Zen Cho’s new debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown is getting all kinds of buzz (and we’re dying to read it.) But it’s not her first novel. She wrote two others, which she “binned” before even trying to publish them, as she explains her blog.

Her whole blog post about tossing out two completed novels is definitely worth reading, but here’s the bit where she explains what she learned about novel-writing, and why Sorcerer, a Regency romance, worked when the other two didn’t:

I have wondered why it was this book that worked out, when most of my previous published work was set in Malaysia/primarily about Malaysian characters, and I think it’s because of the structure thing. I really did not know how to construct the shape of a novel, and this is something I’m still learning. (It’s probably no coincidence that many of my favourite books have weird shapes and are often episodic, like Anne of Green Gables and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubreyad.) When you adopt a trope or subgenre like a Regency romance or, say, cosy mystery, that gives you a shape to work with. You make it your own, but you get some help with the bones.

Finding a compelling structure that actually holds together is one of the hardest parts of novel-writing, and if a particular genre or archetype gives you a structure to work with, that can be an awesome help. Check out the rest of Cho’s blog post here.