[Tipster] A Fresh Way to Think about Structure

story structure Jan 14, 2022

If you've ever written anything longer than a typical blog (800 words of less), you've had to agonize over structure. 

Structuring a piece of longform writing is the bane of every writer.

Longform content typically has multiple sections, with a narrative that gradually builds in intensity and significance.

This is also called the narrative or story arc.

You take the reader on a journey:

You start in Los Angeles and end in New York.

While most blogs are shortform, longer blogs can also be a form of longform. Articles are most often longform.

And certainly books are longform.

Longform writing projects can be frustratingly difficult to organize.

Think of Your Sections as "Movements" 

Melissa and I discuss this a lot with those we coach:


As you grapple with how to structure your writing project, think of your article or book as a a series of movements.

For example, a 4,000-word article might have four or five movements.

Thinking of structure as movements, conceptually, helps us begin to think of what needs to happen to MOVE the story or idea along.

Map out Your Movements on a Whiteboard 

Or on whitepaper. Or even on a yellow legal pad, held horizontally.

Whatever works for you.

Write "Movement 1" on the whiteboard and then list what needs to happen in this movement to get your idea or story to Movement 2.

Within each Movement, there is often a "beginning, middle, and an end."

Don't overthink it.

Let's say I wanted to write a 5,000-word article on fly fishing and how wading the big western rivers is risky, no matter what time of year you fish.

This is what I would put on the whiteboard to start organizing my article:

Movement 1

  Beginning: Open with a story about when I almost drowned in the Yellowstone River.

  Middle: Use the story to make a point about the risks of wading while fishing.
 
  End: Create a transition paragraph that lays out my thesis for the article about safety.

Melissa and I really like the concept of "movements" for structuring articles, book chapters, and entire books.