Learning From the Already Initiated

If, like me, you have daydreamed your way through school, college (and probably work meetings), you will have filled countless notebooks, writing apps and spare corners of your brain with story ideas. The need to transfer these on to paper is all consuming, if you don’t, you feel like you might spontaneously combust.

Before I ever had the notion that I might be able to transform these tiny story sparks into fully formed prose I was expanding my ideas into what I now recognise as basic plot outlines. I have hundreds of them, just wallowing around waiting to be taken notice of.

The skill required to take these basic outlines and turn them into something meaningful is a skill I’m studying. I have read hundreds of books by well known and emerging authors. Some have brought me to tears, some I’ve finished with a satisfied sigh and some I’ve abandoned after a few chapters because I just don’t get them. They’re not speaking to me, I don’t know what they are about or I’m bored of them.

During my summer holiday this year, the poolside was crowded with people reading books they’d carefully chosen to transport them away for a week or two, but not me. I was reading instruction manuals on how to include premise, conflict, characterisation and theme into my stories. I was learning about story and character arc and the fundamental building blocks and stages of writing fiction. I’m not sure if that makes me diligent or a complete nerd, but I devoured everything I could squeeze into those lazy days.
The method that I chose to follow for my first attempt at writing a novel was detailed in Larry Brooks – Story Engineering. It’s not for the fainthearted, I skipped over most of the verbose self-advertising to get to the meat of the technique but once I’d got there I thought it could probably work for me.

It’s about ensuring you hit certain structured story milestones to ensure you keep your reader interested and engaged, for example; revealing your first plot point at the 25% mark. It works great for those of us who love a good spreadsheet in our lives!

So this is the method that I have chosen but I would be interested to know what you do.

  • Do you know of any other great techniques that are tried and tested?
  • Do you know of any other resources or websites for writers that have helped you?
  • Do you run a resource site that this novice could dive in to?

I would love to hear about them if you do.


About Nicola Auckland

Busy wife to one & mum to two. I've caught the creative writing bug, now need to practice, get awesome and write something worth reading. Simples.
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