“Plot & Structure”: A Game Changer and Life Saver

I have been working on my book for four years now, and it pains me to say that I have begun my FOURTH rewrite. A book by me will be published eventually, I promise. I’d rather have a well-polished book published in five years than a thrown-together book published in five months.

Every time I think I’m done with writing this novel, I find out new information that changes everything. For some reason, I can’t just make little changes here and there. If something is wrong with my book, the whole book needs to be changed.

James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure was what inspired this fourth round of edits. I’d love to show you all a time lapse of how my book has changed. It started as a bunch of random ideas in my journal, and then became edited random ideas from my journal typed into a Google Docs file, and then became edited random ideas that now had a plot in a Google Docs file, and is now finally (hopefully) a story put together by random ideas that now make sense because the book has, you guessed it, plot and structure.

I’ve learned through this book that I am not a structure type when it comes to writing. With everything else, I’m a type A personality, from being ten minutes early to everything, to organizing my work space every day. When I’m writing, all I want to do is start a timer and let the words fly from my brain to my fingers. I’ll often meet writers who have their characters’ back stories on post-it notes, stuck together on vision boards with strings connecting each character with each idea, setting, theme, symbol, and scene. That kind of planning makes my brain hurt, and makes writing (for me) incredibly painful.

I prefer to meet my characters midway through the book, after I’ve created a preliminary personality about them. After all, we don’t ever know everything about people when we first meet them, right? It takes time to grow a relationship and learn details about them as time progresses. That’s how my characters are formed, and that’s how I develop a story. You meet them the same time that I do, because I love to be surprised while I’m writing!

Although I learned a lot more than this simple point from the book, my one takeaway is that I can be both the outline person and the non-outline person. I can be the free spirit writer and the structured writer. A little bit of structure may help me save time on rewriting my book a million times (guilty as charged!) but a little bit of spontaneity can help the structured people be more creative in their writing.

During this fourth rewrite, I have brainstormed how I want my book to go through bullet points, rough ideas. Then, as those points come up in the story, I cross them off my list. Usually, the bullet point works for each part of the story, but if it doesn’t, I don’t use it! I’m free to create, while also free to provide structure for my book. It’s like I’m cruising on the highway, but there are guardrails on the road so I don’t drive off a cliff.

I believe this point is most helpful for those who are writing academic papers as well. You might not know where to start, but you can create an outline to give you a general idea of the direction of your paper. When you have that guideline, you can cruise through the rest of the paper; by that point, you’ll know enough about the rules to write freely!

By the time you read this, I’ll be at a writer’s conference, getting feedback for my book from wise people who have blazed the trail before me. Please keep me in your prayers as my beautiful work of art is being perfected piece by piece. I am confident that God is forming this story into one that will heal, transform, and bring hope to those who need it. Thank you for your continued support!

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