The biggest problem I think most amateur writers have, myself included, is a lack of adherance to a three-act structure.
The three-act structure is essential to virtually every story. I didn’t always think so, but I do now. It’s the skeleton of the story — without it, all you have is a useless pile of flesh.
Why do I believe a three-act structure is so vital to a story? Well, in fiction, a story is a series of events set up to entertain the reader. And what’s entertaining about a story?
Conflict. Every story in the history of the world has conflict. Every. Single. One. Conflict is the reason your reader is giving up time, their most valuable possession in the entire world, to read your story. They must have the conflict resolved.
The three-act structure is the method through which conflict is most effectively organized. Why is it the most effective? I think it’s because it frames events in such a way that people respond to them. Predictably, it contains three acts.
The first act is the initial conflict that starts the story off. It begins with the inciting incident, which is the event that makes this day different from every other. Though the conflict of the first act varies, it’s really just a stepping stone to the second act, which is the main conflict of the story.
The second act is the heart of the story. Things usually get worse and worse for the hero until at last the darkest hour, the moment when all appears to be lost, surfaces. The hero conquers this and propels the reader into act three. The conquering of the darkest hour is often accompanies by some sort of reversal.
The third act is the conclusion of the story. It resolves all of the conflicts and ends the story in a satisfying way.