How to Use Act Structure 1.0
Plottr has introduced a new feature called Act Structure 1.0, allowing writers to easily visualize and manage up to three distinct levels of plotlines, providing a clear and structured approach to story planning by breaking your work into three distinct and customizable levels, such as Acts, Chapters, and Scenes.
By using this structure, writers can ensure that their stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end and easily see how scenes or beats fit within chapters and chapters within acts. Or any type of levels you may want to define. For example, if you are writing a non-fiction book, you may want to organize your structure to include Parts, Chapters, and Sections. It’s up to you!
If you've been using Plottr's Act Structure during its public beta, you may already be familiar with the basics. Now that it's available in production, many new features and improvements have been added, including the ability to save and apply templates. Whether you're experienced with the Act Structure or new to it, this article will provide a comprehensive guide to using this powerful tool.
What This Article Covers
- Defining the Structure
- Viewing the Act Structure
- Starting a New Project
- Converting an Existing Project
- Restructuring a Project
- Exporting the Act Structure to Word and Scrivener
Defining the Structure
When creating a new project or opening an existing Plottr project file, it looks exactly like it did in previous versions of Plottr.
Your Main Plot and other plotlines exist. However, you now have functionality to add the Act structure by clicking on the (1) Structure button in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Notice that when you click on the vertical ellipses (2) a new menu has been added to ‘Restructure Timeline.’ This is an easy and powerful feature to use to reorganize your timeline and structure quickly. We will present how to do that later in the article.
Click on the (1) Structure button to configure the structure that works best for you.
Adding a Level
By default, Plottr has one level in the structure hierarchy (representing Scenes) when you begin. All previous Plottr project files have the single-dimensional Scene structure.
You are now able to add up to two levels to organize your story plotlines into a more cohesive structure. Click on the + icon to add a level for Chapters.
And again, if you desire a third level to be added for Acts, you can make it so:
Plottr provides default names for each level, called Scenes, Chapters, and Acts, respectively. However, you may rename each level to use whatever level name that you like.
Deleting a Level
Note that when you delete a level, that you will not lose any information from the Scenes as defined in the Main Plotline. You only remove the overarching structure at the Acts or Chapter level. Look at a well-defined 3-level project structure that has been defined into Acts and Chapters containing the Scenes created on the Main Plotline.
This Plottr project file has nine scenes within five chapters within three acts. By clicking on the Structure button, and deleting the Acts and the Chapters level, we only have Scenes remaining.
And your original Plottr project file returns to a single level with all of your Scenes intact! So, you don’t need to worry about losing anything, except for the effort you may have put into organizing by Acts and Chapters in the first place.
Customizing Level Visual Presentation
As mentioned previously, it is possible to rename each level. For example, you may elect to change Acts, Chapters, and Scenes, to Parts, Chapters, and Sections, to Books, Parts, and Chapters. It is really up to you!
Plottr also lets you create the same level of rich presentation as you have always been able to do with Scene Cards. Each level’s icon may have its own set of formatting, including customizing the:
- Text Color
- Text Size
- Border Color
- Border Style
- Background Color
We recommend having different conventions for Acts, Chapter, and Scenes so as to be able to easily distinguish them.
Viewing the Act Structure
Plottr provides three different options for viewing the Act structure. These are:
Your choice of what view to select may differ based on your plotline length and what you are doing. The Default view [resents each chapter sequentially end-to-end.
This view works best when building a new plot line sequentially from beginning to end.
The Tabbed view works well when you want to focus on a specific Act. You may select the Act you want to work on and concentrate on only that Act.
The Stacked view provides the best 3-dimensional view of Scenes within Chapters within Acts.
You can easily switch from one view to a different one as it best suits your working style.
In the example above, the Scene Cards have only been created for Scenes, with the expectation that the Chapters and Acts function as containers and to segment your plots / writing at a higher level. However, some authors, especially of non-fiction works may have text or Scene Cards introducing an Act or Part or a Chapter. Plottr allows for this and can be shown using the Default View as follows:
Scene Cards defined underneath the Acts or Chapter levels show in the Default View. However, if you wish to the Tabbed View, the Scenes Card at the Act level does not appear.
And in the Stacked view, the Scene Cards for Acts and Chapters do not appear.
Don’t worry! The Scene Cards are still there and part of the project file as shown in the Default view. But the visual representation and advantages of viewing in Tabbed or Stacked view do not currently allow for the Act or Chapter Scene Cards to be visible. This may change in the near future.
Starting a New Project
Let’s show an example of how to create a new Plottr project using the Act Structure. Open and name your new project and you are presented with a blank canvas with the Main Plot line and an auto-named Chapter.
Then click on the Structure button in the upper-right-hand corner to configure your structure.
Now click on the + button twice to add two levels. An alternative and slightly faster method is to replace the ‘1’ in the box with a ‘3.’ At this point, you have added the Act Structure to your project Timeline.
Then rename your levels and configure formatting to your specifications if you do not wish to use the Plottr defaults.
Close the Timeline Structure window by clicking on the Close button in the upper-right-hand corner or click outside the window to close it.
You now have a new project with the Act structure added above your plot lines.
Adding, Moving, and Deleting Scenes
In many ways, adding, moving, and deleting scenes on the Plot Lines is similar to how Plottr handled this prior to the Act Structure. Hover the mouse over the area where you want to add a Scene to the Plot Line. Then select if you want to create the scene from a template or enter the scene title and text freeform.
