Education, Mount Mary College, Novel Writing

Novel Writing: The Next Step

Cover of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces ...
For this week, I tracked my heroine’s journey using Campbell’s 17 phases of the hero’s journey adapted from The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Last night was the second meeting of my Monday evening Advanced Novel Writing course at Mount Mary College. Our homework for last night was to complete two writing exercises designed to get us thinking about our stories and where we are going with them.

The first exercise was a “Building the Novel” exercise that our professor adapted from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (I haven’t read this text yet, but it sounds like I may need to.) We were to review Campbell’s 17 Phases of the Hero’s Journey and then type up one paragraph for each of the phases, describing how the characters in our own novels would deal with each of the phases.

Even though I felt like I had much of my story figured out already, I found this exercise to be very helpful in getting me to the next step in writing my story. I worked out a lot of new details and answered a couple of old questions as well. I also wrote my first chapter last week, and the story now seems to be seeping out of my very pores, drenching the pages with word sweat.

The other exercise we were to complete for class last night included a free-write and a questionnaire. (I’m going to get back to the free-write portion in another blog post.) The questionnaire was adapted from our text, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

The questionnaire included several questions about elements such as our premise, character’s strengths and weaknesses, conflict, moral choice, and universality. For example, what is a moral choice that your character will have to make while on her journey? What is it about your story that makes it universal? Why will people want to read it? These are all excellent questions that helped me tease just a little bit more of my story out of the dark recesses of my brain.

I am looking forward to our next round of writing exercises, which should be e-mailed to us in the next day or so. So far, I like the format this course has taken and believe that I (and my novel) will get a lot out of it. So much so, in fact, I am documenting the processes as we work through them so I can attempt to reconstruct the process with my next novel. These exercises just might become an official part of my writing process.

What strategies have you used to figure out your story? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

~Mandy Webster

Are you looking for writing resources? Do you ever wish you could find a writing support group? If so, check out my Writers Anonymous page on Facebook.

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