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Using the 3-Act Structure to Plan Your Novel
  • By : Rob Sturtz

When you take time to plan out your story, the writing part can be less overwhelming.

With all of the different aspects you have to consider and intertwine in a novel, having a set plan can give you much-needed guidance.

Whether you are a beginner, pro, planner, or improviser, having an understanding of story structure can help you craft a captivating story.

There are different ways in which you can plan your novel’s structure, but one of the most popular techniques is the 3-act structure.

In this post, you’ll learn how to use this favorable planning method to prepare for writing a strong and impactful book.

What is the 3-Act Story Structure?
When using this technique, you divide the novel into three acts:
● Act 1 – the beginning (the introduction of the protagonist and setting the tone for the plot)
● Act 2 – the middle (the protagonists’ journey towards achieving the goal, including both victories and conflicts with antagonist)
● Act 3 – the end (the reaction to the action and the story’s resolution)

The reason why the 3-act structure is so beloved among both novelists and screenwriters is that it is universal and effective. It is applicable for plot-driven and character-driven novels.

The 3-act structure guides you to write a comprehensive story, and it works great for a wide array of stories. If you think this structure could work well for your novel, let’s dig deeper.

How to Use the 3-Act Structure
The acts can be segmented in different ways. Some writers dedicate around 15%-25% of the story to the first act, let the second act run across about 80% of the book, and wrap up the resolution in what’s left. In other words: if you imagine the book is split into 4 equal parts, the first quarter would be the first act, the 2nd and 3rd quarters the middle act, and the final quarter the last act, leaving the middle twice as long as either the beginning or end.

Other writers prefer to plan each part to be the same length. So, roughly speaking, if you’re going to have 15 chapters, each act would spread across 5 chapters.

Of course, how you’ll plan out the structure also depends on the type of story. Therefore, before you dive into planning, evaluate what kind of structure will suit your story best. Remember that the goal is to keep the reader interested from the very beginning to the very end.

Planning Out the Novel with 3-Act Structure
How detailed your novel outline will be depends on your preference. However, if you are ready to plan your story with the help of the 3-act structure, you should figure out some basics.

You don’t need to write this down in an organized outline form. You can plan out the novel’s structure and still leave lots of room for improvisation if that’s what works for you.

The purpose of the 3-act structure is to guide you. So, if you absorb guidelines best when they are mapped out on a small piece of paper, just write some bullet points for the 3-act structure you want to follow, and you’ll be all set.
Now, let’s discuss what you should outline in each act.

Act 1 – The Beginning
The opening chapters within the first part should draw the reader in. Simply put, Act 1 should be the hook.

What you can plan to cover in the first aspect of your 3-act story structure is:

● Introducing the protagonist or protagonists
● Let the reader into the protagonist’s daily life
● Give the reader some insight into the protagonist’s problems

Act 2 – The Middle
This is where the action rises. If the Act 1 needs to hook the readers, Act 2 has to pin them down to the book.

The Act 2 portion of the 3-act structure deals with:

● The protagonist’s reaction to the newly arisen situations
● Protagonist’s journey
● Game-changing midpoint
● Conflict
● The climax of the story

Act 3 – The End
The final act is where you need to untangle the ball of yarn. This is the part when you should plan how the story will resolve.

Act 3 starts where Act 2 left off – the climax, when the conflict reaches its highest point.

What you should outline in the final part is:

● Protagonist’s reaction to the climax
● The introduction of the change in the protagonist
● Fully developing protagonist’s change
● Resolution
● Protagonist’s life going back to new normal

The 3-act structure is highly adaptable, which means whatever the story is, you can plan it through these three acts. Hopefully, this post will help you envision your novel and plan it out for your readers’ maximum enjoyment. Good luck and plan away!

BIO: Kristin Savage is a writer and book editor. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin is gaining experience in the publishing industry. Besides working as a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and book editor, she is also a contributing writer at ClassyEssay. In her free time, Kristin likes to travel and explore new countries around the world.

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