When I think of some of the ‘a-ha’ moments I’ve had when developing my craft as a writing, I think of times I discovered these concepts: show verses tell; avoid on-the-nose writing; subtext in actions and dialogue. I could name many more.
I like to think one of my best ‘a-ha’ moments as a writing who is constantly learning is when I learned about the three-act-structure for storytelling. This can easily be used for novels, screenwriting and plays.
Some writers don’t follow a structure when they write their manuscript, and that’s okay.
But I prefer to follow some kind of guide, so I used the three-act structure to develop the first draft of three of my novels.
However, I kept coming across other methods of novel development in my reading on the writing craft. Many exist. Some of the ‘story grids’ I’ve come across include:
- The Hero’s Journey
- Campbell’s Monomyth
- Character Arc
- Save the Cat Beats
- Harmon’s Plot Embryo
- Bell’s Signposts
Each of these methods have their strengths. Scott Bell’s signpost come from his book Writing Your Novel from the Middle in which the writer begins developing the story from the turning point of the protagonist and works forwards and backwards from there.
Dan Harmon, creator of the sitcom Community, uses the plot embryo which is helpful due to its simplicity.
Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, was written with screenwriters in mind, but the principles are helpful for novelists.
I kept seeing patterns in these methods of developing the novel, so I couldn’t resist comparing them. I created a spreadsheet and tried to fit together the steps of each of these story plans. Feel free to download it and let me know if it needs fine tuning.
novel development methods (Excel Spreadsheet)
Related article of interest:Dan Harmon, “Community” and The Hero’s Journey