Verb Writers’ Group Workshop on Structuring Long Narratives

Verb Writers’ Group met at Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre on Tuesday 1 November to share writing news and give feedback on each others’ writing. On request, I ran a workshop about structuring long narratives. Please feel free to access the slides from the workshop: structuring long narratives.

To put together this workshop, I reflected on editing my novel, Treading Air, at a structural level. The process of writing and editing Treading Air allowed me to transition into long form from writing short stories, with tight narrative arcs and only two or three key plot points. The first draft of Treading Air was a product of my training as a short story writer. It was anecdotal and fragmentary.

In the structural edit, my editor at Affirm Press asked me to think about how the threads of the story needed to surface at the beginning, develop and interweave throughout the novel. She also asked to know my character better, to understand her bodily and emotional reactions to the events that happen in the narrative.

In the early stages of the edit, I was in considerable mental pain; the novel seemed too big to hold in my head. I needed a way to visualise the story.

Confession time: I have this post-it note fetish. There is something elegant and comforting about the possibility of organisation post-its hold.  And, because they stick to anything, they seem to have the potential to mark what is significant and worthy of note in, well, life.

So I cleared off a wall in my house and wrote each plot point in the novel on a separate post-it note. The result would probably make a serial killer proud.

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Above each of the plot points, I  wrote the main character’s emotional and bodily reaction.

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The novel became holdable, and I could begin the edits.

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