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The Big Plot Drill

Been slacking in the post department lately. So, I decided to just post about what I’m doing right now. I recently read Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell which is easily the best book on  plot that I’ve read thus far. I love creating characters and cultures, writing dialogue, and setting up conflict. Plotting isn’t my favorite part of writing and books on the subject usually make my eyes glaze over.

James Scott Bell’s approach to the subject is different. The book reads less like a college text and more like the transcript of a lecture from your favorite teacher. You know the one who made you feel smart and capable. She/he broke everything down into manageable chunks that you easily understood. The teacher gave you tips and systems that you still use. And somehow, she/he did it all while keeping you entertained. Priceless, right? I borrowed the book from the library, but it’s one that I’ll purchase for my reference shelf.

To get a deeper understanding of plotting, James Scott Bell recommends a plot drill. It involves reading six books,of the style you like to write, then analyzing the plots scene by scene. Bell admits that it’s hella work, but swears its worth it. *Folds arms and raises an eyebrow.* I’m choosing to take his word for it. I’m sure this drill will be highly beneficial. If not, I can always twitter-stalk him with my complaints.

Since, I write both fantasy and paranormal romance, I’m taking three books from each category to analyze.

For paranormal romance-

  • A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson
  • Edge of Hunger by Rhyannon Byrd
For fantasy-
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

I chose two of my favorite authors (Hamilton and Sanderson), three that I really respect (Butcher,Davidson,McKillip) and one that I’ve never read before (Byrd). Half the reading is done. Enjoying the focus this drill requires. Looking forward to what I’ll learn from it.

What’s your experience? Have you done this drill or some other that really helped your writing?