How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time, Even if You're Busy!
IV. Write Your Book:
Now that you have your writing time, your writing plan, and writing goal, it’s time to do none other than write! (Surprising, right?) But seriously, now it’s time to focus on the content of your book. Yes, the above is all very important, but if your book isn’t compelling or structured correctly, it won’t sell.
When I first started teaching, I taught middle school. Teaching narrative writing to my students forced me to take a good look at the writing process and content. After all, in order to teach writing, I needed to research how best to do it through—yes, again—digestible bites, which brings me to Freytag’s Plot Pyramid.
Freytag’s Plot Pyramid:
I stumbled across Freytag’s Plot Pyramid while researching the best ways to teach my students how to write. It’s the best and simplest way to teach students how to master writing the short story. The same diagram is used to write novels. After all, they both have the same elements. Novel writing is just longer. Keep in mind that the same elements of writing are used when writing both short stories and full-length novels. But when writing novels, you have one chapter to grab the reader’s attention, whereas in a short story, you only have just a few paragraphs.
When I found Freytag’s Plot Pyramid, I added a few more things. Then, my narrative writing structure was complete.
Here is Freytag’s Plot Pyramid with my additions:
Exposition/Introduction: In the introduction, you introduce your characters, setting, and conflict. Hit the ground running! (More about that later.)
Conflict: There are many types of conflict. In fact, I could write a whole section—or book—on conflict alone. But in essence, conflict is a problem for the protagonist within the story.
Rising Action: This is the stage when events happen that forces the protagonist, or main character, to change a little at a time. Something happens that creates tension, then something else happens, etc.
Climax: When events happen one after the other, it creates tension. The climax is when the tension is so great that a change must happen. The climax is the turning point in the story that causes the protagonist to change.
Falling Action: After the climax, there is no more conflict and no story, so the story must end. Falling action is when the loose ends of the main plot and/or subplots are tied up.
Resolution: The resolution of the story is just as it sounds—how the conflict is resolved.
Denouement: This is the end of the story. What happens to the protagonist? Does he or she live happily ever after? Do they go their separate ways, never to see one another again? This is the denouement.
As you can see above, I’ve added “Conflict” and “Resolution” to Freytag’s model. The conflict is perhaps the most important thing in a story. For without the conflict, there is no story. Also, once the conflict is resolved, there is no more story. After the conflict, start wrapping up the loose ends of the story.
It’s important to note that Freytag stated that three-fourths of the action happens on the left side of the pyramid; whereas, only one-fourth of the action happens on the right.
Another element that I added was the resolution. This is different than the denouement. The resolution is how the conflict is resolved. The denouement is how the story ends. Therefore, I felt that it was important to add the resolution, as well.
Hit the Ground Running:
Yes, this is a strange subheading for a writing book, so let me explain.
Often times, writers feel that they need to tell the character’s whole life story, or back story, in the first chapters of his or her book. In fact, several famous authors do this. One very famous author in particular writes wonderful books, but she used to spend the first five chapters on back story. If you could make it through these chapters, then the story was great. However, the story didn’t actually start until the fifth chapter! Now, she spends the first three chapters on back story, but it’s still a lot to wade through. But when you’re a famous author, you have the luxury. Writers still making a name for themselves do not have the same luxury.
In reality, you risk losing the reader if you don’t hit the ground running right away. A good writer will start the story in the action. Introduce the characters, conflict, and setting right away in the first chapter. Then, tell any back story as you go along on a need-to-know basis. The reader doesn’t need to know every detail that happened in the five years after the protagonist’s wife left him for another man, or that he has spent every weekend of the five years since she left eating ice cream straight from the tub. Boring! Instead, start the action off with the protagonist running into his future love in a chance passing at an elevator. He notices her, and then in the elevator he remembers that his wife left him for another man and that he spent most nights drowning his sorrows in a tub of ice cream. But get the action going right away.
