The Writing Process: Structure

In my previous blog, I talked about what brainstorming looks like for me so today’s focus is going to look at what I do with all those notes and scrambled ideas.

Once I’ve spent a sufficient amount of time working with an idea, looking at possibilities, filling in gaps, asking questions, etc… I take the next step. You might ask, ‘how do you know’? That’s an excellent question and I don’t have an answer for you other than, ‘I just know it’. It’s an instinctual feeling, but I can offer some indicators. First, the ideas excite me and feel plentiful. Second, I can visualize the story. Third, I start to feel connected to the characters and the story. But mostly, it just boils down to, ‘I know it’s ready’.

Now is the tricky part as my outlining is a mixture of steps taken from a variety of sources, re-worked and called my own, but where I can I will give credit to the source.

So I do a few things but not necessarily in this word. Rather, I have a word document that I begin filling up.

First though, I want to know the following:

I find that there’s no set organization that works. Each manuscript takes a different approach. Sometimes I have to figure out the mirror moment before I know the character arc, theme and narrative question. Sometimes I need to know the theme and then narrative arc before I know the rest. Mostly I just go as I feel the character(s), story inspiring. If I see a clear picture of the mirror moment, then I go with it. If, from brainstorming, I see the conflict and struggles of the characters very clearly, then I know the narrative question and theme. However, I do strongly encourage you to take time to think about these aspects of your character, plot and world development before structuring the story or starting your writing. (Trust me, it saves time later.)

Once I’ve figured out the above, I take that and my brainstorm and then fill in the journey. I do this for all my POVs and then put them together into one final structure. Now, there are many excellent methods out there for creating a story structure. I’ve found James Scott Bell’s super structure method works best for me.

I won’t go into detail about the super structure method as there are a number of story structure methods out there, so I encourage you to find what works for you. However, a story needs a good structure, so even if you’re a panster, or discovery writer (and there are famous authors who write like this), do this step loosely. Note, with all my talk on structure and organization, it might surprise you that my structures aren’t as detailed as you’re probably thinking. There might only be one or two lines that will help me remember the details as I sit down to write, which leaves lots of room to discover the story as it unfolds. So why do I take the time to do all this ‘loose plotting’? Because I value efficiency and nothing stifles my writing then endless re-writes.

(Picture created with Canva)

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