Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I like to think I am a free spirit. You know, inside. I tend to be more rule oriented on the outside (just ask my kids), but I always imagined that I was a the kind of writer that would just go where the whims of the muse took me. Because isn't that true creativity? Letting your subconscious self take over and drag you where it will?

Not for me. I have discovered that I am rule oriented on the inside, too. I should have figured this out long ago, with how powerful a voice my internal editor has ("Is that REALLY the word you want right there?"). Or all the wonderful beginnings of books I have that I just free formed until I hit somewhere between 25-60 pages, and wrote myself into a corner, and the voices in my head were screaming, "You wrote WHAT? How stupid are you?" And middles? Forget about it. Those were the murky depths that scared me so bad I ran screaming the opposite direction.

On the way home from the ANWA conference a few weeks ago, conversation in my carpool fell to writing. (Big surprise.) And Jennifer Griffith shared the name of a book that transformed her writing. Write Great Fiction-Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I downloaded it via my phone Kindle before we'd made it home. (The link I included is for the physical version, however. You're gonna want a hard copy, because you going to gobble it down, then read and reread and flip and mark and you're gonna want to be able to do that easier than with the Kindle. Just sayin'.)

I discovered as I read that I am NOT a pantser. I am just lazy, and didn't want to to the prep work. But as he described the different ways to plot out and structure your story, being both a plotter and a panster, I realized that I would much rather plan out the major scenes before hand, get all my ducks in a row FIRST, and then sit down to write, knowing exactly what comes next. And allowing my characters freedom within those parameters. Because isn't that how we thrive in our Heavenly Father's plan? He gives us boundaries and then allows us to bounce around inside those boundaries. We can leave that safety, but then things can get ugly. Like 20 unfinished manuscripts ugly.

So go check out that book. See if your local library has a copy, and read that version for your first gobble session. Then, if his information rings true for you, buy your own copy so you can mark what you need to. (Libraries frown on you marking their books. Just so you know.)


  1. I'll second this book. It's one of the first writing books I heard about and bought, and it was well worth it. Plot is one of my demons, so having some answers really helped. And James Scott Bell is very wise.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  2. I like this book too. Though I am a devote pantser, it still helped me to recognize when my book has a plot and when it doesn't. It helps me during my second drafts, to set the plot and get the structure of the story down. --Nikki

  3. I am, much to my chagrin, a pantser. I thought I would be a list maker, plotter, chapter outliner... but... no. I'm not. I tried that, and ended up scrapping the whole thing anyway. Maybe that's what I need? A structure that I throw away as I go and get more acquainted with my story and characters? I don't know. But I do know that structure didn't really do me any good :)

  4. Maybe that's why I also have 20 unfinished manuscripts sitting in folders and on my hard drive! I've actually given my current WIP some structure, and surprisingly (or not) it's coming along much more smoothly. I will definitely check out his book. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Thanks for the tip! I'm going to try and order it from Amazon right now. I need help!

  6. Gina, He explains how to do plot and structure even if you are a pantser. That's why I realized that I was more of a middle of the road plotter. Not completely free form, but not a super rigid outline, either. That's why I loved it.
    And I just got my own hard copy in the mail yesterday! Can't wait to color it with comments!



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