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Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish Paperback – October 6, 2004

ISBN-13: 003-5313109423 ISBN-10: 158297294X Edition: Fifth Edition

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Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish + The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression + Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Fifth Edition edition (October 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158297294X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582972947
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A former trial lawyer, James Scott Bell is the award-winning author of numerous thrillers, including the Ty Buchanan series (Try Dying, Try Darkness, Try Fear). He is also the author of two other popular writing books: Revision & Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers. A frequent teacher and keynoter at writing conferences, he resides in Los Angeles.

More About the Author

For notifications and deals about JSB's new releases, sign up for his occasional update at www.jamesscottbell.com (the signup box is on the left side of the screen). Your mail box will never be overstuffed nor will your address be shared with anyone else.

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a bestselling and award winning suspense writer, and one of the top writing coaches in the country. He writes in both the traditional and indie publishing realms. Writing as K. Bennett, he is the author of the Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series, which begins with PAY ME IN FLESH. In 2012 he became the first writer to have a self published work nominated for the prestigious International Thriller Writers Award (for the novella ONE MORE LIE). He was the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine and has written four popular books for the Writers Digest line: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. Jim taught novel writing at Pepperdine University and continues to teach at numerous writers conferences in the United States, Canada and London. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver. He lives and writes in L.A. He blogs weekly at Kill Zone -- www.killzoneauthors.blogspot.com

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book as a prerequisite to anyone interested in writing good fiction.
Mark D. Dixon
I'm sure that if I read these books every time I write a book, I may even one day not need them any more.
M. J. Quinn
PLOT & STRUCTURE, by James Scott Bell, is a comprehensive look at these aspects of fiction.
Mike Klaassen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

275 of 279 people found the following review helpful By H. Grove (errantdreams) TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Bell starts from the assertion that anyone can learn to craft a good plot. Whether you prefer to plan every detail of your stories in advance or fly by the seat of your pants, you can still learn all the elements of an engaging story and use them to draw your reader in. Bell has spent a great deal of time analyzing the plot structures of those books that consistently draw people in, and he has come up with a number of systems, theories and exercises which he shares in this book.

Bell addresses just about every aspect of plotting I could think of, from "What's a Plot, Anyway?" to generating ideas, dealing with beginnings (and middles, and endings), handling individual scenes, crafting complex plots, integrating character arc into plot, different systems of crafting plot, revising plots, plot patterns, plot problems, cures for plot problems, and even checklists to go through to make sure you're remembering everything as you write your book.

One of Bell's major contributions to plot theory is his "LOCK" system, which stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation, Knockout. In order to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, he must have an objective, there must be confrontation, and the ending must have "knockout power." There are a million-and-ten possible variations on this simple structure, but this basic idea alone can help a struggling writer to get a grip on the basics of plot.

I highly recommend "Plot & Structure" for anyone who writes or plans to write fiction. It's been a while since I sat down to write fiction, but this book makes me want to sit and work on a novel right this moment. It's clear, coherent, practical, and immensely useful to any student of the craft.
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238 of 241 people found the following review helpful By Erik1988 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the multitude of writing books I've read, this one ranks in my top 5 of all time books on the craft. The author does an excellent job of breaking down what we as authors/readers too often make an overly complex process. He explains why some stories just work and how we as aspiring author can do the same.

One of my pet peeves with any non-fiction book is the use of too many examples to fill pages vs. giving me hard content I can walk away with and attempt to use. This isn't the case here. I felt that 90% of the book was pure content with a sprinkle of examples to further prove the author's point. Thank you Mr Bell!!

You can click "Look Inside This Book" at the top of this product page and you should. The author deftly covers the whole gambit of What's a Plot, Anyway? to Plotting Systems (a great chapter regardless on your style of plotting), to Tips & Tools for Plot and Structure.

As with the rest of the books in the series, the icing on the cake for the impatient ones in the world is Appendix A, which lists the authors main points in the book in bulletted form. For those of us who stick with it, this was a wonderful summary of the previous 200pages we just journeyed through.

My recommended plotting plan:

1) Read this book for an overview of plotting and some real world tools that can be applied to the process

2) Pick up The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing by Evan Marshal or First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner. Both of these books take many of the concepts listed in this book and put them into templates and forms you can fill out to plot your novel

3) Write. Write. Write.

Don't do what I did and spend the last ten years reading more on writing than actually writing. Get that first 1 million words written asap!! While you are doing it, read this book which has a permanent place on my book shelf as a handy reference and reminder of what makes a successful plot.
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305 of 324 people found the following review helpful By bookloversfriend on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Even though this book is titled "Plot", only a few chapters deal with plot. The others are brief chapters on the usual topics: characters, scenes, beginnings, middles, endings, etc.

Every Writers Digest Book regardless of the title is 200 pages long and has brief chapters on these same topics. Writers Digest Books has been re-cycling the same information for thirty years, each time with a new title and a different author. (And now they're calling it "Great"!) Even one of the admiring reviews below admits that all of this information has already appeared in other books! When are readers going to figure out that they are buying the same stuff over and over?

If you're a beginning writer and are reading this material for the first time, that's fine. If not, it's time to break out of the Writers Digest cycle and get on with your career. For instance, Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel is a better book on plot and it doesn't waste your time with chit-chat. Draughon's Advanced Writing ( Advanced Writing: Fiction and Film )will help you understand what you're doing and why and enable you to do it better. Rennie Browne's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers will teach you how to revise.

And by the way, "structure" is poorly understood even by professional writers. Beginning-middle-end is not structure. What is structured is the dynamic elements of a novel and its various appeals.

So, unless you're a beginner and new to WDB, look beyond Writers Digest Books for the next step up in your development.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bill Garrison VINE VOICE on August 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Plot and Structure is a Writers Digest Book by James Scott Bell. While he touches on many topics, the focus of the book is how to structure your novel to hook your readers and how you can create a riveting plot by giving it structure. Bell peppers this book with examples from literary greats Stephen King and Dean Koontz and many other popular authors.

As with most writing books, this book won't teach you everything and some things you'll find helpful and some things you won't. Some of the lessons I took away were how to structure your book in three acts, how each scene must contain suspense, and of course how you should show, not tell. Also, your hero and villian must have adhesive, ie, there must be a reason the hero can't just walk away from the villain. Bell also emphasizes the importance of constantly looking for ideas to make your plot original and to not be afraid to let your mind wander and fill your story with some crazy, outrageous ideas. You can always cut them out later.

Bell is a strong advocate that you can learn to write well. While some people are born great writers and some aren't, even the best writers have to hone their craft and develop their potential. So, if through trial and error or rejection slips has caused you to think you weren't born to be a great writer, you may be wrong. This book will help you evolve into the great writer you were born to be, or at least improve upon your current meandering novel.

This is fun book to read and Bell is a great teacher.
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