Writing a Novel:Structure

At last, after, Covid vaccinations, multi documenti and 3 days in the car, we are in Tuscany with plenty of sun and very little water. We are trying not to think about the health of the well. It is our only supply of fresh water.

I am redrafting my novel with the help of John Mullan and his bible, how novels work. Having written at least 3 drafts all with different titles (Running to the Seaside, Candyfloss and Barbed Wire and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, I’m back to my second choice.)

The novel has two narrative lines: 1 set in the 1950s, the second during WWII. The first draft had 3 narrative voices. It was suggested that the novel only needed 2, so I cut one. We are now in draft 2.

I realise that to tell the full story, I need that third narrator and, to fill in background information, I also need an extra narrative line, one compiled of letters and short flashbacks. This task is proving more than aggravating. Letters are usually dated (although not always during wartime) and any third narrative needs to be constructed consecutively ie the main wartime story and the letters and flashbacks need to be set within the same time frame as the WWII narrative. Otherwise the reader will be muddled by absorbing information out of sequence. My immediate task is to correct the structure.

For help I turn to John Mullan’s chapter on Structure.

1. Narratives can begin in media res. My draft does.

2. Questions of structure can be reduced to 2 considerations: sequence and division. ie, what order are we told things and how is one part of a narrative divided from another?

3. Structuring depends on the curiosity of the reader about how the story might end.

4. Parallel narratives are suited to tales of isolation.

5. Few novels are complete without revelations.

6. Writing in the years to come, he would often think back to this time is called Prolepsis and it enacts some loss of innocence.

For me, the two most important piece of guidance are in items 2 and 3. Better get on with draft three. Perhaps a swim first! 

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