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What goes where?

Remember what we said about the three parts of a novel? We won’t get too technical here, but some things should happen by the end of the three parts. Briefly, these are -

Beginning - all characters introduced and ‘fleshed out’. Main character’s crisis fully understood - his or her adversary (be it a person or situation) - be evident. The sub-plot should be established (this involves the ‘story within a story’ that almost all novels contain - for example Chief Brody wasn’t just interested in killing the shark in Jaws - he had marriage problems as well). At the end of the beginning there should also be a big surprise. This is usually in the form of a setback for the main character (he thought he’d caught the shark but boy! Was he mistaken!) This shock event should also make it that much worse for your main character in terms of achieving his or her goal!

The middle section of your story can be daunting - it’s half the book, after all - and it’s important that it doesn’t flag or fizzle out. This is where good, tight plotting will pay you back in spades. Start the middle section by having the main character reflecting on how he or she has failed - and then start to point them in the direction of success. They may have to adopt a different approach to the problem, enlist help from elsewhere, get a bigger gun or hire a shark-catching boat - that’s up to you, it’s your story! The things to remember are your surprises. There’s generally another one just about in the middle of the middle (if you get my meaning) and it should be a worse shock for your main character than the first. But there’s always one at the end of the middle section - and it’s always a big, big shock. In fact, it should be so bad that your readers will say to themselves ‘No way is this guy going to come out of this!’ It should make it look virtually impossible for your main character to come out on top.

Now for the end. Here’s where you tie up all the loose ends, squeeze your lead character’s options down to virtually nil - and, just before he or she wins out, have the worst disaster of all happen (the shark sinks the boat!). How can your character win? This, in the terminology of writing, is the Point Of Hopelessness. It’s where your main character is saying ‘game over - I’m finished!’ Until, that is, the Saving Act. (The final bullet hits the oxygen cylinder in the shark’s teeth!). Cue cheers from the reader who sits back and says ‘That was one hell of a good book!’

And that’s it!

Only, of course, it isn’t.

These brief outlines are just that - ideas to get you started along the way. Over the next couple of pages we’ll have a look at some other aspects of the writer’s life. The first of these are writer’s groups, the second are writing competitions.

So now click here to go to the next step!

Worried about your grammar? Then this is for you - but don't take my word for it - click here for the full lowdown!