I’ve been thinking a lot about story structure as I wend my way towards a structured month of writing this November.

I have a substantial interest in finishing a book, obviously, and never having published a novel finding any way and anywhere I can add some guide rails to the process would be welcomed.

Over the next ten days I’m going to do some preliminary writing to assist me in framing out this process, doing some heavy planning beforehand, and in doing so hopefully position myself for a successful month of pure writing.

The internet was buzzing (was it last year?) with the publication of a story structure model attributed to Dan Harmon (of TVs Rick & Morty or TVs Community fame.) Often displayed as a circle (I assume because in television sitcom writing it’s useful to bring character back to a situational starting point for each episode) the structure follows eight stages of plot that are foundational to a powerful story:

  1. A character is in a zone of comfort,
  2. But they want something.
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
  4. Adapt to it,
  5. Get what they wanted,
  6. Pay a heavy price for it,
  7. Then return to their familiar situation,
  8. Having changed

I’m going to get real serious into my personal process now.

I want to use this not only as a structure for my story, but as a way to plan out my November of writing around a set of writing goals. Thirty days, fifty thousand words, one thousand six-hundred and sixty-seven words per day, eight stages of plot. Simple right?

Into that mix let me just add that I don’t think the novel is really meant to be broken up into eight even chunks (specifically 8 by 6,250 words) around this structure but rather more like, say:

1 (Introductions)35,000
2 (Need Arises)46,667
3 (Small/Physical Obstacle)46,667
4 (Small Adaptation)58,333
5 (Small Reward)58,333
6 (Large/Emotional Obstacle)46,667
7 (Large Reward)35,000
8 (Conclusion)23,333

The reality of this think-thru is that (later today) I’m going to transfer this framework into my writing software (I’ll be writing in Scrivener) as the starting point for my daily writing: thirty blank drafts, thirty daily goals of a minimum of 1,667 words, and thirty rough “the plot should fall into this general description” boxes to check as I write each day.

Ten days, ten foundational steps to get ready to write. I’m circling the story.

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