There are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being a self-taught writer. Although I have an advanced degree, it's not in writing. In fact, I've never taken a writing or English class beyond freshman year comp. But I have read a lot and been fortunate to be mentored by some wonderful writers (too numerous to mention). Being a self-taught writer means depending on your own instinct more than rules, letting your inner-critic's voice yell nice and loud, reading and reading and reading. While I would have jumped at the chance to get an MFA, life had other plans for me and so I appreciate my crooked path--more like a learning switchback than a learning curve.
However, if I had had a formal education in language and literature, I would have been familiar with the term "Aristotelian plot structure," one recently applied to my own work in Vivian Wagner's column in Easy Street magazine. When I say my "work," I am actually referring to my 140 characters of a Tweet. Wagner's column, Flash Forward, recently looked at "short-short-short stories," meaning Creative Nonfiction's #cnftweet on Twitter. The most successful of these tiny stories, she says, uses the same plot structure as longer works (rising action, a climax, falling action, and a dénouement) and that's what makes them compelling.
Reading about the structure of these mini-essays in terms of traditional storytelling made me wish I had been formally trained. But for now, wonderful essays in online magazines like this one and other literary journals will help fill in the holes.