The new scene on the Plot Line is then created and you can enter text and attributes as you normally would with Plottr.
Once the 2-level or 3-level structure is created, if you want to add a new scene at the end, you need to do so at the structure level first and then define the scene to the Plot Line as before.
Hover the mouse over the scene where you want to add the new scene and click on the + sign to add it. This creates Scene 2 at the structure level and then you may create the Scene 2 (Following Scene in this example) on the Plot Line.
Inserting a new scene can be easily done at either the Structure or the Plot Line level.
Hover the mouse between the scenes where you wish to insert the new scene and click on the + sign when it appears to add the new scene. Then create your Scene Card on the Plot Line.
Moving and deleting Scene Cards on the Plot Line works exactly the same way as it always has.
To delete a Scene Card (for example, ‘Intermediate Scene’ in the above image), click on the Scene Card, click on Delete in the lower-left-hand corner and the Scene Card will be deleted. Deleting a Scene Card will not delete the Scene in the structure (Scene 2 in the above image). However, if you delete the Scene in the structure, it will delete the scene cards on the Plot Lines below it.
Adding, Moving, and Deleting Chapters and Acts
The power of the Act Structure is being able to move entire Chapters and Acts and carry all of the underlying Scene cards contained within. Adding new Acts and Chapters is easy and done similarly. To add a new Act, hover the mouse over the Act, this will add a new Act to the end of your scenes. This provides you with the ability to add a new Act to the end of your scenes or a new Chapter within the existing Act.
Click on the + sign to add a new Act. If you click on the rightward-facing arrow, it will add a new Chapter within the Act.
You'll see Act 2 is then added:
Adding a new Chapter or Scene within a Chapter works the same way. By hovering the mouse over the Chapter, you will be presented with the same + sign and rightward-facing arrow to select your choice.
To switch entire Acts around, hover the mouse over the Act that you wish to move and drop it onto the Act that you would like to switch it with.
By clicking on Act 2 in the above image and dragging it onto act 1, it will switch the Acts and everything contained within the Acts and automatically renumber the Act, Chapter and Scene cards for you.
To move entire Chapters around, hover the mouse over the Act or the Chapter that you want to move the Chapter into. If you select an Act it will move the Chapter to the right of the Act card. Changing it to be the first Chapter in that Act.
By clicking on Chapter 3 in the above image and dragging it onto Act 1, it will push all other Chapters and Chapter 3 will now be the first Chapter in Act 1. The Chapter and everything contained within the Chapter will be automatically renumbered for you.
By continuing adding, inserting, moving, and deleting Scenes, Chapters, and Acts, you can easily build out your plots and compelling stories using the Act Structure!
Converting an Existing Project
It is possible to add the Act Structure to an Existing Plottr project file. Let’s take a look at a project with nine scenes that was created before the Act structure and wanting to add the Act Structure to it.
As presented previously, click on the Structure button in the upper-right-hand corner and add the Acts and Chapter levels.
You will have noticed the addition of a single Act and a single Chapter and the nine scenes now contained within.
Then by using the methods explained above, add new Acts and Chapters to reorganize your scenes into the appropriate Acts and Chapters. In this example, we have added a new Chapter 2 within Act 1 and a new Act 2 and Chapter 3 within Act 2.
Then you can easily select and drag the Scenes into their respective Acts and Chapters. This is the progress so far with only a little bit or reorganization to go once Act 2, Chapter 4, and Act 3, Chapter 5 are created.
By doing that and dragging the remaining few Scenes around, you now have converted an existing Plottr project file to one using the Act Structure.
And the final result is below and shown using the Stacked View to visualize how well it turned out!
Even if you have been working with Plottr for years, you can add the Act Structure to existing project files to order them.
Restructuring a Project
As you continue to build exciting plots and story lines, you will inevitably want to change your structure. You may do so, by selecting and dragging Act, Chapter and Scene as shown above.
Another way to restructure a Plottr project file is to use the Restructure Mode which presents your project file in an outline mode.
In the same manner, you may select and drag Acts, Chapters, and Scenes to different points within the structure. You may also promote or demote Acts, Chapters, and Scenes to a different level.
Using Plottr’s Restructure feature is super-efficient for reorganizing your story structure. But if you think that you have muffed it up, you can always discard your changes by clicking on the Discard Changes button in the upper-right-hand corner and go back to visually dragging Acts, Chapters, and Scenes around on your Timeline.
This is how you could pinpoint where you would like to move your Acts if you don’t want to switch the Acts.
By clicking Act 2 and dragging and dropping it on Chapter 2 it will push Chapter 2 into Act 2 making it the first Chapter in the section.
Exporting the Act Structure to Word and Scrivener
Exporting Plottr to Word and Scrivener works as it did before. However, in both exports, it also includes the structure of Scenes within Chapters within Acts to capture the hierarchy.
We hope you enjoy the power of Plottr's Act Structure, a user-friendly tool that will open up your plotting and writing. Highly flexible and customizable, this tool can easily adapt to your unique writing style and workflow, ensuring a seamless and efficient writing process.
This functionality is built to help writers stay organized throughout the writing process, making plotting, drafting, and revision more efficient. Incorporating Plottr's Act Structure feature into your writing process will make it easier to create vivid stories with robust structures that engage readers from start to finish.