Over the past couple of days I've engaged in some intensive research into how to structure a novel. Boy is there a lot to consider!
I had made a start on trying to identify the features of a well structured novel for myself - namely things like the average length of chapters and at what part of a scene the chapters ended on. However after a bit of research and completing the Children's Book Insider modules I quickly realised that there were so many things I hadn't considered.
My most significant learning has been in the area of subplots. I knew that my story would need them but I wasn't sure whether there was a rule of thumb with regards to how many one should have or how intense they should be. I also became aware of the fact that I had completely neglected to actively seek out the subplots in the middle grade novels I've been reading.
The good news is there doesn't seem to be any rule surrounding quantity. And even better news is the fact there is a strong recurring message when it comes to writing:
There are no coincidences in children's books (or any other well written fiction for that matter)
In simple terms, everything in your story should contribute to driving the plot forward. Consequently every subplot, character, utterance etc. should serve a purpose and the reader should understand why it's there and what it adds to the story.
That said, I'm off to make myself a nice big sign with those 7 words of wisdom and hang it on the wall above my writing space. I think it sums up the essence of a great story perfectly and is certainly something I keep coming across as part of every checklist, be it for characters, plot, subplots, settings, or any other component of a story.
Next time: Field Research