Monday, August 8, 2011

Plot & Structure

    Thought I'd try my hand at commenting on a book. Plot & Structure, By. James Scott Bell is a writing book I picked up at the local Nobles & Barnes. I read through most of it and it helped me with my work quite a bit. Never done this before so I think I'll just dig in.
    Mr. Bell opens with an introduction targeting one of the most common misconceptions of writers. Many people believe that writing is something we are either born to do or not. They seem to think it some gift given to us and if we are blessed with the gift, then there is no point. Growing up in high school and college he let what he calls The Big Lie control him. The big lie tells us just what I have written earlier, writing cannot be taught. When his early effort didn't produce good work, he gave up. This is something I have gone through and indeed many of us have I suspect.
    I've tried to write a book several times, I've also tried poetry. Honestly, I have no idea if my poetry was good or bad because the first few people I showed it to gave me a, meh, and that was that. I let the big lie win. Poetry is an innate thing, you either have it or you don't and it cannot be learned. So, I gave up. Now with books, I was more persistent, possibly because I did have some talent. The people I met who read what I wrote told me there was something there and so I imagined I had that spark.
    "You have talent Roy, but its not enough. Rely too much on your talent, and you'll fail."
    Bell learned that writing is work and writing can be learned through persistence and that is the point of his books.
    Discipline. Bell begins by listing what it takes to learn to plot.
   1. Motivation: He gets a little bit into self help book territory here, but his advice is not bad. Bell recommends some sort of visual motivation device, a statement of purpose, a picture, a mock up of your first books cover. If that is what you need, then certainly do it, but as more me, I know these things would not do it.
   2. Try Stuff: This boils down to experiment, try out what you have read about. Study, read to learn, that is, dissect the books you love, see what the authors did and try it for yourself. I haven't done this yet, I admit I have been too lazy and to obsessed with my own book.
   3. Stay Loose: This is what it says, relax. Forcing it to come will not work. Remove as much anxiety as you can.
   4. First finish, then fix what you finished: Again, self-explanatory. This is the one that has over the years given me the most grief. I have started, tossed and restarted too many books to think of. Now, while it may have been good practice, it got me exactly nowhere.
   5. Set a quota: This is straight up work. Some people advise sitting down to write for a certain amount of time. Bell recommends you commit yourself to a certain number of words each day. He points out that you might spend your time producing very little, but with a word quota, you force yourself to put stuff down. Of course, it will all still be for naught if you don't stick to the quota. After reading this, I committed to write every night. Bit of a hypocrite, but I manage to pump out a few thousand words almost every night.
   6. Don't give up: Of course. Successful writers do not give up. When people cough politely before saying, "That is really a big fat steaming turd." push forward, remember, they are low brow pig squealing evil little trolls with no heart. When you self publish on Kindle and nobody buys, publish something else. Don't give up.

  Well, that is all for tonight. Felt like a real hypocrite writing some of that stuff since I haven't been able to practice what I preach, still, I keep pushing forward.

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