Healthy Writers Club: How Story Structure Gives You Freedom

Oct 5, 2012

Okay, first off-- the winners from the You Are a Real Writer contest have been chosen!

Winner of the $10 gift card: Adrianne Russell!
Winner of the 10 page critique: Tony Dutson!
Winner of the 5 page critique: Reece Hanzon!

Congrats to the winners, and thanks again to the rest of all you real writers for your awesomeness. :)

Now, onto the HWC post. When I was on the track team in high school, we had a "guest" coach for a few days. He'd run (and won) more marathons than I even knew existed, and he taught me the greatest thing I ever learned in running: form. I didn't even know there was such a thing as proper running form, but the way you move your arms, lean your body, and point your feet all plays into becoming a better runner. From one track meet to the next, I shaved a full 30 seconds off my race time using this form (which doesn't sound like much, but was pretty impressive for me).

In writing, structure is much the same way. 

I never used to use any kind of structure in my stories, at least not consciously. I didn't want my books encumbered by the form and tedium of anything as banal as the three-act structure. And that was okay. My writing was decent. However, when I grudgingly learned all the points of the three-act structure and saw how it worked for a myriad of different books and movies, I learned something important. 

Applying a structure to my writing didn't encumber or hold back my story-- it actually freed me to tell the story in a more compelling way. When I began to write with a full understanding of structure, all of a sudden my stories had tighter pacing, natural-flowing plot lines, and more room to play around with the actual story idea. Oddly enough, structure gave me more freedom. I was no longer trapped by writer's block, or struggling to come up with a new scene. I knew where I was headed, so I could explore all different routes to get there instead of feeling my way blindly. 

Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, it's worth it to know some form of story structure!

Weekly stats: 2.5 miles (kinda pathetic this week, but after some knee pain early in the week, I scaled back to make sure I didn't injure myself)
In-flight entertainment favorite: Writing Excuses podcast: Death
Coolest moment: Uh, maybe being able to sleep in on the day I took off? :)
Hardest moment: Forcing myself to wake up the day AFTER the day I took off.

So, my friends, do you use any kind of structure when you write? Does it help you or is it hard for you? Or is it both helpful and hard?

11 comments:

MKHutchins said...

Reading this was very nostalgic. I had the same problem! I watched Dan Well's 7-Point plotting on Youtube, and something clicked. I use this for most things I write. I still don't use a super-detailed outline, but having a framework has been immensely helpful, and has shown me (before I write the whole book!) if there's something seriously flawed in what I've planned.

Also, watching Toy Story more times than I want to admit (kiddos love it) taught me a lot about how to craft/structure endings.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I do keep the 3 Act structure in mind while plotting. I also have 9 plot points around which I build the story. It actually helps me get the story flowing.

J.L. Campbell said...

I think we'd lose our way without some kind of structure in most of the things we do. My last post was about this same thing in a roundabout fashion.

Hope you get more done next week.

Angie said...

Thank you for this post. I need it!

Gwen Gardner said...

I really do have to try structure! I slept in 7:00 this morning. WooHoo! We all need one of those days every once in a while.

And definitely rest when somethings hurting. I got shin splints with I was training for my half. I had to take a couple of days off then use the stationary bike for cardio for a few days.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I joined the Healthy Writers Club this week!

Uh, structure? To be honest, structures give me a headache very similar to the headache I used to get in high school learning math. But now that I've read this post I might go watch the Dan Wells Youtube video someone mentioned ... mostly because I'm struggling with my WiP and who knows? I refuse to be an old dog yet!

Yolanda Renee said...

I write as it comes and once I get it on paper I do a time line. Mystery writing requires keeping everything and everyone in line. But the initial writing has no structure, that comes later as needed.

I think you had a great week (THWC) considering the pain.

Leigh Covington said...

I cannot tell you how much your posts HELP ME! Seriously! You always have such a wonderful way of convincing me to .. "give in to structure" (for this post's example, anyway.) I love it!

And congrats to the winners!

Anthony Dutson said...

I recently developed a plantar wart on the ball of my foot. It made walking painful and I noticed I started putting my weight on the side of my foot when I walked. This created pain in my ankle and calf.

I've noticed writing sometimes has the same trouble. If something isn't right, it causes troubles to everything else until you correct where you went wrong.

Dan Well's 7-Point structure and Save The Cat! really helped me with form. I wish I found both of them sooner, since I spent a lot of time wandering in the dark.

Peggy Eddleman said...

It's all helpful for me! The more structure, the less I get stuck.

And huge congrats to the winners!

kmckendry said...

I use a skeleton, which is kind of like a free form outline. It helps me a lot. Then I can get my main ideas down and sort of plan where my characters are going. They don't always stick to it though.

I think 2.5 miles is good!

 
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