The epiphany struck in the bathroom.
I stood in front of the mirror and proclaimed, “I’m going to write novels.” During that first week of writing, I told myself, “This is what I do. I’m never going to stop.”
So I wrote anything and everything at any time. I wrote for myself because I had to get the story out. And I did it by the seat of my pants.
Then I started following authors who had actually published novels. And they talked about stuff I hadn’t considered.
Specifically, I listened to Randy Ingermanson’s lecture series (the Snowflake Guy) where he asked one simple question along the lines of “What’s the #1 thing readers want in a novel?”
What would they expect from my story? Would they want it to change them? Educate them? Inspire them? Funny how the answer lived inside the very definition of Story.
- Story (noun): An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.
Storytellers must first and foremost entertain.
All readers want a form of escapism. They want to be transported into your created story. And once there, it better be entertaining because if it’s too teachy or preachy, they’ll jump back into reality and look for another author’s story that offers the right recipe of fantasy.
Why did you read the last novel you purchased or borrowed? Did you read it to be taught by the author? To be inspired?
Nope, you probably read its synopsis, thought it looked entertaining and jumped in. And if you got more than entertainment, that’s a cherry on top.
Entertainment is the greatest common denominator that all readers share. However, far too many novels are not entertaining enough. Even novels put out by large publishing houses.
Ever heard this one? “Just get through the first fifty pages because then it gets really good!”
Do you really want someone talking about your story like that? Isn’t the goal to captivate the reader on page one and keep them hooked every chapter thereafter?
The key is grasping how a plot flows. Act to act. Chapter to chapter. Paragraph to paragraph. And storytelling patterns help authors create this flow.
Writers may instinctively pick up these patterns through years of practice and repetition: Reading and writing a lot. But why waste even one day of Butt In Chair time when you can start using these patterns right now?
That’s why I recommend exploring plot structure.
Concerned your creative juices will be stunted?
Don’t worry, this isn’t like painting by numbers. Painting by numbers tells you which color to use. Plot structure is more comparable to building a house. Every house needs a proven architectural foundation to withstand the elements it will face.
Plot structure focuses your creativity so your ideas blossom under proven building blocks. This process builds momentum and confidence so you keep going and finish your story. You shouldn’t have to trunk thousands of words including entire chapters, acts or rough drafts. But there’s another reason why you should create using a proven storytelling outline.
Readers expect it.
And they’ve accepted it as the standard when being entertained by novels. Readers don’t consciously see this outline though. But they know it because they’ve accepted it through the ebb and flow of every successful novel they’ve read and film they’ve watched. Readers have been subconsciously trained to digest key events at specific intervals, meaning plot points occur at formulaic percentage markers. It wasn’t until I acknowledged how these building block fit into the big picture that my writing got on track to give readers what they expected…
The entertaining ride they deserved.
I witnessed an immediate difference when I outlined my novel using this formula. My daily word count increased. My overall confidence skyrocketed.
The first draft of my current work in progress felt more like a third draft after it was written.
I’m now focused on the supplementary editing details. I still created, too. I had to visualize the world I’d outlined, go there, experience it, and translate it onto the pages. Writer’s block became a unique event because I kept my outline within arm’s length. I always knew what to write next.
The big picture also helped me see where every story starts… In the Story Heart.
It’s where the basic foundation begins to empower your story. This empowerment occurs by uniting Concept and Premise.
- Concept = Vague story ideas.
- Premise = A focused plotline.
Wondering how to get to your STORY HEART and begin cooking this expected entertainment into your story?
Answer these questions to get back to basics and focus your story’s purpose:
- Why are you writing your story?
- Why should your potential readers be interested in your story?