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Process and Structure

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

I found this quote from Aaron Rose in Jurgen Wolff’s article: Rewriting, Re-Editing and Finding the Right Structure for Your Story:

"It’s actually a four-act structure. Which is totally not the way you’re supposed to do it… and it totally works. Which goes to dispel that whole myth that you have to have a three-act structure to hit the people emotionally, which is total bullshit, because we have a totally different structure that works just as well."

I go back and forth on organic vs. outlining structure on a daily basis but I hold onto a few things:

I find that outlining usually kills a story for me. I think it’s because it kills the energy created in the discovery. I’d much rather write and find the story and its structure as I went, allowing myself to cut all the pieces that don’t belong.

Often, I default to structure when I don’t trust the process and I find myself fearful and uncertain. It becomes my crutch. And often, when I start outlining to find the road map, it usually fails me.

Outlining equals procrastination for me. I could either waste a couple of days coming up with the structure or I write and discover what the structure really is and cut later.

Structure happens. Back in the day, when I was learning all about structure, I read this guy’s script and told him how much I loved his Act 2 mid-point. He looked at me confused. He never knew anything about it. His action turned naturally. We didn’t set out telling stories by first discovering the structure; we discovered our stories had structure.

Know what the story structure looks like. This may amount to “learn the rules before you break them” but this is important. Being aware of what structure looks like can help you shape your organic free-writing.

I have only one throw-down, an attitude that truly pisses me off: Just because you outline, it doesn’t make you more professional. I can think of a couple of writing greats that work organically, so let’s cut this argument right now.

Finally, no matter what, the argument of organic writing vs. outlining will continue, even though it’s pointless. It isn’t about what is the right or the wrong way to do things; it is about doing what works for you.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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