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September 1, 2015

Need Help Understanding Story Structure?

View up the center of high-tension electrical tower with text: Need Help Understanding Story Structure?

Some writers are instinctively able to put together (mostly) coherent stories while drafting. But without conscious knowledge of the underlying structure of stories, they might struggle to fix problems in revisions.

Other writers put together words willy-nilly and end up with tangents and a story that doesn’t hold together. Or they might zoom through the first several chapters, but then get stuck halfway and not know where to take the story next.

And still other writers want to plan their stories in advance, but having a story outline doesn’t necessarily prevent problems. After all, their plan doesn’t do any good if it’s simply chaos that’s been written down.

All of these writers have one thing in common: A strong sense of story structure would help them during planning, drafting, and/or revisions.

My insane release schedule this year (4 books in one year!) kept me from offering my workshop this past spring, but now that we’re approaching NaNoWriMo season, it’s time…

It’s Here! The Lost Your Pants? Workshop!

That’s right. My popular Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story workshop is now open for registration. *smile*

Whether we’re a “pantser” (writing by the seat of our pants) who just wants to learn a minimalist approach to story development, or a plotter who wants to understand how plot and character arcs work together, this class might be able to help.

Attendees will receive several tools (worksheets and beat sheets) developed especially for the workshop. Also, the class will help us prepare for NaNo, as the tools help writers work out enough story direction to make “fast drafting” techniques work for them.

This workshop consists of two sessions:

  • Tues., October 13th, 9 p.m. Eastern (New York) time/6 p.m. Pacific time
  • Thurs., October 15th, 9 p.m. Eastern (New York) time/6 p.m. Pacific time

Both sessions are recorded for registrants, so even if you can’t make it at the scheduled time, you can sign up and listen later at your convenience. It will not be offered as an OnDemand class for later registrants.

General Admission:

Learn techniques and receive tools developed especially for pantsers. More Info »

Gold Level Admission:

Gold Level also includes a Phone Consultation to discuss your Story Plan. More Info »

Platinum Level Admission:

Platinum Level also includes a Phone Consultation and Editorial Analysis and Feedback for your Story Plan. More Info »

How Does Knowing Story Structure Help Us?

I’m a die-hard-and-proud-of-it pantser, so I developed this process for myself. In other words, I promise my fellow pantsers that I’m not one of those authors who will tell you that you need to plot because otherwise “you’re doing it wrong.” *smile*

However, if we’ve seen articles about pantsing vs. plotting before, we know that many writers and editors don’t respect the pantsing process. Pantsers are often considered hacks who can’t put together a coherent story.

But I believe that most problems experienced by pantsers come down to whether or not they understand story structure. And a lack of understanding story structure will cause issues for plotters too.

Any author—a pantser or a plotter—will struggle with a story if the structure isn’t sound. If there’s a premise but no plot. If the plot arc isn’t solid. If the emotional growth is stagnant. If the stakes don’t increase. If the scenes don’t have goals. Etc., etc.

On the other hand, any author—a pantser or a plotter—will be more successful at writing a story filled with connections and meaning if their knowledge of structure is complete. Especially if they fully understand how the plot and character arcs work together over the course of the story.

Who Is this Workshop for?

I jokingly refer to this workshop as my “plotting for pantsers” class, but it’s really about how to plan our stories at a high level and work our way down only as much as we need to. We’ll learn the basic “need to know” plot points and character development steps, and more importantly, we’ll learn how those elements all play together.

(And yes, I say “we’ll learn” because every time I give this workshop, the conversation we have in the chat helps me understand all of the intricacies of story structure better too. That’s one of many reasons this class is only offered live.)

Attendees will receive exclusive tools to step them through a unique process that helps writers no matter where they fall on the pantser/plotter spectrum:

  • Those who write by the seat of their pants will learn how to plan “just enough” to keep both their freaking-out inner editor and their diva muse happy.
  • Those who plot a story in advance will learn how to use flexible tools to create a coherent outline before drafting.

