A Writer’s Soul Revealed

A Writer’s Soul Revealed

According to Kurt Vonnegut, “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.”

There are two important elements to this statement. One, that art enables the soul to grow. Talk to any person who spends time on their art, whether writing, dancing, singing, painting, etc., and you will typically find that the exercise of that art is an outlet, a value that allows that person release from everyday trials and tribulations.

Two, and even more telling, the statement from Vonnegut maintains that it doesn’t matter whether the practice of that art is done “ . . . well or badly,”. Wow, now isn’t that a liberating concept? I can suck and still be feed my soul. Great news for me, but not what I ultimately want to publish.

I began noodling on my own story, trying to figure out where I was exactly, which can sometimes be a bit harder to pinpoint than you might imagine for several reasons: my relative story length, the number of POV characters I have, and the leeway I get in my genre.  So, I thought it might do to review the elements of story.

This view of structure I credit to BK Reeves. She called it “Novel Structure for the Vertically Challenged”.

Act I

Establish: 25%

Zone 1

Establish: hero encounters herald and accepts the call to adventure

Setup: 10% (approx. page 40)

Zone 2

Establish: gathering allies

Ends with first catalyst: first big problem

Ends at 25% point (approx. page 100)


Act II

Build: 50%

Zone 3

Build: enter special world, accepts the call to adventure, catalyst as things get worse for hero/ine

Ends at 50% point (approx. page 200) point of no return

Zone 4

Build: more complex problems

Hero/ine displays courage, stamina, loyalty willingness to sacrifice self to win elixir

Ends with major setback (75%, approx. page 300)



Resolve: 25%

Zone 5

Resolution: final crisis, stakes are life and death

Catalyst throws hero/ine and villain into conflict, climax

Zone 6

Resolution: denouement, satisfactory ending (10%)

Clearly, this is for a 100,000 word novel, but it can easily be adjusted, and by plugging in my plot points I discovered exactly where I am and where I need to head next. The one daunting revelation I discovered from this exercise is that . . . well, I’m a bit verbose. My word count is currently on track for a 300,000 word novel. YIKES!

Still, for first draft, I’m more concerned with getting the story done and reaching the end. Tightening my prose can and will come in 2nd draft. And, with my direction firmly set, my soul is being fed, hopefully quite well.

Lorinda Peake

Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.

Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.

Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.

2 thoughts on “A Writer’s Soul Revealed

  1. Thanks for sharing BK’s excellent tool!
    I love that it’s more about chunking the plot up than trying to drill down into the detailed nitty-gritty. Much more manageable.
    I’m also zeroing in on Vonnegut’s idea of writing as a practice. It gets done messily and beautifully and sometimes angrily, but it’s still capable of broadening and deepening us. Great quote. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Funny how Vonnegut gives us permission to feed our souls with bad art when necessary, but as the artists, we typically feel defeated and undernourished when we own up to the fact that our efforts are crap. I guess what we need to focus on is that the creation is simply for our release, and if our creative release ends up creating something that can offer release to others, only then do we have to share it with the world. And the choice is in our own power. Another soul-feeding concept!

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