If I wanted to be a novel-writing hack just like a screenwriting hack...
May 7, 2019 7:34 PM   Subscribe

There are screenwriting guides that literally tell you what to do at each line/minute/page of the script. Does anything similar exist for novel writing (or short story writing), pegged to word count?

I am extremely, specifically interested in guides that go down to the fidelity of word count (or paragraph number, I suppose). But, even though I've seen a bunch of them, I'd be curious for other hack/training wheels guides, again, the higher-fidelity the better.
posted by zeek321 to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
(I would also be interested in guides for how to adapt one's style to write for different word counts, both fiction and non-fiction.)
posted by zeek321 at 7:36 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

From an earlier era, Lester Dent's Pulp Fiction Master Plot.
posted by zamboni at 7:44 PM on May 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Books are much more varied than scripts which have to fit a standard format. What I would suggest is take a book you really like, or several if you can, and go through it, breaking it down. Hero enters on page 2, plot twist on page 40, etc, and then go from that. With some genres it can be fairly formulaic; I once paged through half a dozen pulp romances and discovered that the first sex scene was always right around page 41, for that publisher.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 7:46 PM on May 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

(I would then also be interested in recommendations for ridiculously "well-engineered/well-structured" fiction around 90k-150k words, though other lengths very welcome.)
posted by zeek321 at 7:53 PM on May 7, 2019

(Ohhh, or ghost-written stuff where there are 100 of them and super cookie-cutter but still relatively well-regarded. Will stop thread-sitting now.)
posted by zeek321 at 7:56 PM on May 7, 2019

Here is Hallmark’s guide to writing “wholesome or ‘sweet’ romance novels and cozy mystery novels”; it’s quite specific.
posted by migurski at 7:57 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

If what you want is "hack and proud of it", check out Lawrence Block; he is a prolific writer and has written a couple writing guides I found very interesting and helpful. "Telling Lies For Fun And Profit" is a good one.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 8:05 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Story Engineering and Story Physics by Larry Brooks are not quite as granular as what you're looking for but closer than anything else I've read (And I read way too many writing craft books). The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne may also be relevant.

I don't think M Harold Page's "Storyteller Tools" is very good, but it does provide a very detailed breakdown of how to outline and write a novel, and it's super cheap on Kindle.
posted by Jeanne at 4:57 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not exactly what you're looking for but Otessa Moshfegh famously followed Alan Watt's 90-day Novel for her Booker nominated Eileen.
posted by dobbs at 5:56 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

There's all sorts of this kind of thing on Alexandra Sokoloff's blog
posted by Grangousier at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

The popular screenwriting guide Save the Cat! has a companion book called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.

Instead of minutes or page counts, it uses percentages as landmarks, like "this storytelling beat commonly occurs at the 25% point of a book."
posted by Flexagon at 9:03 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Iulian ionescue's master outlining and tracking tool comes close, using the snowflake method to get you to 81 scenes and then, in another sheet, tracking approximately where beats from the three act structure should be landing in those 81

And Jami Gold collects beat sheets, some of which are attached to word count percentage.
posted by Cozybee at 8:43 AM on May 9, 2019

While googling to find the MOTT, I stumbled across this, which describes what needs to happen in every scene tagged to word count. I suspect "novel writing spreadsheet" may be a fruitful search term for you.
posted by Cozybee at 8:49 AM on May 9, 2019

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