Story engineering & what I write about

How to structure your novel.

I started writing this blog with the admission that I’ve never read  ‘how to write’ book, but had ploughed my way through several ‘how to edit’ books, which felt true as I wrote it, but made me pause and run upstairs to check my bookshelf because something didn’t seem right about the admission. True enough my shelf has several ‘how to write books’ and I’m sure I’ve read at lest two of them and probably more. I have a terrible memory, some people are cursed with the inability to forget anything, they can tell you exactly what they had for breakfast on Tuesday the 12th June when they were five years old. I’m the opposite, my brain ditches information at an alarming rate. It always has, so at lest I know this isn’t early onset dementia. The plus side of this is that I can reread my favourite authors on a five year cycle and come back to books as if they were brand new because, whilst I remember characters and some plot elements, most of it reads as new again. The minus side is I don’t remember when I have read useful books and have to keep going back. This memory loss isn’t universal, strange things stick and never go way, but overall lots of information just vanishes. My family find this amusing/ exasperating especially when they relate an anecdote to friends and I say, that’s incredible who told you that? and they turn round and say, you did.

Dealing with structural problems

So I have a bad memory and couldn’t recall reading any ‘how to’ books, and whilst I was working through Sanctuary, the novel I was planning on publishing first, I was thinking I could really use some guidance on structuring the story better. I enjoyed writing and re-reading the story, it has a beginning, middle and end, stuff happens in the middle but… was it enough? Was it engaging? Did it tell you anything new, or explore anything interesting? I felt vaguely dissatisfied without quite knowing why. It was time to go back to basics. Did I check what I had on my shelf? No, I didn’t think I had anything on my shelf, so I googled the web for suggestions and found Joanna Penn’s book list (she’s great I recommend her non-fiction to all my writing friends, I haven’t tried her fiction yet).

The book that struck a chord is Story Engineering: Mastering the six core competencies of successful writing by Larry Brooks. 

It takes you through all the building blocks of what makes a story a story, and how to make sure your story structure hits what people want to see in a satisfying story.

In the meantime I’ve started editing another novella, provisionally titled Innocent, which has  better pace and defined story. I just need to tweak a couple of scenes near the end and I’ll be happy to send it to an editor.

Procrastination is often down to fear of failure

This is good because I know I tend to put things off if I fear they’ll fail and I’m feeling a bit like I’m procrastinating. I’m putting off taking the next step in publishing because I fear that once it’s done and it’s out there it might go nowhere and all my hopes and dreams will sink with it.

This isn’t true of course, publishing, as with everything else is a journey not a one off event. As much work goes into marketing as went into production, and very, very few people get an instant success out of the first thing they launch into the world. I’m in it for the long haul so I should just get on with it.

What do I write?

I realised that I haven’t yet mentioned in this blog what it is I actually write. It’s the first question people ask me when I tell them about my 100 book challenge so it’s surprising I’ve never mentioned it. I tend to gravitate to romance, historic fiction, science fiction and fantasy (when I was young I loved reading fantasy but I’ve drifted way from it to historic fiction),  and a touch of gothic fiction. I have started a page listing all the stories in my portfolio and I would love to hear what you think of them and which you think I should work on first.