Let's just assume for a moment you have decided to write your first story and are researching before you begin. Congratulations, you're already on the right track! Because smart people do that — research first, that is. I am not one of those people, however. I wrote my first book and most of my second book prior to even knowing concepts, themes, and structures even existed. Heck, I'm writing my third book now and still trying to get a grasp of it. Friends, I wear rose colored glasses with no shame every time I sit at the computer and write. I have a story to tell, dangit! (However, my books are chock-full of science and stuff, so I did a ton of research on that... for the record.)
Perfect has a good amount of reviews on Amazon, most in the 4- and 5-star range (squueeee, thank you!) but one particular "critical" review stuck with me the most. The reviewer was like 'THERE ARE NO ANSWERS!' And over here I am thinking "Well, duh... it's a series!" I mean even the King himself said, "Good books don't give up all their secrets at once." Stephen King, of course. Alas, the review floated in the crevices of my subconscious until I finally decided to really consider what that person was trying to say (stubbornness and all that).
What the first two books in my series don't have is a "proper" structure for each installment. Primarily in the execution of a solution. The solution for the problem in book one comes about midway through book two. Thus, in the series as a whole, the solutions are present — my readers get their answers — it's just delivered in a unique way. To keep it conducive, I followed through with that same trend going into book two; a new problem arises in book two, but will be solved in book three. Does it drive some readers crazy? Yep! Do many readers love it? Absolutely! Now, I've been able to slowly shift that trend, and in book three my readers will finally see an installment-specific story structure with both a problem and a solution... in the same book! I leveled up, y'all! **bows dramatically** thank you, thank you. I don't regret independently publishing my books prior to studying up on how to structure a novel. Not at all. In fact, even in doing so I am not disappointed with my story execution. Some people might want to fire up the torches when I say this, but I'm of the mind that both writing and reading are subjective to a point. But most importantly, if we were to wait until we know everything about the craft before writing our stories, there would not be near enough books in the world. I am in love with my story, my characters, and the way I executed it. But do I want to become a better writer? Yes... always. And with the new knowledge on structure I've recently gleaned, I can now see the benefit of a better organized story. Does that mean I understand it fully yet? Umm... that's a hard no.
So I went digging... and my search led to a number of story structure methods. The one that resonates with me — and my style — most is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. After reading his book, cover to cover (which I highly recommend doing), I searched for any other tools and resources I could find to help me further understand and incorporate his 6 Core Competencies method into my writing workflow. In doing so, I found Jami Gold's absolutely invaluable website containing a slew of worksheets for writers and Janice Hardy's Fiction University. With these amazing resources in hand, I created a workbook to use for each series I write. When the workbook was done, I thought, "Hey, other people could benefit from this too!" So, I figured I would share the love. Disclaimer: the "Structure and Scene Execution" portions of my workbook are based off a combination of Larry's 6 Core Competencies and the worksheets and information you can find at Jami and Janice's websites listed above. I've simply changed the design of that section a bit and fit them into the workbook. Jami constructed them perfectly... I found no need to completely reinvent the wheel!
In my free, printable workbook you'll find sections dedicated to theme, concept, character, structure, and scenes; plus, bonus "what if" pages to help you flesh out the purpose and execution of your story.
I have blogged about how to Plan Your New Year's Resolutions in 5 Simple Steps, breaking down one simple way to organize a writing and publishing goal for aspiring authors. And I have shared 5 Fun Writing Websites to Increase Your Word Count and Writing Speed. Now... it's time to organize your story!
Have fun, and Happy writing!