1. Annihilation
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    Annihilation Active Member

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    Tips on writing novel with the classic "parts" dividing the story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Annihilation, Jun 9, 2015.

    I've been writing short stories for the past couple of years after I attempted to write a complete novel (200-400 pages) but quit.

    Now, I've gotten familiarized with a more adult, realistic approach to writing after attending numerous writing classes so I think I'm ready to write a novel and this time finish it.

    I'm planning on doing a novel with a prologue and three parts. (For ex. Part 1: horizons, part II: the widow, part III: conquer) and ending with the epilogue.

    I'm asking you published writers and older writers, are there any tips I should keep on mind when doing this? And also, how many pages do you think is necessary in each part?

    Thank you very much for your help!
     
  2. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    just don't be boring.
     
  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Standard wisdom is that 80k-100k makes a book. If you're doing prologue, 3 parts, epilogue, I'd suggest something like 3k words for the two 'logues and 25k per part.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    While classic structures are useful guidelines, don't let them cage you.

    Just as with a short story...the classic model of: Exposition, Narrative Hook, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution...what comprises the contents and the length of each part vary greatly.

    Much of how your story (novel) is to be told will depend on the POV selected. It will depend on genre. For example, a modern day romance will be different than a historical romance or paranormal romance, where world building will be more prevalent. There are many more factors, some of it simply your developed writing style.

    While you might be shooting for say a 90,000 word novel, write your first draft with that in mind, but don't feel constrained. For example, if it seems that your novel will be shorter, say 70,000, don't attempt to stretch it in the final section. If it's at 125,000 don't abruptly end that first draft. Get that first draft finished and assess. You'll find that your writing skill and knowledge of characters and setting will greatly improve from the beginning of the novel (first pages) to when you reach the end of that first draft. And you're going to revise/edit that draft multiple times, improving dialogue, description, tightening up here and there, etc. with each pass.

    The focus is on telling a good, compelling story. That's what readers want. Just like there are basic 'structures' to telling a joke, the 'delivery' is very important.

    Sorry, no specific 'how to' suggestions, but that's my two cents.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Since you asked, I am assuming you are writing with an eye toward possible publication. I just finished a four-day pitch conference in which we discussed at length what tends to work and what tends not to work in trying to catch the interest of an agent or editor. As has been discussed here on the forum, there is at present a definite bias in the industry against prologues, probably because they are often incorrectly and needlessly used. So, my advice is to stop and think if you really have to have one. If you do, don't call it a prologue. At the beginning of The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova has what can only be considered a prologue - it's simply the description of a painting. But she doesn't call it a prologue. In fact, she doesn't call it anything. It's just a two page passage, followed by Chapter One. You can give it a heading of place and time - "Pearl Harbor, December 6, 1941".

    As to @TWErvin2's comments on word count, my own advice is to try to keep word count in the back of your mind, but don't actually stress about it until you've finished your first draft and are in the revision phase. And if you find that concerns about word count are inhibiting your writing, turn word count off until you relax or finish the first draft, whichever comes first. At one point, I did exactly that.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Annihilation
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    Annihilation Active Member

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    Okay, but I have a question about the prologue. I have about 8 pages that I plan on being in the prologue already even though I'm almost finished with it. Would an 8 page prologue work? I told a lot about the life of one of the major characters and plan on ending it at a very important part.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My standard advice (eek, I've become a one trick pony), write the rest then decide if and why you need the prologue.

    A writer starts with the story in their head, often impatient to get the details out there for the reader, when maybe the reader doesn't really need that backstory. But you sometimes can't see that until you are quite a ways into to putting the story in your head down on paper (or the equivalent digital medium).
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prologues are very, very risky. They're often a bunch of exposition that the author thought needed to be pre-explained, but felt was too boring for Chapter 1. That kind of prologue is generally a bad idea.

    If the prologue is instead interesting story that would be worth reading even if you didn't "need" the information for the rest of the book at all, that would be different.
     
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  9. Annihilation
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    Annihilation Active Member

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    The novel is about astral traveling and spirits but has a very strong focus on war as well.

    The prologue starts off with a woman and her son (whom are major characters) and explain that the father went to war for years at a time while she almost had an affair.

    It then tells about the war and foreshadows about a cult that will be a major thing later in the story.

    The prologue ends with the father coming home to see his son now 15 years old. The two have an important talk and he tells about the cult, spirits and life in general, all which foreshadows events later in the story.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Just going by that description alone, my impression is, start with the father coming home, (or some place further into the story) and leak the prologue stuff in as you go.
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "explain that" and "tells about" worry me. That suggests that the prologue is exposition. Even the talk with the "tells about" sounds like it has that risk.

    Imagine that you wrote the prologue, and then you wrote the book, and then you eliminated the prologue entirely. I'd bet that there would still just be a few little missing things that you'd need to somehow communicate, and that you could communicate them in the book. Readers tolerate a lot more uncertainty and ambiguity, and need a lot less explanation, than you'd think.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I, as usual, agree with @ChickenFreak. Prologues are risky, largely because they often have extra material that only the author really thinks is important.

