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Story Structure When You're a Pantser

Liz here. 
When I say the words story structure, do you break out in hives? When people start talking about plotting and outlining, do your eyes glaze over? 

I answer yes to both those questions. When I first started as a writer, I didn't think at all about the structure of the story. I just wrote. Which is great. You need words on the page to build any kind of story. But over the years, I've come to appreciate structure and think a little more about it. 

Don't hyperventilate. I haven't gone over to the dark, plotting side :) These days, I'm just a little more intentional about what scenes I put where. 

All stories have to start with an inciting incident. What sparks the hero/heroine's journey? You have to think about this in order to know where to begin the book. If not, you'll end up writing multiple versions of the beginning because you can't put your finger on it. So, as you sit down to that first draft, ask yourself at what point does the journey start. Where do things begin to change for your characters? 

I also now think about turning points. There are going to be two major turning points in a full-length novel, not including the climax. These are the places where the characters have big decisions to make, decisions that affect the rest of the story. Before I even write, I find myself thinking about what these might be. And when I get to the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the book, I know I need to have a major shift coming up for my characters. 

And every story needs a black moment. The point where everything seems lost. Where the hero/heroine will never reach the goal. As I write, I think about this too. What will it be? And how will this lead to the climax and resolution? 

This is great to keep in mind even as you're writing a synopsis, as Jen stated earlier this month. You'll have a basic structure to write it from and to keep you on track as you're building your story. It's not plotting, I promise, but a way to keep your book from wandering on too many tangents as you write. 

Keep calm and keep pantsing on! (But do it keeping story structure in mind.) 

How do you, as a pantser, use story structure?  

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