How to Organize Your Self-Published Novel

There are many ways to organize a novel. Many writers follow a traditional rise and fall plot line, while other writers play with unconventional methods such as moving back and forth between time periods or points of view. While it is up to you how you decide to organize your novel, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. While outlining your story, ask yourself these questions.

1) What happens in the beginning of the book to hook my reader?

2) What will make the reader keep reading the book?

3) Is the story understandable?

4) Have I covered all the information I need to share?

As you write your novel, don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques. Also, read tons of books in your genre (as well as those outside your genre) to get ideas. Finally, always have someone else read your draft. Whether you hire a professional editor or ask a friend you trust, get feedback from a reader.

ABOUT WENDY STETINA: Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Guest Post: Self-publishing Books & Novel Writing

Self-publishing advice guest post – the Book Doctor on Education & Novel writing.

Q: Is it more difficult to have a novel published if I don’t have a university education?

A: No, indeed! Even a few sixteen-year-olds have written good books that got published. Most universities teach us how to pass tests, not how to write novels. Even graduates with an MFA in creative writing tend to teach creative writing rather than sell their novels to publishers, and here’s why: It’s darned difficult to sell a novel, no matter how educated you are. The odds of winning the lottery sometimes seem better.

Instead of (or in addition to) a university degree, successful writers must acquire a great deal of knowledge in the craft of writing. They gain that knowledge by studying the masters, joining critique circles, getting feedback on their writing, taking classes in creative writing, and practicing, practicing, practicing and then revising, revising, and revising.

While it doesn’t take a university degree to get a novel published, it does take good writing skills and the ability to create a strong plot, believable characters, and realistic dialogue. It takes knowledge of point of view and how and when to use it. It takes a good foundation in grammar, punctuation, and syntax. It takes organization and determination and even a bit of personality to get your foot in the door with an agent. All those skills aren’t acquired overnight and rarely are acquired by writing a first novel. Many consider writing their first novel a good exercise, and afterward some go on to write marketable novels.

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Ask the Doctor – Sections in a Novel / Self-Publishing

Q: Is there any technical reason for a novel to be broken up into parts? I want to break my next novel up in a way that I haven’t really seen before.

Part 1 – Introduction of the main character (the good guy). Provide plot and conflict.

Part 2 – Introduce opposing character (the bad guy)

Part 3 – Good and bad characters clash, and conflict is resolved.

The first twelve chapters focus on the “good guy” perspective. The “bad guy” is introduced in Chapter 13. If I spend the next twelve or so chapters telling the other side of the story (the bad guy’s perspective), will readers forget the plight of the good guy in the first twelve chapters?

I really want to have the two sides (good and evil) make compelling arguments. By breaking up the novel this way, I hope the reader will be conflicted going into the third part of the book. Any thoughts?  

A: The reason you can’t find any specific material on the subject of breaking a novel into parts is that (at least to my knowledge) there is no absolute rule regarding it.

The only problem I can perceive is that according to your outline, all the clash occurs in the final part, so what will make readers continue reading through the first two parts? Yes, it says plot and conflict will be provided in Part 1, but if there’s only one character in that part, how can there be conflict? Conflict and tension are the elements that make readers turn pages and keep reading.

That said, I can’t judge the book without seeing it, so if you sense that it is working the way you are writing it, trust your gut and move forward. I have seen good books broken into parts for the characters; Franny and Zoey by J.D. Salinger comes to mind, for one.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com