Then I began to study craft. I learned all the little rules that every writer should know. What I like to call The Laws. Read endlessly about filter verbs and character arcs and third person limited. And that knowledge helped me write even better stories and fix mistakes in others I'd recently written. But I had this one story that was unfixable.
The characters were awesome. The setting was interesting. There was romance, adventure, fight scenes, so why did it blow monkey balls? The answer is...it had no plot.
Plot is the one thing I've found that can't be added later. A rewrite to add plot means you get an entirely new story. And that's what kept happening. I wasn't fixing that story, I was coming up with new ones based off the world of that story.
A friend once compared a plotless story to an animal with no skeleton, and he was so right. I was trying to reshape a massive blob into a living thing and it just wasn't going to happen.
So now, I make sure everything I write has a plot. And the way I do it is by using the Three Act Structure (which has four parts, so it's really poorly named).
Act 1: Why is this shit happening to me?
Act 2a: I really want this shit to stop happening to me. (25%)
Act 2b: Okay, I'm going to stop this shit from happening to me. (50%)
Act 3: Take that jerks! (75%)
Some people think that using a story structure limits creativity, but I feel the opposite. Once I know that no matter what I do, I'll have a viable story, I can fly free and delve deep into each scene knowing that it will make the whole even greater. And I don't end up with 30 pages fit only for my fireplace.
So what story structure do you use or do you prefer to just wing it?