How to Write a Successful Story

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Plotting and scheming that novel

So, you want to write a mystery or maybe a fantasy, or are you hankering after creating a block-buster adult romance? No matter what your chosen genre, you're attempting to write a novel.

Writing is your ambition yet you don't seem to be moving forward - a common problem if the number of letters I get is anything to go by.

First off, make sure you understand just what the plot is about. Some people seem to think the plot will magically evolve as they write. This is nonsense. Writing is a logical process. Hard work is required. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration....

As far as a novel is concerned, a plot can perhaps be described as the structure of scenes dealing with the problems that separate a novel from daily life.

Most novels are larger than life. More things happen, deeper problems are solved. Novels fulfil a reader's flight of fancy because it is how they think they would like their lives to be.

This is where a Newbie author can slip-up. They sometimes try to make their novel too ‘true to life'. Readers don't want stories that are life as THEY live it. When readers pick up a book, they're seeking diversion from routine. Successful novels reflect their fantasies.

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About the author

  • Short stories by AJ Barnett have been published since 1994 in magazines, summer specials and international competitions, been broadcast on radio and recorded for audio books.

Structure of a novel - The Scene.

The numerous minor causes and effects that occur during the plot, group together to form scenes. The scene is another elementary building block of fiction. The scene is made up of three parts.

  • Goal.
  • Conflict.
  • Failure of the character to reach the goal.


There must be a goal(s) or there is no story. The central character(s) must strive towards some almost impossible ideal or purpose. In the path of this striving should be obstacles, and these create conflict. All stories should have conflict. Without conflict there is nothing to tell.

There should be one, and only one, primary goal and this should run through the whole of the novel. The primary goal is the purpose behind the tale. The primary goal should be made plain at the outset of the story. There can be numerous minor goals and conflicts that trickle in and out as the story unfolds. The primary goal should not be resolved until the story reaches the end, but minor goals can, and should, be disentangled as the story progresses.


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Comments 15 comments

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Hi, Anthony, yet another clear concise hub for aspiring young writers to help wrap their heads around writing that first novel that is about to burst out of them!  Perhaps you could do a series of these for folks?  A thought since the internet is full of young aspiring poets and writers.  They could benefit from your experience in the craft.  Blogging this on over to The Social Poets for the writing crowd that visits, thank you!

Should publish in the next day or two.


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Thanks for that Denny. I feel honoured that you feel my work good enough to share.


tdarby profile image

tdarby 7 years ago

Thanks--another fantastic hub.


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Hi, tdarby, you're very kind. Thank you.


Fiction Writer 7 years ago

Hey, these are some great tips for story development, I have had to rehash quite a few of my short stories when I don't constantly question how my characters would behave to different stimuli!


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment, Fiction Writer. Glad it's of use.


Béla Mongyi 7 years ago

Finding a decent plot? I mean why would you want to write a novel if you have no clue what the heck to write about?

I like your elements for a good plot. Also, do you think a plot should carry a deeper meaning?


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Hi, Béla. The problem is, a lot of newbies just plough into a story with a flimsy idea. For some reason they imagine the story is going to write itself - and of course it doesn't - a story needs substance.

Deeper meaning? If you're aiming to be a literary giant then certainly - and good luck with it....

However most writers simply want to tell a tale. I fall into the latter category. I like to spin a yarn that holds reader's interest. I've been lucky enough to have comments sent to me saying that readers (both men and women) have started WITHOUT REPROACH and could do no work for a couple of days because they didn't want to put it down. I've had readers write to magazines saying my short stories made them cry - I love that - I don't aim for anything higher.


Béla Mongyi 7 years ago

That's great! And it's well enough I guess.

As for me, I'm not likely to become a library giant

for I'm no writer. :)


teinesith profile image

teinesith 7 years ago

Good advice, sir.


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Glad you liked it, Teinesith. Thanks for stopping by.


Karen H. 7 years ago

Very good points. I especially like how you articulate #3 and urge writers to "write with that emotion" they wish to arouse in the reader. Nice.


camlo profile image

camlo 6 years ago from Cologne, Germany

Yes, our focus should never deviate from the points you make here.

The plotting etc. is probably more challenging than the actual writing -- and at least as important.

Good Hub!

All the best, Camlo


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 6 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain Author

Thanks Camio, kind of you to stop by and comment


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

This is definitely useful. Point the way, aj. Like it, I do indeed! Make it look almost hopeless and string the readers along, that's the way to hook them... Just don't let on you're doing it. Camouflage, that's the thing - what's the Anglo-Saxon for camouflage? Hiding in plain sight! And what's another way of doing that? Fictionalising the facts... Thereby hangs a tale. What's that pleasant aroma hanging on the air? I smell a profit!

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