Posted by: nancyisanders | September 8, 2011

Middle Grade Novel: 3 Act Structure

If you’ve printed out the charts I posted on my blog for plotting a middle grade novel, you’ll see that they all incorporate the Three-Act Structure.

That’s because this is the basic structure stories follow.

There has been lots of material published about how to incorporate the 3-act structure into your story’s plot, so I won’t go into detail about that here. But you can find great resources on this in:

Victoria Schmidt’s Book in a Month

Eve Heidi Bine-Stock’s How to Write a Children’s Picture Book, Volume I: Structure

Anastasia Suen’s Picture Writing

If you don’t know how to structure a middle grade novel using the 3-act structure, today is the day to start. It’s the basic framework every novel has to have.

CLICK HERE download my chart, Basic Plot Worksheet A.

Just scroll down until you find it under the list of CHARTS AND WORKSHEETS TO GET ORGANIZED FOR SUCCESS. Then you can use this to help plot your own story.

And here’s a tip! I’ve found that in a middle grade novel, if you have something important happen at the end, make sure it happens in the beginning as a foreshadow. For example, if the dog eats the kid’s homework at the end of the story and ruins his chance to win the science fair, then start off the story with the dog eating a little piece of homework that’s not very important. This will add foreshadowing and tension and give an “ah ha!” moment when the dog ruins everything at the end.

You can see this in Jim Ugly and The Whipping Boy. For example, in the beginning of Jim Ugly, the main character says his dad calls the dog “Amigo” but he calls him Jim Ugly. At the end, the main character calls the dog “Amigo” and this symbolizes how the dog has now become HIS dog, not his dad’s.

Save Your Time Track: For writers with limited time
Just keep track of your plot on the one page to see it at a glance.

Take Your Time Track: For writers who have the time to maximize the journey
Read BOOK IN A MONTH and learn more about the 3-act structure. Look at the plot structure chart where you’re plotting THE WHIPPING BOY. Look for patterns. See what happened in the beginning that also happened in a big way at the end of the story to influence the main plot. Look at which chapter it happened in and try to pace your story accordingly. Take time to plot out your entire story, all 20 chapters, so you know where you’re going and when to get there. This will really help you write a very, very tight manuscript and keep on schedule with your plot!


  1. Hi Nancy,

    You’re so right. Taking the time to plot out your story is key. I love your pointers so far and will keep following you every step of the way. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.


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