Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Your Novel DOESN’T Follow a Formula

Your Novel DOESN'T Follow a Formula

So many times recently, I’ve seen so many posts in so many writing blogs, giving so much writing advice that offers a formula.

This is how your beginning should go, they say — or, perhaps worse, Your novel should have a character type from all of these.

And to this, while they’re all very talented writers, all I can say is, HA!

Of course, I wouldn’t state it like that if I was speaking to an individual.

To keep certain novels from suffering with low self esteem, the AfPoCR (they’ve branched out since they named themselves the Association for Protection of Character’s Rights, but chose to remain the AfPoCR) came up with a slogan: Every novel is loved – Every novel is special – Every novel is unique. 

And, indeed (though the AfPoCR tends to be a little extreme at times), the last part is very, very true.

Imagine A Tale of Two Cities compared to Left Behind*. Both are novels, both fiction, both written by men —and yet, they are two drastically different stories.

They both have drastically different characters, different beginnings, and different endings (something about the world ending in one). And yet, both of them are good novels, beloved by many readers.

There are many such book out there. Though they’re incredibly different, both are good; neither is correct or incorrect.

You do not need to have eighteen different types of characters in your novel. If you think you can’t properly manage that many characters—or if you don’t think it wouldn’t be best for your novel—you can dispense with the father, stepmother, guide, and multilingual best friend. You don’t necessarily need your hero to have an elderly guide. While monkey wrenches are sometimes fun to have around, they don’t always need to be there.

And, while the three-act structure is common and clever, there are other forms of story structure which you can use.

The odd thing about writing, the one thing that we all end up both loving and hating, is that there is no formula. There is no Seven Steps to the Perfect Novel; if there was, what would the use of reading novels  anymore? They would all be the same story with slightly different characters and only vaguely different plots. You, as the writer, posses the imagination, the skill, and the power to create your own characters, your own novel, your own story structure. While you can do things similar to another author, you don’t have to follow all the steps. 

Do read them; do learn from them; do consider them. Yet always be aware that, whether your favorite author, a bestselling author, or a random name you don’t know states it, they don’t have the perfect formula for your novel.

You have that.

I have actually not read Left Behind, but instead am basing my assumptions about it off of what my sister told me.
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3 thoughts on “Your Novel DOESN’T Follow a Formula

  1. Indigo Dragonfly on said:

    Well said, Athelas. I believe I have read as many formulas for writing the perfect novel as I have novels. What I have found is that often, a writer will find a formula that works *for him/her*, and s/he will use it over & over & over. While the first novel in a series will be original, all subsequent novels will be – ever-so-slightly – like the first. Especially if the author is writing a series.

  2. This is definitely something to consider, especially since writers are more likely than others to compare their craft to those who have been more lucrative with it. Even so, we all have room to improve and we don’t all have to be the same—and that’s a good thing! 🙂

  3. This is so true, and I’m so glad you brought it up. I know I was intimidated when I saw those posts telling me how my story should be structured and which characters should have which roles, and because the posts were written by successful writers, it gave me a lot of doubts about my writing.

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