Monday, September 5, 2016

Structure/ Formula/ Craft

As a writer in three different genres, I am constantly aware of how I need to structure the composition of my book. Not by content, but by the way the paragraphs, scenes, and then
chapters "build" the body of the work.

Perhaps it is part of my individual "voice" in these different genres, but in each I am writing to a particular audience. Each person reads differently. Each genre takes that into consideration. Each writer should know the "rules" of writing in their chosen genre before they begin.

That said, as a Regency romance novelist, I structure my book with ten-page chapters. No more, no less. Two person POV plot.  80-95 thousand words. I always have an epilogue. However, it's a very circuitous journey to the inevitable Happily Ever After. Give the readers what they want.

As a writer of contemporary romance, I find my page counts for chapters are lower. Same word count. And I do tend to like my epilogues. However, I write only in the main character's POV. Close third person.

I also dabble in murder mysteries. I write separate scenes within a chapter with page breaks and no transitions. Words counts are lower -- 35-50K. No epilogue, but with a cliffhanger ending. (Hopefully, to lure the reader into the next book.) Again, I only use the main character's POV.

New writers may ask -- Is it necessary to structure a book? Why can't I just write it the way I want?

Well, you can. It's your book. You can write it any way you want. But readers want certain things from books and if yours is not structured properly, well, it could bite you in the end.

Put it this way--you wouldn't build a house without a proper foundation. For that you need cement, lumber, nails, screws, big tools, and a set of blueprints. Blueprints, like writing "rules" are necessary. If you don't have them when you start, sure enough, by the end of building your structure, something will be off and then you'll have to find the mistake and fix it. Sometimes, you have to go all the way back to the beginning. (My father built a house once without blueprints. It took him twenty years to finish it.)

Tell me -- Do you think about the structure of your story before you write? Do you follow the rules? Did you know the rules before you started writing? And if you do know the rules, do you break them?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016


jabblog said...

Very interesting. I tend to structure in the way I like to read but then I don't write as much or in as many different genres as you:-)

Bish Denham said...

I don't start out with this kind of structure. I generally know how many chapters there will be, but work count for each can vary.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

The only rule I follow: every paragraph must have a purpose or otherwise entertain.

Anne Gallagher said...

Jabblog -- You write the way you like to read. Well, you've already gotten through half the battle.

Bish -- I can't figure on chapters. I just write until I'm finished and then see how many chapters I end up with.

Mac -- Yeah, you're pretty good at that.

Stacy McKitrick said...

If I thought about the structure, I'd never write. I have no idea how many chapters I'll have or how long it will be. The story just is. Good thing I'm NOT building a house, huh? :)

dolorah said...

Hmm, I don't think about structure before I write. It happens as I go along a bit, but mostly think of that after the first draft, during several rewrites. Getting the story on document is hard enough. I think its cool you can think of all that as you write. You are dedicated. Keep it up if it works :)

E Elle said...

I am a 100% seat-of-my-pants writer when I begin. The structure becomes clearer to me as I progress. It's much easier for me to tell the story as it's meant to be told this way than to lay it all out before I dive in. I also find it more fun. :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

I've always heard you have to know the rules, and know them well, before you can break them. I'm a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer so must have a saggy foundation.

Nice to see you're still at it, you crazy hippy child!