There Must Be Change: Blueprint for a Book Step 5

There Must Be Change: Blueprint for a Book Step 5

Episode 326

I want to believe I can change. Show me how.

The “arc of change” is famous in fiction, and it’s much the same in memoir–but there’s a change and shift in non-fiction too. Change is what pulls the reader from the beginning to the end of every narrative book. Without the promise of change, your reader feels like they’re going nowhere, and they won’t come along for your ride.

In fiction and memoir, the change comes to the protagonist (and offers the reader the promise that they, too, are capable of change. In non-fiction, change may come to the narrator, to a real-life figure, or be offered to the reader, but it has to be there. It isn’t enough that the advice is sound or that a story is true. We still need to feel that journey from one way of being to another.

This is the fifth episode in the 10-part Blueprint for a Book Series. Start with Step 1, do the work (we’ll give you an assignment every week), and in 10 weeks, you’ll have a solid foundation for a first draft or revision of your project that will help you push through to “the end”. Find details on the challenge HERE


Write out the answers to the following questions:

Fiction and narrative memoir:

Answer the following questions:

  • Who is your protagonist? (If you’re writing memoir, it’s you.) What do they want at the start of the story?

  • What is their arc of change – their transformation journey? What do they know or believe or understand at the end of the story that they didn’t at the start? How are they different?

  • What stands in the way of the protagonist getting what they want, externally and internally?

  • Are they telling the tale?

  • Will there be other POV characters?

Nonfiction and Self-Help/Memoir:

Define the arc of change – the transformation journey – for your reader.

  •  What do they know or believe or understand when they pick up your book? Be specific.

  • What do they know or believe or understand when they finish your book that they didn’t at the start? Be specific.

(Note: We suggest you download a Blueprint answer workbook to keep track of your 10 assignments. That will make it easier to revise, review and come back to your work. Click to grab yours for fiction or nonfiction. If you are writing narrative memoir (a story), use the fiction workbook and assignments. If you are writing self-help/memoir, use the nonfiction workbook and assignments. Prefer paper? Tape the assignment into your journal and make a nice big heading so you know: This is Step 5: CHANGE.)


The Story Grid

Story Genius, Lisa Cron

The terrible cat/rich dude movie: Nine Lives

Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

Boyfriend, Sarina Bowen

The Premonition, Michael Lewis

Blueprint for a Book (Fiction and Memoir)

Blueprint for a Nonfiction Book


Savannah Gilbo is a certified developmental editor and book coach who helps fiction authors write, edit, and publish stories that work. She loves working on commercial fiction for all age ranges, but her favorite genres include fantasy, science fiction, and romance. Savannah became a certified Author Accelerator in 2019 and has been helping writers (full time) ever since! Find more at savannahgilbo.com

For more from KJ, subscribe to her newsletter: Read. Eat. Listen. Or grab one of her novels, In Her Boots and The Chicken Sisters, wherever books are sold. Wondering about KJ as a book coach? Her current offerings are HERE

For more from Jennie, subscribe to her weekly newsletter. Or grab one of her Blueprint books, wherever books are sold. You can learn about getting matched with an Author Accelerator book coach or becoming a book coach at authoraccelerator.com.

This summer is all about starting a project, but if you already have a novel or memoir manuscript and you’re ready to go ALL IN, you’re going to want to do Author Accelerator’s Manuscript Incubator. Registration is open for the intensive, 7-month coaching opportunity that offers one-on-one support and guidance for novelists and memoirists planning to have a submission-ready project by early 2023—and includes the opportunity to have that project reviewed by a group of agents and editors when it’s ready. For more information, head to authoraccelerator.com/manuscript-incubator.

Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.