You’ve got a killer novel idea, and you’re convinced it could put you on the map as an author.

But you’re having trouble getting started. Why?


  • You’re not sure whether you’re an outliner or a pantser.
    • Outliners seem to have their plots entirely scoped out, like Snowflake Method guru Randy Ingermanson.
    • Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. Stephen King and I say, “Put interesting people in difficult situations and write to find out what happens.”
  • Regardless, you know you need at least some kind of a structure on which to hang your ideas.

Here’s Your Solution

This structure changed my life and my career.

I had been turning out serviceable mid-list series novels for several years when I stumbled across Dean Koontz’s How to Write Best Selling Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books), © 1981.

It resonated with me. I devoured it. Took notes, scribbled in it, highlighted it, dog-eared its pages, adopted its precepts and followed them religiously, taught it at writers conferences.

I sold my next novel, a standalone, to a major New York publishing house. By the end of the millennium my novels were selling in the tens of millions.

Now, before you start One-click ordering it from Amazon, I need to tell you, the cheapest copy listed on their website a minute ago was $175. And don’t start digging into your secret cash stash, because I’m not giving up my copy.

Yes, it’s that good.

So why did I get your hopes up if Koontz’s writing book is so rare?

Because I’m still going to give you the heart of it.

What made the difference for me was his simple “Creating and Structuring a Story Line.”

Koontz says a novel without a strong plot is like being all dressed up with no place to go.

Naturally he goes into much more detail, but here’s all you need to know for now. Do this and you’ll immediately separate yourself from your competition and see your novel spring to life.

The Classic Plot Structure

  1. Plunge your main character (lead/hero/heroine) into terrible trouble as soon as possible.

The definition of “terrible trouble” differs depending on your genre. For a thriller it may mean your hero is hanging from his fingernails from a railroad trestle. For a cozy romance, it may mean your heroine must choose between two seemingly perfect suitors, each of whom harbors a dark secret.

  1. Everything your character does to get out of the trouble makes it only worse.

The complications must be logical and grow increasingly bad until…

  1. The lead’s predicament appears entirely hopeless.
  1. Finally, because of what all that conflict has taught the character from the beginning, your lead rises to the occasion and battles out of the trouble, meets the challenge, accomplishes the quest, or completes the journey.

That’s It…

…in its simplest form, but I hope it gives you a place from which to launch.

In the Comments below, ask me about how to apply this structure to your work in progress.

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