Still looking for that magic story structure

Death to Stock photo of Post-Its I’m plugging away on THE SHADOW CLOCK, so there’s not tons to report, except that every once in a while I panic and write things like this in my “Notes” file:

Anyway, I was thinking today that there is still something confusing and murky about the concept, the premise. I still want that lovely clear hook that immediately makes you want to know what happens.

I spent the next day writing a list of at least 25 sentences stating the premise, trying to get it as clear and exciting as possible. (This I think is the “logline” in Save the Cat. But the thing about Save the Cat—at least for me—is to read it when you are not writing anything. Read it, assimilate it. Then when you are writing, hopefully you just have structure magically pour onto the page.)

Just last weekend I was at the super fun YA Writers “Bootcamp” that my local SCBWI chapter put on in Pleasanton. So I saw great people and felt very writerly. Here’s the thing. Save the Cat is like the Bible. Tamara Ireland Stone and Katy Longshore went into a whole structure deep dive with beat sheets straight from Cat. (If you don’t know what Save the Cat is, it’s a screenwriting book that has very clear, approachable advice on story and plot.) One thing I so appreciate is learning how other writers do this stuff—it was great to see everyone’s cork boards and index cards and their printouts and Scrivener tips.

Of course I’m insecure about plot and structure. That’s the reason I obsess over it. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I know it down in my bones, so I know intuitively what the strongest premise and plot structure is for the story I want to tell. In the meantime, I write things like “This is a pivot point” in my wild, untraversable draft. I haven’t listed out beats, but I’ve figured out the emotional terrain and how that intersects with the action terrain, so the landscape is taking shape. Now just build the road.

P.s. This image is from Death to the Stock Photo, and they have this great writing prompt partnership with Medium. Check it out.

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