical 110-page script each beat would be hit. This is amazing! Blake Snyder has done the pacing for me. Basically what I did was extrapolate those beats and when they would hit in a script and apply it to my novel.

I have done my research and I have come to the conclusion that my novel should be as close to 90 thousand words as possible. With that as my goal for the end of the novel, I was able to figure out when the plot points should hit in my novel, in terms of word count, and here are the results:

Act 1

  1. Opening: first sentence. (duh)
    • Setting up the first impression on the reader. Capture the entire novel (including theme, character, and tension) as quickly as possible.
  2. Theme Stated: 4k words
    • Letting the reader know what to expect and what the purpose of your novel is.
  3. Set-Up: 1- 8k words
    • Showing what the “Normal World” is. What life is like before the events of the novel take place.
  4. Catalyst: 10k words
    • The “Inciting Incident.” What causes your novel to happen and your character to leave the “Normal World.”
  5. Debate: 12-25k words
    • Your character wondering if they are up to the task of whatever the Catalyst has caused.
  6. Break into Two: 20,500 words
    • Your character deciding to leave the “Normal World” and enter the “New World.” Charlie going to the chocolate factory.

Act 2

  1. “B” Story: 24,500 words
    • The story within the story. The journey of the character(s) trying to figure out how to get to the finale. Frodo going to Rivendell.
  2. Fun & Games: 24,500 – 45k words
    • The journey of the character(s) getting to the midpoint of the book. This is usally trials and tribulations, but the fun stuff before the stakes get raised and things get serious.
  3. Midpoint: 45k words
    • There is usually a small victory or loss which causes the stakes to get raised and for things to stop being just fun and games.
  4. Bad Guys Close In: 45k – 61k words
    • Things are getting worse and the character(s) are starting to struggle.
  5. All Is Lost: 61k words
    • The Low Point. The part where the reader says, “how the fuck are they going to pull this off?”
  6. Dark Night of the Soul: 61k – 70k words
    • Character(s) go through the “why me” phase and have to find the resolve to carry on.
  7. Break Into Three: 70k words
    • A solution is found. Story A and Story B are combined and there is a lightbulb moment that gives the character the will and way to get to the finale.

Act 3

  1. Finale: 70k – 90k words
    • Character(s) use the new things they have learned to tackle the problems brought on by the Catalyst. The final showdown.
  2. Final Image: 90k words
    • The lasting image left on the reader that shows the change that has occured over the course of the novel.

There it is. Those are the 15 plot points, or beats, that are essential to a good story according to Blake Snyder. Next to each of these plot points are word count estimations of when they should occur.

To be honest, I was blown away by how accurate this experiment turned out to be. I am 52k words into my novel and based on the layout I just typed up I should be at the end of the “Fun & Games” part and heading into the midpoint. I am just wrapping up some of the hilariously strange things that are happening to my character and just about to have the floor fall out on him when he not only realizes the truth about his reality, but that he is going to die in 3 months time. According to this, I am EXACTLY where I should be in my novel, and I am so happy!

Going back through my novel I am seeing that there are parts that I need to shorten and there are parts that I will need to expand on so I can hit the “beats” when they need to be hit. I think following this guideline will help the pacing of my novel tremendously and I plan to follow it as closely as possible to see what happens.

I know that this can feel formulaic, but I think it will be a good start for my novel-writing journey. I really want to get used to plotting and pacing so I think following a formula will help me learn how to do that. Then when I have more experience under me I will feel more comfortable messing with pace and plotting. So, this is my foundation.

I hope you all enjoyed this post. I appreciate everyone that reads this and please, please, please feel free to add comments and suggestions. I would love to get your thoughts about the research I have done, my logline, or even the title of my book. Does it sound interesting? I really hope so.

Chris Joy

P.S. I have exciting news! I am going to Vegas next week for a mini writing vacation! I will take pictures and try to get some writing done and share the experience with you all next week.

Categories: Novice to NovelTags: , , , ,

2 comments

  1. I’ve been meaning to check out Save The Cat! but all I do next is fall back to my pantsing ways. Looks like a great breakdown you’ve shared here, with examples of the teachings in action, so thanks for this! Wishing you all the best with your WIP!

    Liked by 1 person

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