So, I just built an ottoman. (Never thought I’d write that sentence in my life, but there it is.) We repurposed a mattress from a toddler bed for the top–that’s how big this thing is–but it’s very sturdy and functional. I have very little skill in carpentry or woodworking, but all I had to do was look up some tutorial online and follow the instructions. Easy.

Novels are not furniture or baking mixes. You don’t just execute the steps in the right order. You don’t just measure, cut, and assemble.

But novels do have structure. At the very least, we can all agree that novels have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. How much further can we take that structure? Are there other parts of a long-form story that are universal to all novels?

I’m very much a believer that writers must find the methods that work best for them. But just as a musician must first understand something about the structure of music (rhythm, tempo, scales, etc.) to be able to invent and improvise, so, too, must a story writer have some understanding of the structure of story.


My previous article featured a list of novel structure resources. Having combed through that list, I found some common ground among the various paradigms I investigated. Below is a video in which I walk through the plot points I saw over and over again in my research.

Cheat Sheet for Novel Structure Paradigms

And here’s a diagram of the structure I discuss in the video:

Aggregate novel structure

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About TD Storm

TD Storm is an award-winning writer and teacher whose stories have appeared in a number of journals. His passion for storytelling and its inner workings inform his teaching, editing, and mentoring. He has worked with countless writers on personal essays, novels, short stories, and more. And he's been teaching since 1999.

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