The eight-point arc

Lately I’ve taken a different approach. One where I stopped writing the actual novel for a while and focused on planning the whole plot, chapter after chapter, on paper. Why paper? I guess I find it more inspirational and easier to avoid deleting ideas that could be useful some point forward in the story.

This idea was already given in several creative writing Manuals – yes, I went to the library again and brought 7 more books on that! – but usually the advice is to write just a line or two per chapter, the main action that’s going to take place in each.

Planning what’s going to happen before you start writing your novel is not just useful but, in my opinion, a must! Otherwise you find yourself writing about things that don’t lead the plot in the direction you originally intended or losing your way completely and having to do a lot of editing. For example, my main character was becoming a very unfriendly person and her only friend was getting on my nerves!

So I bought another notebook, a bit bigger than my pocket notebook, and started to plan and re-plan every bits and pieces that would hold the reader’s attention through my plot and until the last page of my (potential) book. It’s been a great effort and now I’m almost ready to start my writing again.

Nigel Watts

"Writing a Novel" by Nigel Watts

Nigel Watts gives a list of eight main points we should pay close attention to when writing a novel. So while planning your main actions, chapter per chapter, if you are in that weird momentum when your plot seems to be fallen apart or something is not quite right but you still cannot put your finger on it, see if your plot has all of these and if they really work well together:

stasisonce upon a time…

trigger – something out of the ordinary happens

quest – causing the protagonist to seek something

surprise – but things don’t go as expected

critical choice – forcing the protagonist to make a difficult decision

climax – which has consequences

reversal – the result of which is a change in status

resolution – and they all lived happily ever after (or didn’t)

Nigel Watts in “Writing a Novel” (Teach Yourself series)

And if you still think you don’t need any planning because a wonderful novel will surelly fly from your fingers onto the white page like magic, I’ll leave you with Nigel Watts’ own opinion:

There is a common belief that because most of us are literate and fluent, there is no need to serve an apprenticeship if we want to become a successful wordsmith. … That’s what I thought until I tried to write my first novel. I soon learnt that a novel, like a piece of furniture, has its own set of requirements, laws of construction that have to be learnt. Just because I had read plenty of novels didn’t mean I could write one, any more than I could make a chair because I had sat on enough of them.

Nigel Watts in “Writing a Novel” (Teach Yourself series)


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