This Tuesday evening, my 12-week course, Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel, starts up again at George Brown College. Will it guarantee that students write a best-selling novel? Nope. Sorry, but too much depends on the individual writer. Learning to write fiction is something like learning to roller-skate. You fall, you get up, you try again. And you only succeed if you keep at it. And having the completed novel published is yet another series of hoops to go through.
But I’m looking forward to working with a new group of writers. They’ll all come to the class with some background. Most will have taken Novel Writing I at George Brown or an equivalent at another institution, some will have had short stories published. So they’ll all be familiar with the all-important “keeping at it” aspect of writing. And, best of all, they’ll all have started novels, which we’ll workshop in class.
We’ll be looking in depth at story structure in the weeks ahead. Because if a writer doesn’t have a structure for his or her novel, he won’t have a novel, just a series of scenes.
Plotters will learn to plan out a story framework before they start writing. And pantsters–those who like writing organically or “flying from the seat of their pants”– will have a road map they can check as they go along to see if they’re on track.
A great byproduct of understanding story structure is that it cures writer’s block. The reason for writer’s block — that sorry state of staring at the computer screen with no words coming — is not knowing enough about the craft of novel writing know what has to come next. But writers who understand where they are in terms of plot points will know the next steps they need to take in building their novels.