Plotting the structure and pace of a novel must not only personify a unique way of looking at the world, the aim should consistently be to bring all aspects of the story together to hold the readers’ attention. While it helps to create a preliminary framework of the story to give you direction, it should be flexible.
A good rule of thumb is to write off the cuff for at least the first fifty pages; allow the story to unfold without being restrictive to too many pre-determined notions. Where does your story take place and when? Imagine what would occur by visualizing the sequence of events. Create a mental picture of the setting, which should encompass not only a description of the environment but also time. Bear in mind that the reader depends on your choice of words to visualize the setting that plays a vital role in the unfolding story. Keep the description authentic so that the reader can relate; if the setting is in a city, explore relevant details such as a particular part of the city, street, building and circumstances why the story occurs there. Decide who is telling the story; it may be a first-person narrator, omniscient narrator, or third person narrator.
Who is telling the story?
First person narrative – identified as “I” or “we” – refers to the person telling the story where the story is told by one character at a time. This character may be speaking about themselves or relaying perceived experiences. Similarly, the readers’ perception is influenced by the speaker, hence our understanding of the roles the different characters play, conflict and plot development are based on what we learn from the narrator. The first person is also an alternative to third person omniscient narration, which uses “he” “she” or “it” when to describe events. This is a common form of narration in which the teller of the tale often speaks with the voice of the author and assumes an all-knowing perspective about the unfolding story.
Why is the story being told?
In the early stages of writing it is important to introduce the main character, someone that features strongly at the centre of the action. Allow your story to develop without restraint, whether it’s grammatically or content-driven. Write a paragraph, a page or a chapter, depending on your focus. It could be a brief description of a scene or an event that covers several pages. Try not to put yourself under undue pressure to maintain sequential order of developments; you can piece the novel together at a later stage. A good rule of thumb is to introduce a conflict situation at the start of the novel incident that will prompt the reader to understand why this story is being told.
Always write in active voice
It is essential to set a deadline to complete the first draft of your manuscript. Consider that a standard novel comprises 200 manuscript pages or about 60,000 words. There are a certain set of steps to writing a novel. First, familiarize yourself with the principles of this genre – conflict, setting, voice, dialogue, view point and creative description of the environment or mood – as well as when the “conflict” will shatter the so far even-keeled pace of the story. How would your hero react to and resolve the discord? Always write in the active voice; touch on perceived options so that the reader is able to relate to an outcome. Incorporate dialogue that facilitates the development of the story. Set aside at least an hour or two every day to writing and editing your manuscript; compose a thousand words on day one and edit those thousand words the following day.