Tips on structuring novel

(15 Posts)
mydogeatsnutstoo Thu 25-Feb-16 10:15:28

Hi, am about to embark on my second novel (first not published as yet though am exploring options!) I have an idea and several characters but am struggling a bit with planning the structure in advance. I know from experience that if I don't have a structure in mind it won't work! - managed to finish the first one by imposing a rigid structure of alternating first person narrators, but in this one I want to use the viewpoints of several characters and stick to the third person. It's an impossible question really, but just wondering how people manage to plan out a complex structure in advance and if anyone has any tips for doing so (or does anyone just write their way into it....?)

MissBattleaxe Thu 25-Feb-16 13:05:31

Do you have the plot in your head?

MovingBack Thu 25-Feb-16 13:43:53

I have just skimmed through a book on the 'Snowflake Method' in order to try to address the same issue. Some days I feel I should just plunge in and other days I feel I need to do something else (undecided) before beginning. I also googled the same question but managed to confuse myself and procrastinate even more!!!

YerTiz Thu 25-Feb-16 13:46:07

Have you tried plotting your characters' views/actions etc along a timeline? It might draw out some ways to structure/group things.

ImperialBlether Thu 25-Feb-16 13:53:16

Does each character have a compelling story? Is there one person who you would say has more of a story? If someone were to describe the book, would they say "It's about W, X, Y and Z" or would they say "It's about X."?

I would write a list of all the things that happen to each character when it's in their POV. I'd put them onto index cards, then I'd shuffle them into order in terms of how they'll be read.

Pedestriana Thu 25-Feb-16 14:07:37

I don't have any hints.
I'm writing a novel (my first) now. At the moment, I have character sheets which tell me the main things that form their personalities and any events that have shaped those traits. I also have a timeline to which my characters link.
I started trying to write the opening, then realised I wasn't quite sure what point I was trying to make with my character's POV and abandoned it.
Then I started writing from another character's POV who is dead when the book starts, but that didn't work either.
I'm currently writing in blocks of years - so, for example. 1980-1989; XYZ happens to character A, WXY happens to character B, and so forth. I've managed to get much more down on paper that way.
When I come to fit it together it should start 'nearly' in the present, with character A. I just need to figure out how to link the flashback parts in to the current bits.
Essentially, everyone has their own story, and I hope to beguile and mislead along the way. That's where the flashbacks come into play.
I do have a fixed endpoint if that helps.

MissBattleaxe Thu 25-Feb-16 14:56:50

I wrote my book all in one go, but then went back and took out everything that didn't move the story along. It was a useful exercise as it sort of padded out the characters more in my head if you see what I mean.

Don't think I make it sound easier than it was- I've edited 100 more times since then, but that's how I got the bones of it down.

mydogeatsnutstoo Thu 25-Feb-16 15:39:05

Thanks all, yes I have an idea of the plot though not quite sorted all the ins and outs yet! I know who the characters are and what happens but there is a mystery element so I need to be sure about when certain details ares revealed etc.

Imperial, that's an interesting question about whose story it is - I have just been discussing with my partner who is a scientist and takes a very rigorous (if formulaic) approach to things and he said similar (based on having read a bit of Jung and The Seven Basic Plots) ie there should be one central protagonist with whom the reader identifies (and that the other characters should each reflect asn aspect of thged central protagonist though I am not sure about this bit). Anyway from this I think I probably need to decide which character is going to fulfil this brief.

Yes have done a bit of a timeline and a big sheet of paper detailing all the characters and relevant biographical details.

Moving back I know the feeling about whether to plunge in or do more preparation. It can all feel a bit worryingly like procrastinating, but then I think if you plunge in unprepared it can end up not going where you want. Will have a look at the snowflake method too.

MissBattleaxe Thu 25-Feb-16 16:10:22

I find if I plunge in, more ideas come to me as the characters sort of take on a life of their own. And don't worry about it taking you where you don;t want to go- you're in charge!

My best advice to you is to just get writing. It will make more sense to you on paper.

mydogeatsnutstoo Thu 25-Feb-16 16:33:25

Thanks yes I think the writing process itself seems to work in an unconscious way to bring ideas to the fore - what I'm aiming fgircvius to have a reasonable idea where am going though not necessarily set in stone thgen to just get on with it!

mydogeatsnutstoo Thu 25-Feb-16 16:34:07

For is to - don't know what happened there with the nonsense word!

FreshwaterSelkie Thu 25-Feb-16 17:34:16

Interesting question. I'm somewhere the same at the moment, also using third person, but from several character's viewpoints, and I've gone for a bit of a fudge just to get me writing. The main characters are at an event and then there are flashbacks from each of them as they're asked questions by a third party, and I'm building the story that way. It may not work for the whole book as the event that they're flashing back from is about three quarters of the way through the timeline the book is going to cover, so I need to work out how I structure the events that happen after the flashing back event, IYSWIM! But while it might not be the finished structure, it's making it easy to get a lot of stuff written.

I'm using Write It Now which is helping me hang on to the threads of what is where, so even if it doesn't end up staying in that structure, I can re-arrange it further down the line when I've written more.

Good luck!

Pedestriana Thu 25-Feb-16 18:10:19

freshwater what you're doing sounds quite like what I'm doing.
The main idea I'm running with is similar events played out at different points in time, experienced by different members of the same family. My timeline is a 70 year period.
I have some ideas for how to bring in the flashbacks in addition to the experience 'echoes'.
I think I may look at Write It Now. It sounds useful.

FreshwaterSelkie Thu 25-Feb-16 19:25:12

that sounds interesting, pedestriana.

I am liking write it now, it's helping me get organised, so I spend less time scrambling across multiple word documents trying to reconcile who said what to whom at what time! I can map it out quite logically and with luck there'll be no whoopsies about people reminiscing about stuff that hasn't happened yet.

mydogeatsnutstoo Fri 26-Feb-16 09:19:32

Thanks all, some good advice, think need to stop procrastinating and just make a start while having in mind a rough idea of structure! Not actually written anything new for a while, just been redrafting previous work so probably good to get on with it. Good to know others in similar position!

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