Draw a Picture / Prep Your Book

Congratulations, Intrepid Writer–you’ve made the decision that you’re going to write your book! Starting in August, you’re going to hit that daily word count and hit it hard. Every day. Without fail. Until you end up with a glorious, glittery first draft the following May.

So how do you ensure you don’t get stuck on the journey? That you don’t freeze up and run out of words and lose your steam halfway (or a third of the way) in? It’s a real fear. We all get to points in our writing where the words don’t flow. Where we don’t know what the heck the characters should do next, where they should go, who they should kiss or shoot or hide from.

But look, this isn’t happen to you. At least not on a large scale.

Because you, my Drafting Friend, are going to sketch out an outline before you start–an easy framework that will always be there for you. A map, a compass. A guide to shine a light on the dark, winding path unfolding before you.

Enough metaphors. Let’s grab a piece of paper and make this concept real.

Draw a horizontal line and divide it into three chunks–like this:


That’s your book, dude. Seriously. Just take that in for a second. Your. Book.

Okay, next step. We’re going to add a couple of pretty decorations:

*The Inciting Incident

*The First Turning Point (where everything changes)

*The Mid-Point (where another something changes)

*The Second Turning point (where things get desperate)

*The Climax

It’s going to look a little like this:


Don’t worry about that craggy mountain thing. It’s just a visual to remind you that in your second act, you better have some pretty damn exciting rising action to lead up to the Second Turning Point and Climax or people will put down your book and go bowling.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not the story theory genius who came up with this diagram. I actually cribbed it from a screenwriting book I read years ago by one Syd Field, who is a famous screenwriting guru and has written tons of brilliant stuff about story structure in film. He might have cribbed it from Aristotle or someone–I have no idea. What I do know is that, while many stories veer from this basic template, most of them follow it to the letter. So, thank you Syd Field. And Aristotle.

You probably already know what the above devices are, but on the off-chance you don’t or have some lingering questions about what they are, I’ll go into a bit more detail in future posts. For now, just admire that book you’ve outlined.

It’s a beautiful thing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *