Plotting Fiction: has it all been done before? 5 ways to keep fiction fresh.

This infographic about Man Booker 2011 prize plots got me thinking. There are only x number of plots in fiction. Some have argued 7, some have argued 36, some have argued over 100.

So how do you continue to keep it fresh?

  1. High concept: big plot ideas (THE LEFTOVERS, THE AGE OF MIRACLES) with traditional human experiences (coming of age, falling in love, family breakdown)
  2. Trends: you don’t want to be following them, but you can see what’s working and think about how to bring a new angle to it. And you can also see what isn’t working right now (i.e. publishers aren’t really buying westerns)
  3. Genre blending: i.e. women’s fiction meets mystery
  4. Contemporary inspiration: the ‘modern family’, globalization… Continue reading Plotting Fiction: has it all been done before? 5 ways to keep fiction fresh.

How are you going to grab the reader’s attention in the first 5 pages?

It doesn’t matter how good the end of your book is if the reader isn’t swooped in by the beginning.

The beginning needs to be a mix of introduction, intrigue, quality writing–and it’s a precarious balance. Too plodding and you’ve lost us. Too much information and we’re drowning. There is no room for a slow start and making up time as you go. In fact, the beginning is the hardest and arguably most important part.

But it doesn’t stop at the first five pages. Perfecting those first pages are just the beginning. The whole book needs to be as perfect and well edited as those first five pages. If the beginning isn’t captivating no one will read to the middle and the end–no matter how good the middle and ending might be. So the entirety of the book rests on the quality of those first chapters.

I suppose my message is to write and edit those first 5 pages phenomenally well, but don’t stop. Apply that eagle eye to the whole novel to set a precedent for what is to come with each turning page.

‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for the start of your novel: Continue reading How are you going to grab the reader’s attention in the first 5 pages?