I started on this writing journey more than twenty years ago at my dining room table in a small apartment in Panama, the country, not the city in Florida. I read lots of books, so many in fact that I got the idea that I could write one of those fantastic novels where the worlds could take me away, even for just a little bit. I even thought that I could have gotten lost in those worlds of my own making.
That even happened for a short time, but then it became real. Like an addiction that you can’t shake even if you wanted, I found myself hooked. The problem was after so much investment in time and energy–and that fact that I was also in the military with a young family–I found that I really didn’t have the time I wanted to devote to it.
So the first thing I want to say is, you can want it with all your heart and soul and you might even get some writing done, but without some setup, and a little bit of structure, you’re not going to get very far.
To be honest, I wrote for many years without the notion of structure. Never even heard of it in writing. You have to understand I was in my early twenties starting out. All the books I read didn’t have anything to do with structure. It wasn’t until recently (relatively speaking, of course), that I understood what it even was or how it could be applied to writing a novel.
I read Eragon by Christopher Paolini and even read his story of how he began as a fifteen year old writer. He described his trek into this novel writing experience and how he thought that when he wrote the epic words “The End” he was done. Then he learned about structure and he had to go back and rewrite accordingly.
Structure is key.
Just like a house has a foundation, a frame, walls, plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and a roof. A story has all that as well. That what I wish I had known. That would have made the difference in when I actually published (well that and the Internet).
There are those out there who don’t believe in the 3-Act structure and that is fine. You can call it whatever you want to call it. Call it fourteen parts, twenty-one parts, or even seven, it doesn’t matter. It is some sort of structure. Not everything works for everyone. So you have to find which one is right for you.
At the very basic level, I believe that you should start with the notion that the 3-Act structure (usually used for plays and movies) can at least get you pointed in the right direction. You can make adjustments here and there until you find that your little 3-Act structure morphed into something useful that you can repeat over and over again with all your stories.
In my next post, I’ll show you what has worked for me in the past and why I continue to use the 3-Act structure (with my variations, of course).
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