Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Structuring a Novel

Parker Stockman

Laurie Lawlor teaching

Laurie Lawlor teaching

Right now, I’m starting to work on my thesis, which will be a novel. I’m in an Advanced Young Adult Fiction class, and something we went over in class this week has really taken root in how I am planning the narrative arc of my novel for my thesis. We were talking about the wider, over-arching narrative of a novel, especially when using a three-act structure. Laurie Lawlor, my teacher, broke it down for us.

First, you (the writer) have about 20% of the book to get the main disturbance down. Establish the status quo that you will break, but make sure to introduce the main character and make the world of the story explicitly known. The tone of the novel will need to be established, pushing us into the middle of the story by way of the opposition.

The second act, or middle chunk of your novel, goes up to about the 75% mark, and it is the largest section of the piece. We are moving toward the “final battle,” if you will (this can be applied to realistic fiction as well as genre), and we need to really see the characters interact, their relationships change, we should keep caring, and we should be propelled to the final act.

We have the final battle, the loose ends tying up, and a satisfying conclusion to the story. This is only a quarter of the book, so you really have to build to it.

So, I’ve taken this and started applying it to the book I’m working on. It’s been helpful, as I’m trying to build toward the satisfying conclusion. This has helped me with my mental outline and has helped me figure out exactly how long I think the book will be.

Revising

Revising

I’m getting into revising the material I have for it already, to make the changes that outlining necessitates. It’ll be a fun process, and I’m looking forward to it!

Structuring a Novel

Right now, I’m starting to work on my thesis, which will be a novel. I’m in an Advanced Young Adult Fiction class, and something we went over in class this …

Creative Writing - Fiction MFA Parker Stockman, parker.stockman@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience