So far this year I've critiqued four complete novels, dozens of chapters and a boatload of short stories. I've also had my own novel critiqued by others in addition to it receiving a thorough inspection by a professional developmental (content) editor. I think I've learned something through all this.
Forget the formula! At least during the first draft.
(Yeah, that advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I'm almost sold on it. Besides, that advice isn't aimed at seasoned, professional authors steadily pumping out a book or three a year.)
Is a formula needed to tell a good story? I don't think so. But a formula is needed to tell a story well.
So why forget it? Because the purpose of the first draft is not to write a best seller. The purpose of the first draft (for me at least) is to tell the story that I might one day be able to sell.
I wrote The Bonding with little thought to a three act structure beyond knowing I needed a beginning, a middle, and an ending. But face it, little thought was required. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. My first draft would have suffered immensely had I focused on formula over story. My first draft was never destined for Amazon's KDP, nor were its first three chapters queued up in my email's outbox.
Once you've got your multiple book contract or you're writing to meet deadlines imposed upon you by your publisher, you've probably got the knack of storytelling down fairly well. That means you probably already write to formula without the formula sitting in the forefront of your mind--where your muse should be sitting.
If, while penning or typing that initial draft, you're concentrating on the three steps of this or the seven points of that, you're not concentrating on what matters. You can't just stop the creative juices and yell, "Oh crap! I forgot my faux resolution!" Most of us who entertain a muse know a muse doesn't like to be stopped on a technicality. Technicalities are for later, for rewrites and revisions--not first drafts.
I'm not advocating that you banish the time-honored building blocks of crafting a story, I'm saying craft the story. I've never met an author who writes a perfect first draft. Get the story out. Let it flow. Let it grow. Let it be all it can be. Once done, then examine its structure. Mold it. Massage it. Perform surgery on it, whether it be a nip and tuck or an amputation or a transplant.
Give some thought to structure and formula while you plot and outline. Weigh the draft once it's finished and see if it balances the equation. Measure it against the markers of accepted storytelling practices once the muse has quieted and smiles in satisfaction. Only then can it be fully and properly evaluated.
There is wisdom in choosing the right tool for the right job, but there is also wisdom in choosing the right time to do the job.