Structural Integrity, Baby

I thought that, just to do something different, keep things fun!, I’d write about something that I actually can do, rather than whining about what I can’t.  I know, crazy ideas, I’m full of them.

I believe that as writers, even when we start writing the first words, the conception of our writing career, we all have pieces of craft that come naturally to us.  Maybe, for someone witty, it’s dialogue.  For the anal person, it may be structure or outlining.  For the introspective, perhaps it’s dishing out emotional punch.  Either way, our personalities and experiences come with us to the computer, and one or two things, we don’t have to bleed for.  It’s like when you’re in high school, and you guess the next song to come on the radio, and you think, “Awesome.  How’d I do that?”

Well, it doesn’t matter how.  You got mad skillz, baby.  Unfortunately for you and me both, staying on focus is not mine.  To the point: structure.

I got mad structuring skillz.  Or the potential for them.  Whatever.  And the entry actually begins…here.

When I write, I know I will have four turning points.  Big, important, can’t-turn-back-now scenes that change the course of the story for the main characters (for all of them, really).  It’s like mini-stories.  They’re that big of a deal, because they end one act, and begin another.  I also know that each act will get shorter, to increase pacing. I have a number in my head, and I actually tend to write over that, but I also know I tend to overwrite anyway, so cutting about 10% usually puts me back on track.  If my turning point doesn’t fall in that, if it happens sooner, then I know it’s not my turning point.  It’s an important scene, and it’ll only make the story better, but it’s not my turning point.  Never write filler to make sure your first turning point is, say 30k words.  Just don’t.  Filler is bad.  It’s the junk food of writing.

Most of this I know thanks to Jennifer Crusie and Bob Meyer (though you can’t read it now, they’ve taken it down and are writing a book I am sure will be most awesome and I am totally going to purchase).  But I also noticed that it was something I did naturally.

When I start a story, I figure out pretty quick what that first turning point is going to be and where the plot (and subplots) will have to get to for it to happen.  I’m a pantsy plotter.  That also sets me down the road of “What happens next?”  Well, the whole world just turned on it’s side–for good or bad, or both–and people (characters) are going to be scrambling to figure out how this new world works, where they fit in it, and how the heck they get to their goal now.

Don’t think of it as outlining, which still makes me cringe, and doesn’t really allow for narrative structure, anyway.  It’s a road map.  It’s where you’re going, where you’ve been, and how you’re going to get there.

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