No matter how great your story, if you don't package it in a satisfying way few will read it. That is where structure comes in. It is how the writer seduces the reader.
The three act novel is a time tested form. It has survived for so long because it is satisfying. I want my readers to be satisfied. I want them to come back and want my next book too. (Go to the Writer's Digest site and pull up an article about it).
In fact, I want my new novel to be as easy to read and satisfying as possible. If you are seeking a career as a novelist, you should want the same thing.
I cheated. I took a novel in my genre that was highly successful and used it as my text book. You can and should do the same.
I even cut in into sections. Yes, you guessed it: I cut it into three act sections. Then I took a highlighter pen and went to work. How did the writer hook me, hold my interest, make me feel and care about the characters?
I had to find out. I highlighted the hooks, the words that hit the human chord of feeling. I worked that book until I knew the formula.
It is a game. KEEP THE READER HOOKED. Let me use a fishing analogy. I used to deep sea fish often. And just like the relationship between fisherman or woman and the fish, the writer 'plays' the reader. Let me show you.
When the fish first takes the bait the fisherman sets the hook. Just like your fist page where something happens that grabs the reader and makes him/her want to read more to find out how it is resolved.
The primary rule when fishing? Don't give the fish any slack line. You have to keep the line taunt or the fish will spit out the hook. Just like a fish, if your story goes slack, or stalls, the reader will escape.
How do you do that? By throwing in obstacles for your hero/heroine, protagonist. That is how the reader stays hooked.
Once you have recognized the tricks in your favorite writer's book and have them highlighted, you can form your story using the same techniques. Keep the cut up novel beside you. Refer to it often while plotting and outlining.
I would add an important note: Readers want escapism. With that in mind, create a protagonist who helps the reader escape the mundane.
Writing is a craft, like building a house. You learn by study, practice, and by imitating the masters. Once you have sold a couple of titles, then you can write your The Sound and the Fury, where you experiment with structure and form. But right now, seduce the reader, give them the subtle smile of a book description, the cleaver line that makes them laugh and want more is your first page hook. You know the rest. Learn the craft, learn to seduce.
I am struggling with it. My coming book, Touching Spirits, will hopefully reveal whether I've been a good student. Can I do it?
The dream of being a successful novel has been my jealous mistress my entire life, calling to me, begging me to come to her. The time is now.