The Mathematics of Writing

I thought I’d share some interesting mathematical facts about planning to write a 50,000 word novel and having an outline of plot points. For my current work in progress, I used the seven point structure:

  1. Hook
  2. Plot Turn 1
  3. Pinch point 1
  4. Midpoint
  5. Pinch point 2
  6. Plot turn 2
  7. Resolution

Now, traditionally, these are set up to happen at:

  • Immediately – Hook
  • 25% – Plot Turn 1
  • 33% – Pinch point 1
  • 50% – Midpoint
  • 66% – Pinch point 2
  • 75% – Plot turn 2 (not the climax, leads to it)
  • After the climax – Resolution

So the math of this structure if you apply it to a 50,000 word novel is:

  • Between 1-3000 words, Hook
  • 12,500 words, Plot Turn 1
  • 16,600 words, Pinch point 1
  • 25,000 words, Midpoint
  • 33,000 words, Pinch point 2
  • 37,500 words, Plot turn 2
  • Between 45,000-50,000 words, Resolution

More math:

  • 5,000 word chapters = 10 chapters total
  • 3,333 words per chapter = 15 chapters
  • 2,000 word chapters = 25 chapters

Okay, now to connect the maths. If your chapters are 4,000 words long, that means you have exactly ONE chapter to get through Plot Turn 1, and the very next chapter needs to cover Pinch Point 1. Then you’ve got a freebie chapter to do whatever you want before your midpoint. It’s all jammed together, and it all happens so fast!!

Photo credit: Huffington Post 2013

I’m currently at 20k words. So I’m in the weird lull between my first pinch point and my midpoint. My first Plot Turn happened at around 12,500 like the math suggests it should, but my Pinch Point had to wait until around 18,000 words. I’m not worried about it. I know the whole thing is just a guide. And the manuscript isn’t even complete. I may end up with 75k words by the time I’m done with it.

But at the same time, it’s WEIRD to have this structure planned out ahead of time and in my head. This is my first novel that I’ve mathematically broken down like this. Usually, if I have an outline, I just go for it or I don’t have a 50k word goal.

I’m not sure if it’s inhibiting yet, to have these word count goals in my brain as I write. So far, the only thing it’s made me do is slow down: not rush to the next major point on my outline. The major points of the story aren’t changing. How long it takes to write scenes, how long I spend on descriptions/dialogue/action scenes is still all up to me as I write, just as it should be.

We’ll see how it goes from here. I think it’s fun to have a completely different writing experience from one manuscript to another like this. What was writing your latest manuscript like when it came to plotting? If you’re a pantser, do you see yourself EVER planning a novel ahead of time like this?

12 thoughts on “The Mathematics of Writing

  1. Maybe I’m too much of a fly-by-the-seat kind of writer, but all the details and numbers make me anxious. 😂 Ironically, I feel like all the elements are falling into line almost by themselves in my current MS–I’m curious to see all the stats once I’m done. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol! Yeah too much overanalyzing makes me anxious too. I think plotting and structures are good for bone building, but too much emphasis on them can ruin a novel. I mean, if everyone used the same structure, all the books in the world would be the same to some extent and boring.
      I know your MS will be good!!


    1. Yeah it hasn’t been the best lol. I just had a nerdy math moment, but I’ve carefully avoided thinking about it ever since I made this post. I think too much analytical thinking hinders the creative aspect of writing. It’s a delicate balance 😀


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