July 26, 2022
by Samantha Hoffman
Not that I need lessons on the basic structure of a novel but I was recently doing a search for posts on structure. I don't need lessons, really, I was just curious what I'd come up with.
Well, sometimes I need lessons.
When you're in the middle of a novel revision you question everything, don't you? I do. Everything seems wrong, chapter three should be chapter 20, I started in the wrong place. Should I throw this sucker out and start something new?
Just for kicks I thought, let's just check the basics: does my WIP follow the basic structure?
There are zillions of posts on the subject - I've even written some - and then I saw this video on Reedsy.com and I laughed out loud and thought, who is this young whippersnapper who thinks she has something to teach me? (That's how old I am, that I use words like whippersnapper.) How much writing experience can she possibly have? She's twelve. Well, she's not twelve; she was in her early 20s when she made this video, but from where I'm sitting, in my tower of aging, it's one and the same.
Thing is, I'm too old NOT to know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover - pun intended - but there are times I do it anyway and I made my judgement based on her youthful face. Then I watched the video and I realized she is so much smarter than I will ever be.
My favorite quote from the video is this: "The deeper you get into a book the less acceptable coincidence is. A coincidence in act three feels like bad writing, whereas a coincidence in act one feels like the inciting incident."
Brilliant. Not something I've heard before. So, voila! I learned something.
I also learned that she is Shaelin Bishop and she has 96K subscribers to her YouTube channel. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about novel structure, take a few moments to listen to Shaelin. Sometimes you just need to hear something at the right time for it to sink in and make a difference.
I came across another young woman worth checking out, who also has a post on structure, named Abbie Emmons, who has 230K followers and is pretty famous on Wikitubia. That, in case you didn't know (I didn't) is the Wikipedia for YouTubers. Technology, will that shit ever end?
The moral of this story: Don't judge a book by its cover - I think I learned that in third grade. I'm a slow learner.
Writer, editor, artist, personal assistant, private chef, runner (8-time marathoner), film and theatre buff, traveler… Author of What More Could You Wish For (St. Martin’s Press).
V.P. of the Chicago Writers Association, Executive Director of Let’s Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference.
Visit me at www.samanthahoffman.com
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