How to Use the Three Act Structure To Write Your Messy First Draft

For writers working in narrative, there’s nothing quite as anxiety-provoking as the question of whether or not we have the structure right.

We work for months on our messy first draft, some of us for YEARS even, hoping with our fingers crossed that when we get to the end, we’ll have a story that basically works and won’t have to be completely rewritten from scratch because we didn’t get the fundamentals right.

The trick is in how to do that exactly…

There are many options for structuring a story – and likely some that have yet to be invented – but in this blog post, I’m going to clarify the classic 3 act structure and hopefully demonstrate how you can use it as a tool to help you shape your messy first draft so that you end up with a book that works at its most basic level.

This structure is classic like a Chanel suit because it’s that well-constructed and can take you anywhere, and it’s also classic as in Seen on TV,...

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On Deciding to FINISH

Are you writing to FINISH?

Nearly every writer has days when the voices in her head get snarky and loud.

>> Why even bother?

>> Is this even worth it?

>> Who do you think you are to write a memoir?

>> You’ll never get this published.

>> Why don’t you stop wasting your time and do something useful for a change?

Honestly -- that voice is such a b*tch! And she always shows up uninvited and at the worst possible time.

If you hear that voice often, then you will at some point wonder if you should even bother finishing and if your book is worth it.

So let’s take that question at face value and try to answer it:

Should you even bother finishing your book?

Deciding to finish: know your WHY

Simon Sinek has a great book called Start with Why and it’s lead me to thinking about the importance of WHY we write in the first place.

Because depending on why you write and why it matters to you, the answer about finishing your book will be...

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There's No Better Time to Write

 Here in Ottawa, Canada where I live, it’s summer. The lilacs have faded, the peonies have all dropped, and now the roses and lilies are blooming in the gardens around town. 

In the early evenings when I walk Mr. Darcy, the air smells like barbeque and I can hear music playing, the sound carrying across the parks from a downtown jazz festival.

Summer is Canada in all its glory and the last thing I want to do is be stuck inside finishing up a poetry manuscript and revising a novel. I’d much rather be lounging outside in the heat on a hazy afternoon, cool drink in one hand and fat juicy paperback in the other.

But I am still writing.

This blog post was written at 7am, during a Writer’s Flow Studio community writing session. 

(Shout out to the Friday 7am crew! Especially Mari who finished her book and sent it off to beta readers yesterday, and Lenore who had a publisher ask for her full manuscript after she joined a Twitter pitch event, and Jackie whose...

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Quit? Or, Commit?

finish your book Jun 16, 2022

You want to write. You want to finish books and get them out into the world.

And yet…

Weeks or maybe even months have passed and you’re no closer to finishing your latest work-in-progress. It’s still IN progress, only now maybe there’s a layer of dust on top of the box you keep your manuscript in.

If you’ve been working on a novel, you may feel disconnected from the characters and their dilemmas.

If you’ve been writing a memoir, you may have begun to doubt that you really can – or even should – write this book.

If you’re pulling together a collection of short stories or poems, you probably have pieces of work – some finished, some unfinished – lying around and the sense of chaos may be overwhelming at times.

Bon courage, my friend…every single writer and creative person has been in this place at one time or another. Or, in all likelihood, many times. It’s one of those experiences that tend to come back...

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Shifting Unhelpful Thoughts About Writing

finish your book Jun 03, 2022

 

Humans think just over 6000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot of thoughts! 

And for writers, 80% of them are probably some form of “my book is shite.

We have a tendency to think all our thoughts are true. But understanding that our thoughts are ephemeral AND that they can be changed is a huge step forward in our writing lives.

This is one in a series of short blog posts about the unhelpful thoughts we have about ourselves as writers and our writing lives and how we can shift them.

Unhelpful Thought #1: I’ll Never Finish

Writing a book is a long process. Everyone’s different, of course, but for a new writer completing the first draft of a book-length manuscript in any genre can take YEARS.

But that’s not all writing time. In fact, most of that time is spent avoiding writing and thinking unhelpful negative thoughts about the book and ourselves as writers. Without the nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah from our psyche running in the back of our minds,...

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6 Ways to Fit Finishing a Book Into Your Busy Life

 Of all the reasons writers give for not [yet] finishing their books, time is at the top of the list.

We think we would finish the book we’ve started – the one gathering pixel dust deep in the recesses of our laptops – if only we had more time.

How much more time?

Heaps! Gobs! Bunches! Loads! At least one completely free day every weekend, but preferably just weeks and weeks of open time as we go off somewhere alone and away from all our daily tasks and distractions.

We want a long stretch of time with nothing to do but write, ideally with someone bringing us yummy food, and changing out the towels and bed sheets every 2-3 days. (I confess: IT ME!)

For many writers, it’s impossible to conceive of finishing a book without a blank calendar that stretches miles out into the distance.

And when was the last time any of us had one of those?

You can see the dilemma.

But here’s what I’ve learned the really hard way: you don’t need swaths of...

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Interview with Indie Author Emma Dhesi: I am a Finisher

Busy Women on Writing Books

This is another instalment in a new interview series on writing, profiling women writers who’ve written and published books while also working, parenting, volunteering, caring for family, attending school, and ALL OF THE THINGS.

This week, I'm pleased to introduce you to my friend, Scottish Indie author Emma Dhesi.

Emma is a book coach and the author of The Day She Came Home, a contemporary women's novel, as well as the novels Belonging and More Than Enough -- all of which are available on Kindle. Now an accomplished Indie author, Emma knew she wanted to be a writer when she was just 8 years old. Emma lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her family and is the host of the podcast Turning Readers Into Writers.

I know how amazing you are, but please let everyone else know a bit about yourself and the books you’ve written thus far. Own it and brag a bit for us!

I’ve now written six manuscripts and published three - which amazes me...

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