PLOT & STRUCTURE – by James Scott Bell – Introduction Chapter Notes – WHAT IT TAKES TO LEARN PLOT

‘What it Takes to Learn Plot’

The Monarch Writers is doing in person meets again, so we will have a ‘theme’ for the month, meaning some kind of discussion beyond working on our projects, and this month we are going through this book a bit: ‘Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish – by James Scott Bell’. We have two theme meets each month on the 1st and 3rd Monday evenings, and will cover the introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. The intro provides a good jumping off point to talk about, well, PLOTTING & STRUCTURING, which is essentially building your story. In the introduction Bell wants to get us in the zone. After all, you want to limber up, get inspired, and prep yourself to get to work on tackling the feat of writing a dang book! So, here goes, some thoughts from James Scott Bell from the Intro to the book.

“I wasted ten years of prime writing life because of the Big Lie…

In my twenties, I gave up the dream of becoming a writer because I had been told that writing could not be taught. Writers are born, people said. You either have what it takes or you don’t, and if you don’t you’ll never get it….

Let’s replace the Big Lie with the Truth. The Truth is that craft can be taught and that you, with diligence and practice and patience, can improve your writing. This is one book that’s going to be as practical on that score as I can make it.”

[1] Get motivated.

“I remember the exact date I decided I was going to be a writer. I jotted this in my journal: “Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep going and never stop, to learn everything I can and make it as a writer.”
Remember, this was after I was steeped in the Big Lie. So what I wrote was a declaration of independence of sorts.”

“Come up with your own item of visual motivation.” [The] thing I did was buy a black coffee mug with Writer written in gold across it. I would look at that cup every day to remind me of my commitment. In fact, on days when the writing drags, I’ll look at it again. It gives me a fresh jolt of enthusiasm.”

“At the bookstore take inspiration from book covers, I was also motivated early on by going to bookstores and browsing in the bestseller section. I’d look at the authors’ pictures and bios, I’d read their openings (and think I can do this!), and I’d imagine what my face would look like on the back of a dust jacket (nicely retouched, of course).

Then — and this is crucial — I’d race back to my office and start writing.
Find some ritual that gets your juices flowing, and don’t waste it. Turn it into words on the page.”

[2] Try stuff

“Just reading a book on plotting is not going to make you a better writer. You have to try out what you learn, see if you get it, and try some more. You test the principles in the fire of the blank page.”

“As you read this book, take time to digest and then apply what you learn about plot and structure to your own writing.”

[3] Stay loose  

“A tense brain freezes creativity. If you try to make writing too much of a military exercise, if you go at it with a clenched jaw and fevered brow, you’ll be working against yourself.”

“Your job is to write, as Brenda Ueland puts it, “freely and rollickingly.””

[4] “First get it written, then get it right.”

“Don’t spend too much time worrying and fretting and tinkering with your first draft.” … “Your job with that first draft is to pour yourself onto the page. In Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, Ray Bradbury says, “Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.””

[5] Set a quota. 

“Writing is how you learn to write. Writing daily, as a discipline, is the best way to learn.”

“The daily writing of words, once it becomes a habit, will be the most fruitful discipline of your writing life. You’ll be amazed at how productive you’ll become, and how much you’ll learn about the craft.”

[6] Don’t give up.

“The main difference between successful writers and unsuccessful writers is persistence.”

“Keep writing.
In the end, that’s the best advice there is.”

“Are you ready now? Are you convinced of the Truth? Do you dream of writing novels with plots that keep readers up at night? Then come along. I’m going to do my very best to show you how.”

STAY TUNED TO THEMONARCHWRITERS.com for more discussion in June of Plot & Structure and come chat and share your work on our Discord Chat Server

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2 Comments

  1. Stuart Danker

    The part about writing frolickingly really resonates with me, because I find that my work is a bit more enjoyable to read when I’m loose, and even though the discipline needed to maintain the practice needs to be rigid, then actual writing doesn’t need to be. Thanks for this post!

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