Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. But connecting them is the hard part.
The best way to incorporate a three-act structure into your own writing is to map out the key plot elements that should populate each act.
Act one: exposition, inciting action, turning point into act two
Act two: rising action, midpoint, turning point into act three (often a “dark night of the soul”)
Act three: pre-climax, climax, denouement
Some novelists consider these story points when they brainstorm. I use the triangle method. You can find this worksheet in my Resource Library. To have access to my library, please subscribe to my newsletter to receive the password to unlock it.
If you prefer to be organized in your writing process, to save yourself time and frustration, it may make sense to keep the three-act story structure in mind from the very beginning.
But sometimes you don’t always know how a story will end or even begin much less how to connect the two. I suggest writing down the scenes that you want to have in your book. Start with:
Once you’ve gotten your “What if” go to the next question.
You can use this method to create as many scenes as you want or can. Many times ideas will pop up once you start the process and your idea may change. That’s ok.
Take a step of faith and see where it leads you.
Another method is to plan out how many chapters an average book of your desired genre has. Say a thriller is about 80,000 words. There are about 1500 – 2500 words per chapter or scene. So that equals anywhere from 53 to 32 chapters or scenes. Use a notebook or notecards and try to do the above exercise for the number of chapters you have decided upon.
It can be a useful planning tool to think of the story in terms of exposition, inciting action, rising action, and beyond. Just remember when you are writing a novel that good stories don’t start with templates.
Good stories begin with memorable characters, vivid worldbuilding, and a protagonist whose journey is worth following. Once you have those in place, a three-act structure will naturally reveal itself.
The suggestions here are only tools to help you begin the process of writing. Once you discover which type of preplanning works for you, the rest will be enjoyable!
If you enjoy your story – someone else will too!
Share your method of pre-planning in the comments below. I’m interested to see what works best and what type of writer you are.
Till next time – Keep Writing : )