I just read a book that did just that—started off right in the action, The Wind Guardian, by: Frank Scozzari. The author grabbed the attention of the reader right from the beginning and didn’t let go until the end. The book opens with a couple rolling in the hay. He watches the clock, preparing mentally for a visitor while thinking of going to work at his regular job in a nuclear power plant. However, there is a knock on the door early. He dresses as he heads toward the door. When he opens it, he recognizes the man, but it isn’t who he expects. He greets him, asking him, “What’s up?” And then he gets blown away—literally. Talk about grabbing the reader’s attention! As the story unfolds, Scozzari gives information to the reader on a need-to-know basis. You should, too.
My undergrad degree is in Communications, News Editorial sequence. When writing newspaper articles, the writer has just one paragraph or two to grab the reader’s attention. When writing a novel, we have just one chapter. If the action doesn’t start right away, and if the characters, conflict, and setting aren’t introduced right away, the reader will most likely move on to the next book. Therefore, you have one chapter to grab the reader’s attention … and keep it.
Another way to keep the reader reading is to use minor cliffhangers. As I said, use minor cliffhangers. This doesn’t mean to literally leave your protagonist dangling off a cliff at the end of every chapter. No, just one sentence will do.
At the end of each chapter, just a one or two line cliffhanger to keep the reader turning the page. The art of the minor cliffhanger is not using major cliffhangers all the way through the book. Again, just one line will be fine to keep the reader turning the page.
Again, most writers don’t have the luxury of procrastinating. So, grab the reader’s attention right away and don’t let go. Then, keep the reader turning the page until the satisfying end. Using minor cliffhangers in your story will do just that.
Write a Compelling Beginning, Middle, and End:
When writing your novel, it’s important that you write a compelling beginning, middle, and end. Yes, it sounds very basic, but you would be surprised. The worst thing you could do is to have a great, compelling beginning of your book that loses steam halfway through. Believe me, in this case, the reader will quickly move on to the next novel. Although I don’t agree with it, Amazon was smart to start paying people by the number of pages read on Kindle Unlimited. You would be surprised of the amount of books that lose steam hallway through. In fact, some authors put their best in the beginning and at the end of their books. However, if you want to write a great novel that will keep the reader turning the page, the middle of a novel is just as important.
But if you follow Freytag’s Plot Pyramid, creating rising action that creates tension and builds throughout the novel, the reader will be so enthralled that they won’t be able to put your book down.
Also, if you build up to a dynamic fight scene, then make sure you give the reader their money’s worth. Give them a fight scene they will remember. When editing books for other authors, I’ve seen this more than once. There is a great buildup in the novel and then the fight scene is a letdown. In these cases, I work with the author to create the best fight scene imaginable. One famous author and book franchise did the same thing. There was a great buildup to a fight scene and then they talked it out. It was a big letdown to a lot of readers.
When creating fight scenes or love scenes, slow down the action within your mind so you can write the scene effectively. What is happening? What do you see, feel, or hear? What is the protagonist feeling, seeing, or hearing? Include as many descriptive details, filled with color and life as you can and the reader will not be disappointed.
Also, some authors feel that the action must be elevated throughout the whole book. These books are exhausting to read. A good adage to maintain when writing is to have action followed by a bit of down time, and then more action followed by a bit of downtime again. Alternating the action and downtime will give the reader the opportunity to catch their breath and savor the book before the whirlwind action begins again.
It’s important to note that “downtime” does not mean “boring” by no means. Here’s an example. In my book Thou Shalt Not Kill—a book about teens and war—there was a scene where the main characters went to their school at night and stole some supplies after the attack on their school.
Of course, it wasn’t easy for the characters and there was action. However, when they all got back to the cave safely, one of them had grabbed tubs of ice cream, so they passed out spoons and dug in, having a moment of camaraderie. This allowed the reader to see the teens being teens, and allowed the characters to bond, as well. In the process, the reader was able to catch their breath before the action started again.
Downtime also allows the reader to see the inner turmoil of the main characters, too, avoiding the danger of becoming flat characters. Make sure that your characters—both the main characters and secondary characters—are well developed. Giving the characters little quirks can make them seem more real. Just as no human is perfect, no character should be perfect, either. Creating characters that are too perfect will result in unbelievable, flat characters.
Join me tomorrow as the Write Now! Series continues!