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The Core Elements of Fiction Writing

Updated on August 9, 2022
Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe is an author who's writing romance and thriller novels. She knows how to write stories and self-edit her novels.

Get Ready to Write

Better late to never, sorry I didn’t get to post this belated writing hub from my spring half-day conference a decade ago. This was one of the last conference sessions I took and jotted down plenty of notes to share. This is handy and timely, since Nanowrimo is around the corner this fall. You can use it for Nano, Camp Nano/Julno, or writing at your own pace. This course was accompanied with a workbook via the free Udemy self-paced course, since we’ve gotten a free waiver. In actuality, it cost $50 to take the course. I'd included two screenshots of what the sheets of the workbook looked like, so you can make one at home and tailor it to your own fashion.

Place your butt in chair for writing. If you’re a writer, you create words on paper. You can finish a rough draft in 60 days, if you can commit to writing everyday. (Note: I’d tried to do this for Camp Nano that past spring and failed, since I’d managed to write 20K in April. I’d tried it again for Nano that May and filled out the worksheet everyday.)

A Page From the Virtual Workbook

This is  the first half of my workout I've gotten from my writer's conference a few years ago
This is the first half of my workout I've gotten from my writer's conference a few years ago | Source

Second Half of Virtual Worksheet

This is the second half of the same worksheet from my writer's conference.
This is the second half of the same worksheet from my writer's conference. | Source

Decision Time

The first thing you should do is make a decision. Treat your writing as a business with expenses on how to become a novelist, or on the same system to be published for Amazon.

In Stephen King’s popular writing book, “On Writing”, this tip was to try thinking about ordinary people dropped into extraordinary situations. The best way to start doing it is with prompts.

Tools of the Trade

Fancy software and tools aren’t necessary to write a novel. Just keep it simple. You can use Google Documents, Microsoft Word, an USB drive, and Scrivener.

Plan it Out

These are the skills I’d learned in this course and passing it forward over to you. Do you want to know a “secret?” If you write 1000 words a day or 500 words per session, that’s a good word count goal before you call it a day. If you write every other day, it took you about four months. If you have consistent production through discipline, you can “commit” and draw boundaries. Your family aren’t real good supporters for you to do your writing. When you finished writing, check the word count for your genre. For example, if you’re doing romance, aim for 60,000-80,000 words. That’s the ideal length of a novel. If you aim for 100%, you can cut that and add in your first draft.

Take Action

For every novel, there’s seven archetypes. We can mix them up for the framework of your storyline:

  • The Overcoming Monster is when the hero defeats and returns world to order.
  • The Rags to Riches is when the modest person has special talent.
  • The Quest is when a hero’s on a journey, searches for prize and has a sidekick.
  • The Voyage and Return is when an ordinary person becomes extraordinary and goes back to ordinary.
  • The Comedy is when there’s confusion, miscommunication, and some humor involved.
  • The Tragedy is when there’s no happy story, when the ego/pride goes awry.
  • And the Rebirth is when someone’s redeemed, a dark force is closing to winning, and the hero saves the world.

As for genre, you write what you enjoy reading.

Story Arcs

There are three parts to every story arc for your novel:

  • The Basic Arc is the beginning of your story line when there’s a set-up with the main character introduced with the inciting incident.
  • The Middle Arc is when there’s confrontation, when you’ll encounter resistance, deal with minor challenges.
  • Then in the End, there’s the resolution, when there’s a climax as the hero faces main evil force.

The Basic Arc should be 25% of your story line, whereas the Middle is 2x bigger at 50% of your story, and the End is also at 25% for your novel.

Final Writing Tips

As for the workbook, feel free to use it and to create your own template. Write early in the morning and have everything you need in your writing space. Stand up and turn off distractions. Hit the word count you planned for the day, no matter what. Back up everything to save it. Create a quiet space, or use white noise or headphones from distractions. There’s an app called RelaxWriting for your iPhone or Android or tablet.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Kristen Howe


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