Monday, May 22, 2023

Do You Have a Great Story on Your Hands?

Many people know they want to write but find themselves stalled at the first hurdle. They can’t put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) because they don’t know if they have a story idea that’s worth writing. And novel writing is a big investment – not just in terms of time, but emotionally too. It makes sense that we’d want to be certain we have a winner on our hands.

That’s why with The Novelry’s creative writing courses, we begin with a breakdown of what makes a cracking story. And from your very first one-to-one coaching session, a bestselling author in your genre will help you assess and mould your idea to make sure it’s got legs.

Remember: a good story almost writes itself. Get off to a good start and you’ll fly through the writing process.

To help you decide which of your ideas to commit to the page, we’ll give you a little primer in this story assessment – but come and find us to sign up to a course once you’re ready to really dive in!

Don’t let your insecurities become obstacles!

While self-doubts may creep in, you shouldn’t let them be the reason you don’t write. For many writers – including The Novelry founder, Booker Prize-listed author Louise Dean – the story evolves during the writing process. So even if your plot isn’t razor-sharp and airtight just yet, you might find it takes shape once you stop criticising it and instead open yourself up to its possibilities.

Compare your story to the greats

We’re not talking about trying to write like Tolstoy – writers should honor their own unique voices.  What you can do is lean on  some of the all-time classic story structures in fiction, to develop a stand-out story that’s both comfortingly familiar for readers but has your own unique twist based on your life experience and the things that matter to you.

At The Novelry, we suggest writers immerse themselves in the deep but simple storytelling archetypes using fairy tales and folklore to help them learn the art of storytelling. In fact, global bestselling author Harriet Tyce enjoyed the course and wrote about how she’s found inspiration for her stories in fairy tales.

So many writers can write but if only it were all about the writing! Readers buy stories, not fine or fancy words, and so do publishers, so ensure your story affects readers, and work with some of the biggest stories of all time, while mining your own hidden desires with our Classic Course to compe up with the story only you can tell, a story readers will love.

Consider your theme

Rather than striving to work out every beat of your plot, take a step back and assess the bigger picture of your story.

A great way to do this is to pinpoint the theme(s) you’re aiming to explore. Consider this as something you feel strongly about, then look at the journey your main character or hero goes on towards enlightenment. The first half of your book will be the old world where things are wrong, and in the second half of your book your theme will emerge to provide your hero with a better way to live there life. Once you have your theme, you can consider every element of the story in terms of how it best serves it.  You can start to sketch your setting – a time and place that brings your theme into sharp relief. And then come your main characters and minor players too. Try a protagonist who’s spectacularly ill-equipped to tackle the trials of your theme for high drama, or someone being tugged by its opposing ends. If your theme is the desire for solitude versus the need for community, it might be a recluse who’s forced into close proximity with others – perhaps a family member falls ill, they get a new job, they need a flatmate. Now you’re telling a story!

Make sure there’s a problem

That brings us on to the next point: your story needs conflict. If nothing is wrong in your protagonist’s life, there can be no character arc, no development – in short, no story.

As writers, we can fall in love with our fictional characters and want to make their lives as easy and joyful as possible. Resist that temptation; be mean, and then meaner. Make their life difficult, watch them squirm and see them grow!

A great story starts with a devilish dilemma or a life-and-death problem.

See how high your stakes are

Simply having a problem isn’t enough. That problem needs consequences – preferably of the dire variety. What will happen if your character doesn’t address the conflict at the heart of your story? Why should your reader care if they fail or succeed?

Remember: this is fiction. It doesn’t need to be true to life. Lots of writers, particularly those starting out, simply need to raise the stakes and they suddenly have a fantastic story on their hands. Don’t be scared to bring the drama!

Look to the middle

The midpoint of your story will tell you a lot about what you’re working with. Essentially, the midpoint is the perfect place to build the structure of your plot around. It’s a point of no return for the protagonist and usually brings a new realisation – we see them at their lowest, and they start to understand what needs to change for them to reach the conclusion. The midpoint bridges the old story world and the new. Our founder, Louise Dean, says she picks up a plot by the midpoint as the simplest way to structure a story with events which compound the problem to the left and those where things begin to drop into place to the right.

If you can pinpoint your midpoint, with a path from a beginning and to how your story might finish (remember, you don’t need details yet!), that spells a very positive story prognosis.

Don’t leave your story to chance!

These tips should help you understand the magic of your story and make sure it’s one readers won’t be able to put down.

But remember, if you want support through every step of the novel-writing marathon,, we’re ready and waiting to give you a warm welcome at The Novelry, the world’s favorite creative writing school with courses, coaching and community to guide your journey through the woods.


The Novelry is a creative writing school that offers something unique: one-to-one coaching with bestselling authors and the chance to work with editors from major publishing houses. With live writing classes and events every week, we’ll be your novel writing team, focusing on what matters most – helping you write the very best story you can. With more five-star reviews than any other creative writing course program, our writers have called our approach ‘life-changing’.


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Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing about your course, and the elements of a good story. I made the mistake of trying to make things easy for my main character in my first story and had to do a major revision to fix it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for sharing with us today!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Theme has always been important to me.