    What would happen if you just started with Chapter one?
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    An agent or an editor looking at this would say, "It's too quiet." Then they'd question the necessity of the prologue to begin with.

    What's the story premise? Who is the mc and what is the main "thing" (s)he has to do? Your job in the first few pages is to pull the reader into the "thing". Looking at your description, you're trying to pull the reader into a story about war and conflict cults and possible marital betrayal. And possibly a son's disillusionment? I don't know, I'm just spitballing, here. But it appears that you want to start, with a mother telling her son about his father going off to war for years at a time, and perhaps showing that she almost had an affair (side comment - unless there is a scene showing her really agonizing about it, I don't see anything compelling about an almost affair). In other words, it's all backstory, with a hint of foreshadowing. Frankly, it strikes me that you might be doing your story a disservice. So...

    I concur with @GingerCoffee, to whom I would add that if this has become standard advice, it's because over-reliance on prologues has become a standard issue. Easily solved, though.

    Good luck.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Gonna echo what everyone else has said -- from your description of your prologue, it sounds like you don't really need it. Readers don't want you to explain things to them and foreshadow things they don't yet care about. First present the story - once the reader starts to care, they'll forgive some explanation. But explanation right at the start is a little akin to suicide... The premise of your prologue also sounds cliche, if you don't mind me saying, and that's not a good thing.
     
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  15. Annihilation
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    Annihilation Active Member

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    Thank you guys for advice, I might be removing the prologue. But is there a way I can make some kind of introduction without jumping straight to the part I of the story?

    Without the prologue and the epilogue it will seem somewhat incomplete, won't it?

    And also, the prologue may sound cliche, what do you think is cliche about it?

    After the father talks to his son about who he killed in the war, it ends and goes to the part I.

    When the woman and her son do reappear, the father has died of natural causes and her son is abducted by the cult and is presumed dead for 10 years. I wanted to create a life for him because during part II, there will be a very sad, frustrating scene where he is killed just after he is revealed to be alive the whole time. Instead of following the primary character I wanted to let other major characters go in and out of the spotlight and reappear when least expected.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the question here is why do you think an introduction - any introduction - is necessary? What does it do for the reader to quickly engage him/her in your story?

    I always think of a novel as having two components. There's what happened - all of the events of the story in time sequence. And then there's the tale - how you tell the story. The latter might be in chronological order, but might not. And it includes the answers to the questions I posed in my earlier post. I wouldn't necessarily answer those questions here if I were you, but I strongly suggest that you answer them for yourself, so that you know what it is you are trying to accomplish (although you may find some of your answers change to some degree once you start writing, and that's okay, too; in my own project, I found a thematic link I hadn't even thought about when I first conceived of it, and in fact it didn't even occur to me until I was discussing it with the editor who reviewed it, but now it's the central part of my pitch).

    What you are wrestling with now is the second part - how to tell the tale. But in addition to the questions I posed earlier (there are some others you should consider, like who or what is the antagonist or antagonistic force; feel free to PM me so this thread doesn't bog down), I strongly suggest you write out the events you want to capture in time order. I found that enormously helpful.

    No one is suggesting that you should allow your novel to be incomplete. But you want to make sure that the information is 1) absolutely necessary to the reader to understand your story, 2) delivered only when the reader needs it and 3) is delivered in such a way as to not impair the flow of your story.
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why do you think your story would be incomplete without the prologue and epilogue? And why does not having a prologue mean you can't have an epilogue? Do you want to include a prologue and epilogue because your story actually needs it - eg. it enhances the story in some way, and/or the story doesn't make sense without it? Or do you want the prologue and epilogue because you've been told through how-to books and classes that you 'should' have one? (note: there's really no 'should' in creative writing. Everything is only a guideline! Unless you're talking SPAG, there are really no rules, and even then SPAG rules can sometimes be broken too)

    Ed above me posed a very good question and you'd do well to really think about it: why do you think the reader needs any introduction at all before the story starts?

    I like to compare the backstory and history of our novels to baby pictures. No one except the parents themselves want to coo at every last one through the entire album. Friends and relatives want a handful of choice photos, admire them for a few minutes, and move on. So it is with our stories. You, the author, are the only one who cares. And you have to be wise about what you think your readers would be interested in - readers who do not love the story like you do, especially not in the beginning when they're not invested at all. Always remember: baby pictures :superwink:No one really wants to know every detail.

    As for how the prologue is cliche - mother telling story to her child about an estranged father. Father reunites with son after many years and gives him some wisdom and knowledge about some important things. What's not cliche about that?

    Your introduction sounds like infodump. You say it foreshadows later events - but the point is, nobody cares about any of that yet. Spread it out, take your time. Let all that info leak in slowly throughout the story. Think of salt - nobody likes to eat a spoonful of salt. That's how your prologue sounds right now. Salt is essential and very good for bringing out flavours - definitely put in the salt. But who wants an entire tablespoonful of it? Sprinkle it around wisely, rather, and in small doses. It'll be much more effective.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Mckk - I love the baby picture analogy.
     
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