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How to plot a novel: recommended resources

In my last post, “Plotting a story is like solving a puzzle,” I mentioned that I read several books to help me demystify that four-letter word “plot.”

Below are resources and books I highly recommend adding to your craft collection or checking out at the library:

Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple by Martha Alderson. She has another book called The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, which is also very helpful, but Blockbuster Plots really does a great job of breaking it all down. Learn about structure, scenes, character development and everything a good story needs.

I love Alderson’s youtube channel because it’s full of fantastic short clips about the craft of writing and plotting that I play in the background when I’m cooking, doing dishes, or when I need a short break.

The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay: How to Write Great Screenplays for Movies and Televisionby Cynthia Whitcomb. I took Whitcomb’s advice and watched the movie Erin Brokovich, following her plot points along with the movie…a great lesson. Her book is geared to screenwriters but very useful for plotting and outlining. She makes it fun.

Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell, is a wonderful, straightforward book that has great examples. I constantly refer back to it.

As you read these books, apply their ideas and exercises to your story. If you’re inspired with a scene idea, start writing. Go for it!

You may go back and forth between writing and outlining…they tend to propagate each other. Craft books can be guides along our way, but every author has to find their own path.

Aim to plot a compelling story that readers think about long after they finish reading. (Tweet that).

Do you have any favorite craft books on the subject of plotting? Please share.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. One of your best recommendations is “Word Painting : a guide to writing more descriptively” by Rebecca. McClanahan. Thanks for that one.

    January 14, 2013
  2. SJ Main #

    Great recommendations. I read ‘Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure’ by James Scott Bell when I was writing my first book and found it useful especially when I got myself bogged down writing the middle of the book.

    January 15, 2013

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