This is a very important course because it will deal with a very crucial matter in writing. Writing a book, any book, generally hitherto has no known rigid rule for doing it. It has always been believed to belong to the arts. The latter in turn is based on trial and error until the desired shape is achieved. It has been reduced to style, which varies from one author to another. Within this context, what works for X may not work for Y and this has placed authors and would-be authors in a difficult situation. Hence, everywhere on the Internet, there is no where a fixed formula for writing exists. This incidentally is why this blog exists. To show that indeed writing a book can follow a set of systematic steps that can apply across the board for everyone’s use.
How was this achieved? Can it be true? Can writing a novel follow a rigid plan? First off, the concept Plotmatics has to be introduced. What is it? The word is coined from Plot and the suffix –matics derived from mathematics used to mean using scientific or engineering technique to write a book. This concept applies for both novels and theme books. Each of these will be described later in the course. But it makes sense to inform that in this course novels are used in the sense Plot books, while non-novels will be known as theme books. The latter are such books earlier known as chapter books, the non narratives. Under this category are the how-to books, text books, advice books, &c.
Read carefully and attentively. Something is right on its way!
Bear in mind that in this course the definition of plot has been revamped, novel is defined slightly differently from what it used to be but with a keener insight and theme books as a concept has been introduced; then, the word technique will be relied upon because of its significant role in getting around the challenge. This course shall be in two parts: definition of terms and the story structure. Ever heard of the Plotbook Magic Table?
This course as all things is open to criticism since everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but bear in mind that engineering-problem-solving technique has been deployed in making up this solution. What does this imply? Engineering is about design, fabrication and operation of what has been produced. Writing by analogy is about planning, writing and making the book available to the reading audience. While the arts largely depend on craft as it has been viewed hitherto, engineering depends on skill (sense of the job) and skill via engineering depends on technique. Technique is always about the best tools to deploy for design to get the best possible yield. Often the engineer uses models to guide his actions.
At this point, it should come as no surprise that the author of this paper is a Chemical Engineer by discipline and an author by trade. The latter can be deemed to mean that the author of this paper is a novelist as the parlance has been hitherto. Here in this course, the novelist will be regarded as a Plotmatic Engineer. The latter meaning one who deploys engineering methods to write a book, be it Plotbook or theme book, as the case may be.
Here it will be appreciated that engineering exists not only in the labs but outside it. The Chemical Engineer deals with processes of all forms, and processes involve systems that are subject to change. Bringing this down to writing, writing as a process begins with a blank page and latter the page undergoes changes that develop it into a book that in turn changes lives or points of view, &c. Processes rely on techniques to guide how they proceed from the start to the end where yield is expected. Writing being a process is no exception. It, like any other mechanical system, has moments to be resolved. Like the points on the graph, coordinates have to be balanced to get it right.
Permit me at this point to postpone this introduction as writing it can go on and on because of how interesting the topic is. By now, you must be waiting for this magic formula. Retain your opinions, at least for now and let’s do this.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
In our bouquet, the following terms exist for definition:
- The novel
Plotmatics- as already mentioned this involves the use of engineering technique to write a book. The Plotmatic Engineer in our context means simply a novelist or one who deploys engineering to write a book. The Plotmatic Engineer’s technique is such that he resolves all the coordinates necessary during design of what is to be written. Eventually, you will see how this works. Bear the two words in mind: resolve and coordinates. They will guide your mind in the planning process. Another case in point is the fact that it should first off be accepted that writing is scientific contrary to the view that it belonged to the arts. The latter is froth with trial and error until one perfects one’s work. Writing in this course is graduating from being a craft to a science subject to mathematics or the engineering.
Plot – hitherto plot is a concept which has been defined as events of a novel or narrative in their causal order. Yes, agreed, plot is the events in a narrative, but this definition has to change radically in this course and within the context of Plotmatics, if we must get a story to tell in the first place. Hence, here we define plot as the event around which a story is built, often followed by a step-by-step account. With this definition, flash fiction stories can be developed into a volume starting from the brief account. Example is the book Lonely Weekends. It developed from flash fiction. I wrote the chapter one of that book as a flash fiction to be submitted at a contest, but could not submit it when I realized that the contest required a fee to be paid, and the amount was too small for a wire transfer. Angry and frustrated, I turned it into a novel issuing from this definition. The genius of this definition is that a book can develop from just a phrase, a sentence, a synopsis, and so on. I will show you later in this course what I mean. It will do you good to get a copy of the book and see for yourself. Please check the following link to get a copy: http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Weekends-Maximus-Clement/dp/1482804425.
From this definition, it is noteworthy to understand that the mechanics of writing a novel is domiciled in doing it step-by-step or account-by-account. Always ask the question, “then what next?” at each instant in the story. I wrote Lonely Weekends just like that. Read the book and feedback on this blog. Please do not hesitate to write a preview on amazon.com.
The novel – novel has been defined as a narrative or creative writing. Those definitions are good, but in this course and within the context of Plotmatics, a novel is made up of chapters and pages built around a story plot. Chapters contain instants, dialogues and story-leads. Pages result in word count and this is very important for the novel. The significance of this definition lies in two key terms as highlighted: chapters and pages. These terms make for the engineering we talked about earlier in the course. It enables us to channel the story appropriately.
Instants are particular moments or events of the story being told contained in a chapter. Dialogues are the speech content of the story built around the circumstances at each instant in the story. This means that characters in a story deal with issues as they come depending on what time it is in the story. Assuming two characters in a story are getting away from an enemy holding a rifle, and they both got to a point where one of them injures an ankle. The story will stop short momentarily as they talk about the ankle, linking it to their escape. If the injury is severe, the issue or subject of discussion at that point is the ankle under the prevailing circumstances. Story-leads refer to, in this course, the non-dialogue content of the story used to lead the reader on in the plot at each instant of time in the story. It’s often the description of the state of things at a given point in a story. For example,
“I came upon the ambush,” he said with a tearing eye. His face was soaked with tears and he made no attempt to dab them away with his handkerchief. John only sat and listened; meanwhile his cat couched under the dinning table. Note the words in black. They are the story-leads. They describe the moment at that instant in the story.
This incidentally is the first course in the series. The next in the series will deal with the story structure and beam the light on how to write a novel with the greatest of ease.