Writing on Wednesday (March 11, 2015)

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Writing on Wednesday is a way to keep this particular writer on track (I hope!). These are weekly posts/updates where I will share something from the past week of writing with the readers of this blog. Sometimes it might be something I’ve learned, found useful, or a bit of my own writing and ideas. I hope this will be a time of sharing, encouragement, and accountability. Join me in setting some writing goals to finish that project and celebrate each success.

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I have been spending a lot of time studying plot. With my current WIP and the novella I’ve previously written, I’ve learned that plot is not always my strong suit. Character development is something I can pull off pretty easily, but coming up with all the necessary scenes to tell a cohesive story is difficult for me.

One of my favorite books that I’ve picked up (actually, I’ve picked it up a handful of times now from the library–and I really just need to purchase my own copy at this point) is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.

Craft an Engaging Plot

How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?

With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:

  • Techniques for crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
  • Easy-to-understand plotting diagrams and charts
  • Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas
  • Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter
  • Story structure models and methods for all genres
  • Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems

Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.

There are a number of things that I found incredibly helpful from this book.

  1. There is a whole chapter of various ways to gain ideas for stories. Now, while this doesn’t help as much with a plot that is already in your head, it is still a helpful list. Not to mention that some of these are things I do naturally already and others are just more tools I can add to that. But a few of these techniques do also work with trying to problem-solve for the plot line of the story I’m currently working on. For example, the first one he lists in his book is playing the “What If” game. The idea is to as “What if….” about anything and everything. Well, you can do that with your plot as well. “What if this character did that? What would happen next?”
  2. The books also has chapters on beginnings, middles and ends. What are the things that undoubtedly work in the world of fiction and what things tend to fall flat? Bell goes through these things and explains them and offers suggestions about how to raise the stakes for your character and add in tension. It stresses keeping the reader interested and informs how to do so.
  3. Bell’s book also moves into areas of making a novel more complex with adding character arcs, symbols and motifs, subplots, themes, etc. While these things aren’t always necessary, they often do make a particular novel stand out.
  4. One of his chapters is dedicated to how to outline or now not to outline. I’m still working on finding the system that works best for me so I love reading about new techniques in this area.
  5. Another amazing feature of this book is a small chapter on troubleshooting your plot. Bell lists out a variety of problems and some suggestions on how to fix them. The problems range from areas where your plot falls flat to problems with the character. Following that is another quick chapter on some other tips and tricks of the craft.

The opening of this book is powerful. Bell discusses that writing can in fact be taught. Yes, some are born with a natural flare for it, but with hard work, a person can learn to write a novel. Often writing becomes discouraging because there are so many “right ways” to do it and the task itself is a bit overwhelming. Bell’s book doesn’t offer the “right way” but rather suggestions that techniques that you can choose to adopt.

The book itself is easy to reference various parts. The chapters are clearly labeled and there is a very helpful index in the back. Within each chapter are tons of subheadings so flipping through to find what you are looking for is a breeze. While I’ve yet to purchase the book for my own shelf (I’m cheap and I can keep requesting it for the library), I do hope to make it a permanent addition to my writing shelf in the future. It’s definitely a book I would recommend at least taking a look at.


7 thoughts on “Writing on Wednesday (March 11, 2015)

      1. I’m a big fan of his book “Conflict & Suspense” and also “Characters & Viewpoint”, which is by Orson Scott Card in the same fiction writing series.


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