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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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23 / 50 books. 46% done!

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Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

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64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Saturday, March 26, 2011

So-so Writing Book Helps My Scary-Bad Rough Draft. Kinda.

(Image from Indiebound)

If you, like me, have dreams of publishing a novel some day, you've probably read a few books about writing. More than a few. Probably tons. I know I have. Some writing tutorials are better than others, obviously, even though most cover about the same material. Still, I'm always interested in finding new and different techniques to deal with old and perplexing problems. Since plotting is something I pretty much suck at, I picked up Plot & Structure by mystery/suspense author James Scott Bell, hoping for some good advice. I didn't learn anything completely new from it, but it still offered a few gems.

Bell addresses the topics you would expect to find in a book on plot: beginnings, middles, ends, plot patterns, crafting scenes, etc. Each chapter offers basic information, plus examples from popular novelists (Bell has a particular fondness for Dean R. Koontz), and tips for analyzing the plot of your own novel. Because the tips seem most helpful for writers who already have a rough draft to work with, I recommend reading Plot & Structure at that point rather than before you begin writing. Since a lot of Bell's advice involves studying the work of successful writers, I found them very instructive.

I don't agree with everything Bell says, of course. I mean, seriously, is the following paragraph really "one of the greatest opening paragraphs in any thriller you'll ever read" as Bell seems to think:

"At two-thirty Saturday morning, in Los Angeles, Joe Carpenter woke, clutching a pillow to his chest, cllin ghis lost wife's name in the darkness. The anguished and haunted quality of his own voice ahd shaken him from sleep. Dreams fell from him not all at once but in trembling veils, as attic dust falls off rafters when a house rolls with an earthquake." (From Sole Survivor by Dean R. Koontz)

Yeah, I don't think so either.

Overall, though, I found the book helpful. Not monumentally so, but enough that I enjoyed the reading experience and found it to be a good use of my time. It even helped me write some killer back cover copy for my soon to be bestseller (hee hee). Now, if it could just help me shape my scary-bad rough draft into something that's at least readable, if not publishable, then, well, I'd really be singing its praises.

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for a couple uses of mild language

To the FTC, with love: I bought Plot & Structure with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.


  1. I personally like Stephen Kings - On Writing. After reading this, I may however have a look at this one.

  2. James Frey has a great series of books with titles like "How to Write Damn Good Fiction."

  3. I agree with Rebecca. Stephen King's is da bomb.


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