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How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week 2: Resources on Structure

Updated on May 4, 2009
Photo: nuanc,Flickr
Photo: nuanc,Flickr

Welcome to my journey from blank page to first draft of a novel in six months! I hope you'll find resources and inspiration here to help you realize your own dream of printing out a huge stack of paper that another human being may or may not ever read. That's the business of writing, right? This week I want to share with you the resources that helped me get a handle on this thing we call structure, or plot.

My Favorite Book on Structure and Plot

I've read a lot of books on how to plot a novel and structure a book. My favorite by far is Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. I'm not saying this is the best book for everyone, but it spoke to me and I highly recommend it to anyone who still hasn't found there way when it comes to understanding story structure.

Maybe you've heard that there are really only two plots: 1) a hero goes on a journey, and 2) a stranger comes to town. Vogler takes the hero's journey and breaks it out into specific phases using clear explanations and helpful examples all the way through. Not only does he give you all the tools for creating a story that resonates with readers, he goes into the reasons that these mythic patterns affect us all. Lest you be wary of using a ‘formula', that's not what this book provides. It does, however, equip you with the tools to tell your story in a way people can relate to.

Feminine Journey vs. Masculine Journey

While The Writer's Journey is great for getting into the finer points of the hero's path, Vogler makes little distinction between the male and female journeys. I used 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters extensively to create my characters (which I'll go into further in a later article), but there's also a great resource at the end of that book that shows you how to plot male and female journeys. There are subtle but important differences because boys and girls are really quite different, no?

These two books by far helped me the most and informed my approach to structure on a macro level. One other book that is helpful, especially for genre plotting is 20 Master Plots, which goes into more detail about specific story types such as the revenge plot or the transformation plot.

Getting Down to Details

When you get to the scene level of plotting, you may want to take the time to read Robert McKee's class screenwriting book, Story. However, be warned, it's a long one and the writing is pretty technical at times.

I also recommend Evan Marshall's The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. It's very helpful in that it provides guidelines (not formulas!) for scene placement, viewpoint characters, weaving subplots together, and tying everything up at the end.

There you have it, everything you ever need to know about structure. At least - from my point of view. Next, find out how to start plotting your story with your new best friend, a pack of index cards!

How to Write a Novel in Six Months, One Writer’s Journey

Week 1, Mapping Out the Six Month Plan

Week 2, Resources on Structure

Week 3, Index Cards Are My Friends

Week 4, Sketching Characters

Week 5, Researching Agents

Week 6, Outlining

Week 7, Detail Scene Beats

Week 8, Writing the Synopsis

Week 9, Drafting Update

Week 10 Drafting Update

Week 11 Drafting Update

Week 12 Drafting Update

Week 13 Drafting Update: Writer’s Block Week 14 Drafting Update: Appreciating Plot and an Awful First Draft

Week 15 Drafting Update: Formulas and White Space

Week 16 Drafting Update: Looking for an Agent

Week 17 Drafting Update: Confessing I Didn’t Write This Week

Week 18 Drafting Update: Plugging Along

Week 19 Drafting Update: Surviving Interruption

Week 20 Drafting Update: Racing Toward the Finish Line


Submit a Comment

  • SEXYLADYDEE profile image


    4 years ago from Upstate NY

    Your journey may not be my journey. But you are inspiring me to get organized and begin again. I thank you for that.


  • profile image

    Keith Sutherland 

    8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing - very clear and concise. Very helpful

  • dohn121 profile image


    9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

    Great strategy.  I've written a novel which in total, took me practically eight years to complete due to my attending college and working over sixty hours a week.  In addition, I did three rewrites because I wasn't satisfied with my finished product.  One of the things that I would like to point out is that writing a novel is much like running a marathon: You have to jog every day five miles a day for at least six months before you even think about joining a marathon (i.e. writing that opus).  It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to finish a novel and I would suggest 500 words a day.  It's worked for me.

  • earnestshub profile image


    10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

    I have thought about writing a book at some point, and this looks like a great source to start from. Thanks for sharing


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