Building Novel Templates

I found this article online to help you structure your projects. It seems simple enough, and isn’t a strict outline, which I have never been able to do. Instead, it helps you make a list of major plot points, which does make it seem suspiciously like an outline. Perhaps it’s just how Parnell talks about his method, but I just seemed to find this article helpful. Give it a try, it might help with your writer’s block (even if you are in the middle of a project).

Building Novel Templates
by Rob ParnellFirst, know your characters inside out, work through a rough story outline either in your head or on paper, making sure it’s your characters that define the story and not the other way round. Okay, so that’s the tough bit. Now for the easy bit:

  1. Get a piece of paper and write 1 to 10 down the left hand side with plenty of space for writing in between.
  2. Next to No 1, write Intro.
  3. Next to No 10, write Finale
  4. At No 1, write one sentence, no more, describing your opening scene.
  5. At No 10, write one sentence describing the last scene in your book.
  6. For instance, if you were writing a love story, next to No 1 you might write: ‘Jane finds herself alone after husband John dies’
  7. At No 10, you might write ‘Dirk asks for Jane’s hand in marriage.’ It’s simplistic I know but that’s almost the point.
  8. Now, against 2 to 9, write down the major plot points that will take your reader from the beginning of your novel to the end. These will act as cues for scenes in your writing.

Now read it through. Is there logic? Does it seem satisfying? Is there a moral, a point to the story? If so, good. If not, start again. Its no big deal.If you’re happy with what you’ve got, write a couple of words, lines etc. linking the plot points. These act as more cues for scenes in your novel. Next, transfer everything on to PC and begin to expand on your short sentences.

Start to describe how you’re going to open scenes, what you’re going to write about, what actions take place, what the various conversations will be about and how issues might be set up and resolved. At the end of this process you should have a draft template for your novel. Read over if a few times to see if it includes everything you want to mention in your novel.

This is a great exercise for many reasons, not least that it helps you visualize your novel in its entirety, probably one of the best tricks you’ll ever have to pull as a writer! Not only that, it can help you iron out problems before you start writing. Too many writers stumble during their novels because they run out of steam and cant remember where it was going, or discover its now different from how they imagined it.

I know planning novels is not everyone’s idea of creative bliss. Indeed many writers tell me they just cant do it, donut want to do it, and will fight to protect their right to make up the story as they go along. Fine. That works for some. But let me tell you something I’ve learnt, in my long career teaching writers to write novels. With a novel template you are at least twenty times more likely to finish your novel than without one! Sobering thought, eh? So before you dismiss the idea, at least give the template a fair go.

© Copyright Rob Parnell 2004

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