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Writing struggles: story structure

August 20, 2017

 

 

I went to the movies the other week to see the new Spiderman. While I was enormously entertained (it's been about 10 months since I last went to the movies, so I would have been happy with a movie about ducks swimming in a lake for 2 hours), I left feeling a bit frustrated.

 

Very soon after self-publishing my first book, I started reading books and articles about improving my writing. I know that most people would have done it in the opposite order. But I had to just get something out there first, to feel like this was a serious thing, before allowing myself the time to "work on" my writing. 

 

Once you start learning structure, the books all say you will see it everywhere and movies are ruined forever. I try to see it, I do. But it just doesn't jump out to me. Which is weird, because I am usually very analytical and good at making connections. 

 

I went into Spiderman thinking, okay, let's see if I can spot the 3 acts, if I can guess the ending. And I couldn't. I sort of can now, after thinking about it for awhile. Maybe I am expecting it to be very transparent and obvious, and it's really a more subtle outline. 

 

I'm struggling with finishing part 2 of my book. While part of me knows it's normal to get stuck, even if you do the plotting and the outlining, another part of me wonders if it's because I just don't "get" story structure. I mean, I understand all the examples they give in the books, but then I don't see how you go from this 3 (or 4 or 6) part outline to these rich stories, with all these different elements woven in. It's like I'm missing some key part of the process. 

 

It was easier in my short stories to identify the different elements. There is a clear big event that the characters are heading towards and reacting to. And when writing a romance novella earlier in the summer, that was all laid out pretty well, too. A happy ending is guaranteed so all I had to do was figure out how to get them there. 

 

With this book, it's almost like I have too many options, so I just get stuck, trying to figure out what fits better with the expected structure. I wrote out a bunch of scenes, but I can't tell which are more "intense" so I don't know where to put them. It's almost more of a psychology issue than a writing issue - I think X event is intense, but maybe readers wouldn't agree. 

 

I know pushing through finishing this book is good for me, and I will get better the more I write. This is the "hard work" writers talk about. Sitting down, dealing with your brain not wanting to make sense of things, and just putting words on to a paper in an attempt to figure it out as you go. 

 

Do you understand story structure? Are you able to see it everywhere and easily put it into your writing? Or do you struggle like I do with 

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