In which our well-meaning would-be novellist goes about doing things completely wrong…. Maybe.
I had the idea that if I over-analyzed a ton of advice for writing a novel without actually gaining a lot of wisdom or insight, I might still be able to give myself some (large) amount of structure to use as a crutch for writing my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel.
I see people making spreadsheets and nearly obsessing over the numbers. “One Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Seven Words,” has become the mantra for many participants. It’s probably been quoted in a lot of police reports: “All he would say when they pried him away from his smashed keyboard was …”
So after as little thought as possible and a vague question on Google+ if I should proceed with this crazy idea that was potentially an affront to all things literary, I forged ahead. I am avoiding looking down out of fear of seeing my way paved with good intentions.
So, let me catch you up:
I found a series of articles comparing *The Hero’s Journey* and StoryFix’s *Structure*, and reading as little as possible of them, lest I actually _understand_, I found where the articles said they matched, and came up with a nineteen-chapter generic template for NaNoWriMo. Nineteen because the articles said certain points were supposed to happen at specific percentages into the book. A midpoint at 50% in?!? Crazy. But here’s what I came up with:
Part I – INTRODUCTION
1 – Ordinary World
2 – Call to Adventure
3 – Refusal of the Call
4 – Meeting the Mentor
5 – Crossing the Threshold – Entering the Special World & Plot Point 1
Part II – REACTIVE STAGE
6 – Tests
7 – Allies
8 – Enemies & Pinch Point 1
9 – (unspecified, probably more tests, allies, and enemies)
10 – Approach the Innermost Cave & Midpoint
Part III – PROACTIVE STAGE
11 – (unspecified, probably more approaching)
12 – (unspecified, boy this has more walking & caves than LOTR!)
13 – Pinch Point 2
14 – Lull
15 – The Ordeal
Part IV – RESOLUTION
16 – Reward
17 – The Road Back – Back to the Ordinary World
18 – Resurrection
19 – Return With the Elixir
These are generic; I’m not actually planning on having a road or elixir in my novel, but based on the high importance they put on caves, I may have to put some in there.
I took three novels I had handy in electronic form. Just three. No need for an adequate sampling for accuracy. Just enough that I’m not completely stealing someone else’s structure. Well, I guess I am, I’m just making it suffer immense humiliation. That’s why the three novels will remain nameless. I don’t want to embarrass their authors, whom I respect enough to immitate in the worst way. Literally. Literally.
So I took the novels, counted chapters, word counts in each chapter, and the number of scenes in each chapter. Not by hand; That’s like work. copied the text int Word and had it count the words. I also didn’t try to really find scene breaks; I just looked for “* * *’ or similar, and went by that. If you’re going to do something wrong, do it unflinchingly. It turns out one of my three randomly-selected novels had absolutely no indicators of scene breaks outside of context. So I didn’t analyze the scene structure in it. Ooh, the closet statisticians among you are
going to want my blood. Karma’s not fun, so remember that I’m going to try to follow this quagmire of ill-advised math-based literary construction to the bitter end, so your revenge will be inflicted by myself on your behalf.
Notice the bit of logic I neatly avoided: I did not attempt to match the novels to any part of the Hero’s Journey or Structure points above. I’m assuming they do, because they were published. 😉
The average count of scenes in a particular chapter number (yes, neither of the novels has exactly nineteen chapters, so this is blatantly wrong. And more fun for you to watch me suffer through. went into my outline, and now I have a completely generic outline down to the scene level, with word counts!
|1. The Ordinary World||1||963.34|
|2. Call to Adventure||1||2145|
|3. Refusal of the Call||1||766|
|4. Meeting the Mentor||1||1562|
|5. Crossing the Threshold & Plot Point #1||1||970.34|
|8. Enemies & Pinch Point #1||1||835|
|10. Approach the Innermost Cave & Midpoint||1||752.25|
|13. Pinch Point #2||1||511.84|
|15. The Ordeal||1||536.6|
|17. Road Back||1||331.2|
|19. Return with the Elixir||1||138.88|
Stay tuned for more…!