When I was in college, I took an amazing creative writing class that taught me a good chunk of what I know today! One day our professor drew a story arc. I’d seen a hundred story arcs before, and this one wasn’t unlike others, but it became important to have on hand. The way my professor drew the arc and explained it has helped me as a writer.
Even though it’s a simple diagram, I find it helpful to keep it visible.
You can print yours for FREE.
Printable: Story Arc Diagram
The Story Arc Helps with Pacing
The story arc helps me with pacing. I’d never seen a story arc that labeled how many chapters should be in a section of the story arc. But as my teacher explained it, I came to understand the logic behind the length of each section. However, I think every writer and every novel is different. There shouldn’t be any hard fast rule about how many chapters each section of a novel needs to be, but this story arc serves as a good rule of thumb.
Pacing the Beginning
A beginning that is too short won’t sufficiently introduce the character and problem of the novel. It won’t provide a smooth transition into the middle of the novel where the tension should already be rising. If a beginning is too long, the reader will get bored. Readers don’t need to know every single detail about everything. If you take too long to get to the problem, the reader won’t bother to stick around.
Pacing the Middle
As for the middle, it’s important not to be too restrictive. Writing a novel is an experiment. It’s an exploratory experience. The length of the middle will depend on subplots, the topic being explored, and the obstacles that keep the character from what they want.
Pacing the End
At first, I was surprised that the climax and resolution should each be one chapter. However, if the climax drags on, it quickly loses the dramatic appeal. If it’s too long it’s not very climatic. You want the climax to heighten the emotion of the story, so the climax needs to be quick paced and short-lived. If it’s too long the emotion will begin to fade.
Similar to beginning a novel, if it takes too long to resolve the climax, the reader will become frustrated, annoyed, or disinterested. Another problem with a long resolution is that you risk telling too much. Your character needs to achieve what they were after (or realize they don’t need what they thought they did), but if you resolve too much you are essentially starting a new novel. Providing enough resolution to keep the reader thinking after they read the last sentence, is the recommended way to end a book. Let the reader reach their own conclusion. Don’t tell them what they are smart enough to figure out on their own. Provide enough answers to satisfy the reader, but resist the urge to wrap your novel ending up in a pretty little bow.
If you find this diagram helpful, you can subscribe to the blog for a FREE novel roadmap that will help you work through the story arc and create a basic outline of your novel.
And don’t forget to pin to Pinterest for future use!
How does the story arc help your writing?