In the first section of this course, you discovered that when editing it is essential that you, as an editor and writer, see a novel from a more structural viewpoint. You discovered the importance of story, setting, theme, plot, scene, acts and genre. You also learned how these elements interact to produce the final novel.

One additional aspect that we examined in the last section was that of novel structure. You saw that the plot of the novel, together with acts and scenes, combined to give a structure that produced an engaging and interesting novel.

In this section, we take the concept of structure one step further. You will discover the importance of an inciting incident, the role of act structure and gain a detailed knowledge of the three act structure.

Once this section is complete you will have an in-depth knowledge of novel structure, which will not only allow you to become a better writer, but also give you the tools to edit your own, and other people’s, novels.

Focus on Classical Design

In section 1.5, we learned about the role of plot. You discovered that there were three main types of plot:

1.   Classical Design.
2.   Minimalist.

3.   Anti-structure.

It was explained that Minimalist and Anti-structure plot structures were relatively rare when compared to the predominance of Classical Design. In fact, as a writer and editor, Classical Design is, by far, the most common structure you will face. Therefore, this section of the course will focus on understanding Classical Design.

Once you have a firm grasp of Classical Design, the other structures fall naturally into place. Minimalist plot structure is, in essence, just a twist on Classical Design. This means that if you understand Classical Design, it is simple to see which elements are being manipulated in a Minimalist novel. As for Anti-structure, this is the structure that breaks the rules of Classical Design. If you understand Classical Design, then Anti-structure is often just the opposite.

Inciting Incidents

In the final part of this section, you will discover the inner workings of the three act structure. However, not all writers will be working with such formalized approaches to their writing. It is not uncommon for a writer to just start writing with no thought given to an overall structure. This means that as an editor, you sometimes have to take shortcuts to help develop a novel.

One of the key aspects of Classical Design is the development of narrative tension. This is questions within the narrative that are posed at the start of the book and then not answered until later. A reader will keep reading just to resolve these open questions. Think of it like being told the opening to a joke, but not the punchline. Even if the joke is rubbish you still want to know the end.

The power of narrative tension is often overlooked by writers. It is, in fact, one of the most powerful tools a writer can employ when it comes to producing engaging novels.

A very effective way to develop this narrative tension is through the use of an inciting incident. In the following section, you’ll discover more about inciting incidents, gain a knowledge of how they work and discover how to provide the correct editorial support to a novel that lacks an inciting incident.

Why Act Structure Matters

In this section, you’ll look more deeply at the role that acts play in the narrative arc of the story. You’ll revisit the role of conflict and discover how the Rule of Conflict is key to creating engaging stories. You’ll also discover about the Point of No Return and how this dictates the momentum of a story.

The Three Act Structure

In the final part of this section, we’ll delve into the most common novel structure, the three act structure. Though there are many structures that can be used by writers, the three-act is by far the simplest and most effective to apply. It is, therefore, the main focus of this section.
You’ll discover more about the way the three act structure is created and ways in which a story can be built around these three acts. You’ll also see that, as an editor, the three act will give a novel a natural narrative tension, whilst also providing a framework around which a novel can be written.