James Scott Bell
Back in November, TKZ commenter Dale Ivan Smith talked about a major challenge he faced.
Here’s the key paragraph:
The big challenge … is not taking forever on the pre-writing and outlining. How do you impose deadlines on yourself for outlining and still create a solid, damn good novel outline? My fear of drafting a bad story has to a big extent been replaced with the fear of outlining a bad one 😉
I answered him, in part, this way:
Dale, you’ve asked a great question. I think it really comes down to fear.
There’s an easier and better way to find story, IMO: it’s to play BEFORE you write. Play on the monkey bars built of structural signposts. You actually can be more creative this way because you’re not drafting. Thus, it’s much faster, too.
You can also play in the actual writing. But you’ll be playing a game that readers can make sense of.
It’s the best of both worlds. Freedom AND focus, and a lot less frustration. The people who’ve been writing to me about Write Your Novel From the Middle have been having epiphanies on this. Which is cool. I’ll have more to say on writing this way in the months ahead.
This “best of both worlds” combines the playfulness and creativity of the pantser with the beautiful form of the plotter, all with that most important person in mind—the reader!
If you want to sell books and not just feel good about your writing, you need more than pure freedom and more than mere outlining.
You need a guide, a map, a blueprint, but one that is flexible and freeing, not cold and ruthless.
Which is why I’ve written a new book called Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story.
Story LOVES structure, because structure translates story into a form that enables reader connection…and those are the stories that sell.
And don’t let’s confuse structure with outlining, which causes pantsers to break out in the cold sweats. This is a common error. Any writer of any temperament can utilize structure principles, even if your approach is the seat-of-the-pants variety. To be aware of structure is not the same thing as writing a 40 page, single-spaced outline. Which is a perfectly legit thing to do. Just ask James Patterson. Or many fine writers of the past.
But outlining is not a requirement. Which is one reason I wrote this book. It’s for any type of writer because it stresses the idea of “signpost scenes.” There are fourteen signposts scenes, or beats, in Super Structure. It’s culled from the best and most popular novels and screenplays of the past, as well as my own research and development of writing principles over the last 25 years.
The material in this book greatly expands upon the chapter on structure in Write Your Novel From the Middle. Super Structure can be considered a companion to that book, but it also stands alone in its treatment of the elements of a solid and pleasing plot.
Recently, the longtime literary editor for Playboy, Alice K. Turner, went to her final review at age 75. Her obituary in the New York Times talked about how she championed literary fiction for 20 years there, bringing a measure of respectability, ahem, between the folds. And she truly did, publishing some of the best writers of our time and discovering new talent.
I love what she said about her preference for a solid, well-structured plot: “If you’re good enough, like Picasso, you can put noses and breasts wherever you like. But first you have to know where they belong.”
Super Structure will tell you where story elements belong. Then you are free to do what you like, experiment all you want.
But when your story isn’t working, and you don’t know why, Super Structure will be there to help you find out! It is very friendly that way. Say hello to it today.