Doing NaNoWriMo?

If we’re planning on doing NaNo this year, this class will give us a head start on getting our story ready for November 1st. I think I’ll be doing NaNo this year (buddy me—I’m Jami Gold), and I always use this workshop to get my story into shape too.

Many of us who write by the seat of our pants can get through the first part of the story by winging it. But if you’re anything like me, sometime in the middle of the story, we might slow down and get stuck for what should happen next.

This workshop shares additional planning layers we can use at any point in our drafting process. The tools help with planning both the plot and character arc, as well as seeing the conflicts and obstacles we can use in the middle of our story to kick start our writing again. When we have to get in 50K words in 30 days, we need to quickly overcome those times we’re stuck. *smile*

Great! But What If the Times Aren’t Convenient?

The last time I gave this class was a year ago, and unlike the rest of my workshops, which are available OnDemand, the Lost Your Pants? workshop is only offered live. However, everything is recorded for attendees.

The webinar recordings include all audio, slide presentations, chat window with questions from attendees, etc. It’s almost as good as being there. *smile*

It’s an intensive class that includes oodles of exclusive materials and always goes over on time because I make an effort to answer every question and help people with their stories. So while this class will be recorded for registrants, the recordings won’t later be made available for others.

In other words, between the fact that it’s only given as a live class and that I don’t offer it very often, I recommend that anyone wanting to take this workshop sign up this time around.

Anyone who has seen my beat sheets and worksheets for writers knows I love story structure, and this class receives great review every time I offer it. Previous students have said:

“This is the BEST online workshop I’ve taken … Using this method, I was able to fast draft THREE 100k manuscripts in 2-months a piece (over only 8 months). RECOMMENDED!!” — Jennifer Rose

“Jami Gold is … the master at taking all those books on craft and rolling them into a single, easy, cohesive plan.” — Melinda Collins

“For those of you who … haven’t taken one of her courses, I highly recommend them – she is an AMAZING teacher!” — Harley Christensen

See more comments from Jami’s previous students.

And…I’m done with the promo. Promise. *grin*

How important do you think story structure is for storytelling? Do you have a good handle on story structure? Or do you struggle with understanding how story elements fit together? Are you doing NaNo this year? Do you have any questions about the workshop?

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What do you think?

12 Comments on "Need Help Understanding Story Structure?"

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Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I took a previous class and I LOVED it! So informative, so freaking useful. I’m so glad you’re offering it again, Jami.
Hopefully many more people will take advantage of this worthy class!
Have a GREAT day 🙂

Tamara

Ashley
Ashley

Crap. NaNo time ALREADY?!

Evolet Yvaine

I signed up!!! I’m no good with time zones, as I live in AZ, so are these times 3 hrs ahead of me?

Serena Yung
Serena Yung
Cool, I think before reading and commenting on most of your posts, I probably didn’t understand story structure in that much detail, though James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure that I read before meeting your blog was helpful too–despite the bias Bell seems to have towards plotters as opposed to pantsers, haha. I especially liked your posts on scene elements and on how to make the tangents and subplots work. The character arc posts and many others were insightful too. Discussing specific situations in my stories through comments here really helped me learn too. It’s one thing to know theory and quite another to know how to apply the principles to your own work! Oh did I tell you about a FB post in the Writer’s Group where a poster claimed that most authors are either good at storytelling or good at writing, but not both? I personally think Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte, for example, amazing at both, lol. But if it’s true that everybody is better at one than at the other (maybe due to personality differences?), then I think I’m better at storytelling. Of course I have tons to learn for both storytelling and writing, but storytelling feels more intuitive and writing feels more “learned” to me personally. Again, I’m not saying I have talent in storytelling, since I don’t even believe in talent, lol. Just saying that I seem to “feel” storytelling more “instinctually” than I “feel” writing, where the latter seemed to have developed… Read more »
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