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The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction: Your Blueprint for Building a Strong Story (The Writer's Toolbox Series) Paperback – February 19, 2015
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There is a lack of examples, either from popular books/movies, or made up on the spot. For example: Page 38 has a section "a great novel is not just a string of events." It starts out saying you need a goal. The next paragraph says "Does there really have to be a point?" and then goes on to say yes, you need a point, and if you have a great idea without a goal, the author would love to hear it. The section ends with "Ask yourself about your favorite novel or two. What did the hero/heroin want?" The section ends. The next section begins with "So, now that you understand your story needs a goal......" When did we understand that? It was not illustrated with examples of stories with great goals, and how awful they would be if you removed the goal.
Each section is only 4-5 paragraphs and lacks examples and substance. In one of the only two sections with examples, there are some "examples" of one-sentence story concepts from popular movies. The sentence preceding these 5 examples says "note how these ......contain the four elements." The one sentence summaries are then listed (which we could get from IMDB ourselves), but without much follow up discussion. One even says, after the one sentence summary, "no need to comment on the unique setting ....or high stakes." Really? Apparently it's obvious? Isn't it your job as an author/teacher to point all of this out? Not only this, but the four pillars/elements are not pointed out. Granted, they shouldn't be too hard to find, but that is because I have read 50 other how-to books and learned from them.
I'd love to see a new version published with added examples from novels, or just made up examples to illustrate the points. Without examples, it's all just conceptual. I am sure that this author has good ideas, as the checklists seem to be very good. I know it's hard to teach something that is so integrated into your thought process that you don't know how much to say about everything, or you assume that a lot of things are just obvious. I would not recommend this to those who prefer examples. If you love conceptual, go for it! It has a $14 workbook to go with it (which I bought), which is the checklists spread out over many pages with blank lines under them to help you write down your ideas.
The last pillars were the most interesting, talking about theme (the heart of your story) and motif (recurring symbolism within the story). Theme gets less and less elusive the more I read about it, and Lakin's explanation was as good as any I've heard. The motif pillar blew my mind, and I've latched onto that idea quite enthusiastically. :)
I also love that there are links to checklists, so when you get done with the book, you have a distilled version of the information for checking against your story structure. Only thing that would have made that better is having a page where you can download everything, since I read it on my Kindle and didn't want to use the experimental browser for all those goodies.
A solid read for anyone looking to widen their understanding of how to compile the components of your story into a cohesive unit. **This is not a book on the particulars of plot structure. If you're looking for that, I recommend Monica Leonelle's Nail Your Story: Add Tension, Build Emotion, and Keep Your Readers Addicted: Growth Hacking for Storytellers #2 or K.M. Weiland's Structuring Your Novel Box Set: How to Write Solid Stories That Sell (Helping Writers Become Authors).
Lakin teaches like any good teacher does: she poses questions and makes her "students" think through problems, so they can recognize and avoid future mistakes. I actually hear her voice in my head while writing now: What's your story about?--now, what's it "really" about? How can you make the stakes higher?
After constructing and deconstruction my novel for longer than I'm willing to admit, I'm glad to have a framework that reveals weaknesses before the whole dratted thing comes down around me. The 12 Key Pillars to Novel Construction is a "must read" before you even start to write.
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The 12 key pillars of Novel construction is without doubt the best book that I have read to date on writing. It takes you through all the aspects of building a good strong foundation for your book explaining how each area of writing impacts the others from 'Concept with a Kicker, Protagonist with a goal, Conflict with high stakes, plots, subplots, secondary characters, themes, settings, tension, dialogue, character voice etc. It also gives you links to downloadable checklists to print off that help you build the foundations for your book. Its easy to follow and makes a great deal of sense. You still have to write your novel but with this book as a tool you can break everything down into smaller chunks and really make every word, character, scene and piece of dialogue count. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone starting out or in the process of writing a book.
In terms of the book, about 1/3-1/2 is spent on four 'Corner Pillars', the remainder on the other 8. Each pillar is linked to every other and every chapter finishes with a checklist (and occassionally acitivities) to make you challenge your own work and make sure it's on track. There is a bit of repetition/reiteration throughout but I suspect this comes from Lakin's exasperation at repeatedly having to drum the same lessons into 200 manuscript authors a year.
This is very useful and well worth the money - don't be too proud to buy it and read it honestly!