The bones of a book

So what do you do when you’ve finished one big project, pushed it out the door, and are just waiting, waiting, (waiting) to hear about it?

You turn around and focus on the next piece.

3935841083_5ec5b0cc3c_zOh sure, I have my articles to keep me busy (at last count, I have 19 due in the next 2 months) and I have my blogs, but I also have another book-length manuscript in me (maybe even more.) And while it feels a little like I’m abandoning my first-born, there is nothing to do until I hear what to do. (I know, it sounds rather Zen doesn’t it?)

I’m going back and starting from the beginning with this next project (even though I have a 300 page rough draft.) I’m going to plot the organization and the action and then see what I have and see where it fits. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting for me in a box for a few months. Hello friend of mine, let me see you with fresh eyes.

While some may object to this rather clinical approach to writing, I’ve always worked well with structure and guidelines. I love a story that is so well constructed, it can hold water.

I love books where themes are subtly repeated throughout. I read a book recently where you were hit you over the head with the book’s theme of “bloom where you are planted” in *every* chapter. Enough already – if the author had had a structured outline, she would have seen how repetitive she was. I love books where a detail mentioned in an earlier chapter becomes important in a later one, a continuity that makes sense, and each chapter logically follows the one before.

But to do that well requires planning. A lot of planning.

I’ve read many “blogger” books lately and I have to say, that for the most part blogging does not translate well to book writing. They are just not the same beast. You can be an excellent blogger (and there are some very good ones out there) but a lousy book writer.

In a blog post you can explore voice. You can get a little sloppy with your language. You can make assumptions on what your readers know.

But if you don’t understand that a book has a different structure and formula, you are going to get people who will shake their heads after reading your book and say “huh, what just happened?” Blog readers are already familiar with your story, unlike those readers of a book, who need to be taken by the hand and led through your story.

So how is this done? How best is a blog converted to a book (or any information or story for that matter)? By knowing book structure and by knowing story formulas. I don’t care if you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the bones are important. They are so important.

The bones are what makes your story stand.

Which is why this weekend, I’ll be sitting at my computer with some of my favorite story architecture books (Blueprint your Bestseller by Stuart Horwicz , Story Engineering and Story Physics by Larry Brooks) and I will working on defining my blueprint *before* I attempt to build my house.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (

13 thoughts on “The bones of a book

  1. Great post! I do very well with structure as well. Although I have yet to read a single book on “writing.” Very helpful for all writers 🙂

  2. I am writing a science fiction novel, and creating this world requires so much structure. Even if I never mention most of the information it in the final prose, I have a whole outline describing my peoples’ taxonomy, their history, and their world’s ecology. It’s the most fun part too, and once I have this outline completed, the rest of it will fall into place, and the story will write itself!

  3. You and me both. I’ve sent my first book out, but I don’t want to hang around like Oliver Twist, all nervous and hungry. So i started a new book. Early, very early stages yet, but it feels good to DO, not just WAIT. Great post.

  4. I’m a few thousand words away from finishing the first draft of my WIP novel. I’m hungering to get it finished so I can put it in a drawer and concentrate on my next WIP novel – I already know what it will be, but I’m itching to start building the skeleton. Can’t do it until the first one’s finished!

  5. i love your attitude, much as I love those brave people who climb mountains or sing love songs in front of thousands of people. I admire you, I love the results of your work, but could never be you 🙂 Alas, maybe next life!

  6. Pingback: Taking stock of 2014 at the halfway point | Live to Write - Write to Live

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