Parts of a Novel: 2 of 6: Opportunity for Change

2 of 6Last time I talked about how the novel can be broken down into six parts. We also discussed how the first 5% of the novel is on The Setup. Now that the reader has fallen in love with your character and has an understanding of how your world works it’s time to present am Opportunity for Change. This Opportunity for Change is Part 2 of 6 of your novel.

Similar to part one part two is also 5% of the novel. Out of a 300 page manuscript pages 15 – 30 are here to help introduce something new to the world. That something, if pursued, will change our hero’s life and possibly their world forever.

This is the part of the story that begins to make things interesting. Each story will be different. Did your hero find a magical ring? Did the hero overhear a secret they shouldn’t? Was your hero offered a new job? Whatever the case maybe, the Opportunity for Change needs to turn your hero’s world upside down.

The change doesn’t necessarily always have to be positive. Has the hero been cursed? Have they been wrongfully imprisoned? Is their new boss a jerk? While we typically want to write in an upbeat way there are times where we have to make bad things happen. Chaos is interesting.

Whatever the change is it will be the driving force for the rest of the novel. Take my novel for example. My hero lives in an arid desert world; the Opportunity for Change comes when the hero find a book that mentions water.

The Opportunity for Change needs to always come at a cost. Pursuing the change must not be a decision that the hero can accept easily. While the hero’s first reaction may be to accept/reject the opportunity they must evaluate the consequences (good or bad) before pursuing the change. This evaluation happens in the 3rd part of the novel, which will be discussed next time.

On a side note I would like to say that the percentage for each section is more of a guideline. These percents are rough cookie cutter examples to help the pacing of the story. As the novelist it is you job to determine if the pacing needs to move quicker or slower throughout the novel.

Parts of a Novel: 1 of 6: The Setup

1 of 6All well told stories can be broken down into six sections. While there are many ways to breakdown a novel’s structure I like sticking with the six part approach. For the next six weeks I will be discussing one of the six parts to a novel. This week, part 1 of 6, is on The Setup.

The first few pages of your novel are vitally important. These pages determine if the book continues to be read or will be put back on the shelf. While every piece of your book is important your opening is probably the most important part. Without a good opening you have no story.

The Setup, while immensely important, is interestingly enough one of the smallest parts of the novel. The Setup is only about 5% of your novel. Meaning, if your manuscript is 300 pages, only about 15 pages should be dedicated to The Setup.

In these fifteen pages you have several pieces of information that needs to be shown. We need to introduce the main characters to our readers, we need to show the world where the story takes place, and most importantly our readers need to understand what the status quo of the world is.

Our readers need to form bonds and connections to our characters, to be captivated by the worlds we create, and to understand what the day to day life is like. Without laying this groundwork the reader will lose interest in the story. If you can’t draw in the reader your book will be put down, never to be picked up again.

Take a look at the novel you are currently reading. How did that author write the first 5% of their novel? Now look at the manuscript you are writing. How did you write your first 5%?

On a side note I would like to say that the percentage for each section is more of a guideline. These percents are rough cookie cutter examples to help the pacing of the story. As the novelist it is you job to determine if the pacing needs to move quicker or slower throughout the story.

Check back next week for part 2 of 6. To always stay up to date on the latest article enter subscribe to the blog. When new articles go live you will receive an email in your inbox. Any questions, comments, or feedback email me at

Stop writing and brainstorm

These last few weeks I’ve been struggling with the editing of my first chapter. Editing is an understatement. The truth is that it needs to be completely rewritten. Since the beginning of the year I have started over three times. It seemed everything that I was writing was not the true beginning of the novel. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t come up with a good beginning.

Up to this point I always just sat down and free wrote my novel. Meaning I just wrote what came to my mind without having an outline to guide me. While I always have an idea of where the story needs to go I usually never fully plan or outline my story. I’ve always loved the idea of the story creating itself. However, this past week I realized that while free writing may be good to write the initial story free writing doesn’t work so well during the editing process.

I’m learning that to be successful at writing you sometimes need to stop writing. One day last week instead of writing I spend an entire evening brainstorming and scribbling ideas into a notepad. At first I felt guilty that I wasn’t getting any further on my novel. I had to remind myself that taking this time to outline was vitally important.

During this evening of brainstorming I was able to reevaluate the beginning chapters of my novel. By taking a step back and taking my hands off the keyboard I was able to make my story that much better. I also took this time to look over my notes from my Alpha Readers and review my own notes. I was able to figure out what was wrong as well as what I needed to do to fix it.


Had kept going the way I had been, by just writing without planning, I would have kept writing page after page of the novel that would have been a waste to the story. While I will always advocate for free writing there are times where we need to stop writing to think of “what’s next.”

If you are stuck in your story, or if you just keep writing and not sure where the story is going, instead of writing take a step back and have a brainstorming session. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Novel Progress
Draft: Third
5.93% Complete