A story in three acts

Earlier this week, I submitted Tales of the Ancient Rabbits to the agent who showed the most interest and provided the most feedback for The Chimney Rabbit, and posted off the manuscript to Chicken House to enter their children’s fiction competition. Now it’s mostly a waiting game – agents can take anything from a day to six months to respond, and the shortlist for the competition isn’t announced until January.

In the meantime, I’ve started work on my next book – my first to feature a human rather than a rabbit as the protagonist. It’s not just my protagonist that’s going to be different, though – I’m writing the book in a different fashion this time. Apparently writers tend to be either plotters or pantsers. This is terminology that I’ve only heard recently: a plotter plans out every detail, while a pantser jumps right in and writes the book by the seat of their pants. I’ve always been slightly more towards the pantser end of the scale, while still having some strong plotter tendencies – I’ve usually had a rough outline in mind, including the ending, but I’ve made up a lot of the events and details in the gaps as I’ve gone along, then become more and more plotter as the book progressed.

What I’ve decided to do this time is produce a much more rigorous plan before I write the first word. Most importantly, I’m going to use a traditional three-act structure – the first quarter is setup, the middle half is development, and the last quarter is the climax. Many stories naturally fall into this structure anyway – The Chimney Rabbit didn’t, but Tales of the Ancient Rabbits certainly did, even though it wasn’t intentional – but I think there are some benefits in using these proportions when splitting up the acts. Tales of the Ancient Rabbits had quite an extended middle act and the last act was quite short. I think the last act was short because I deliberately picked up the pace as fast as I could, but it means that the last act is only about a tenth of the book. I think it works, for this particular case, and I certainly wouldn’t want to extend it simply by padding it out, but for other stories a more extended third act would allow for more buildup to the climax.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this new book shakes out with this structure. So far I’ve got my act descriptions, along with an idea of how each will begin and end. The next thing I’ll do is start to break that down into chapters. Then, and only then, I’ll start to write. It’s difficult, you know. I keep getting snatches of dialogue in my head and my fingers are itching to start “proper” writing. But this time I’m determined not to start writing until I’m sure I have my structure in place.


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