"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, February 21, 2011

How To Improve Your Plotting Exponentially

After reading James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, I could hardly wait to try this handy little technique and share it with all my writing friends who haven't yet been able to get their hands on this wonderful book. Here's a very basic summary of the exercise Bell outlines in Plot & Structure.

1) Obtain six novels of the type you wish to write.

2) Read one book. Think of how it resonated with you. Did the characters and plot move you? What did you think overall? Read the remaining five books in the same fashion.

3) Go back to the first book. With index cards, summarize each scene in the book. Number the cards, using one index card per scene. Record the setting, the point-of-view, and what type of scene it was (setup, action, reaction, etc.). Repeat for the remaining five books.

4) Choose a stack and go through the cards quickly, reading each one. Repeat with the others. James Scott Bell says "At this point, you're going to have an incredibly powerful new sense of plot bubbling in your brain."

5) Spread out one stack of cards on the floor. Divide them into the three-act structure. "Identify the scene or scenes that compose each doorway of no return." Repeat with the other cards.

I've just begun this exercise, and am already benefiting from it. If anyone else tries (or has tried) this technique, come back and let me know how it helped. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Just finished this book. Just did this exercise with 1 book. Six is a lot, but I think I'll take my time and do the rest eventually. :-) Very worthwhile!

  2. This book is in my queue, so I'll be doing this exercise soon:) Let me know how it goes for you when you're done!

    And happy writing, friend!