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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 21, 2014

25 Must-Read Tips on Plotting from Top Authors and Editors

We have a special post for the holidays, compiled by freelance editor M. J. Bush.  

I first met M. J. when she included Ruth and me in one of her great quote compilations: "99 Essential Quotes on Character Creation". I appreciated all the work that went into her post and asked if she'd like to do a quote post for us. 

I'm especially grateful that she was able to get it done early and move it up to this month. I'm just now clawing my way back to health after a month-long Virus from Hell. It's a huge help that she's going to be at the helm while I'm madly wrapping gifts, addressing cards, and packing for a Christmas visit to my family.  

I'm so glad she decided to tackle the subject of plotting. Mastering the art of the plot is probably the toughest part of learning to write novels. We can have too much going on, or too little. Or have it going on in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Even seasoned professionals usually need an editor's help to make sure the plot doesn't rush or sag anywhere. 

Without a compelling plot, the most beautifully drawn characters, brilliant insights, and lyrical prose are lost on most readers. 

Plot is the engine that drives your novel. M. J. brings us some tips to help you keep that engine fine-tuned. And if you follow all the links she provides, you will have a superb mini-course in how to plot your novel. Many thanks to her for compiling this excellent list! 

Ruth and I wish you all a very happy holiday season...Anne

25 Penetrating Quotes on Plot 

Compiled by M.J. Bush

Plot is story; story is plot. Without something happening, your characters aren’t pushed to grow and you can’t show their carefully crafted complexities.

With a well-formed plot, you pull in the reader with flawless tension handling, robust arcs, and vibrant themes.

Brush up with 25 quotes from plot-savvy writers:

1. Structure is required in all of art. Dancing, painting, singing, you name it–all art forms require structure. Writing is no different. To bring a story to its full potential, authors must understand the form’s limitations, as well as put its many parts into proper order to achieve maximum effect.

K.M. Weiland, Structuring Your Novel

2. The best way to travel the length of your story is to grab hold of the throughline—the driving force of the book—and refuse to let go.

3. Unless your story is very basic and simple, the throughline is something you will consciously have to look for and adjust.

4. When you are mind mapping, you don’t need to think linearly yet. You just want to throw ideas onto the paper to let your story start gelling. Try to come up with ten strong scenes that will be the pivotal moments in your story.

C.S. Lakin, Ways Novelists Can Brainstorm Plot and Scenes

5. The fix for most script problems is to give serious attention to the movement from one narrative moment to the next. The easiest way to understand what a narrative moment is, is to ask two questions: What does this action or this line of dialogue force the audience to question? How does that information relate to previous questions raised by the story?

Clive Davies-Frayne, Why I Don’t Read “How To” Screenwriting Articles Anymore

6. You can’t rush certain sections to get them to a plot point or you might race ahead of the reader.

Roz Morris, Story structure: why plot milestones might not be equally spaced – and why that’s good

7. Plotting with mini arcs can be a handy tool to break your novel into smaller, more manageable pieces that keep the story moving and the ideas coming. 

Janice Hardy, Plot Your Novel With Mini Arcs

8. As you are working out the plot for your book (or, for you pantsers, as you are trying to figure out what happens next,) make a list of all the things that could happen next.

Kara Lennox, The Plot Fixer #8 – Is Your Plot Too Predictible?  

Tweetable: "Don’t go with the obvious next move in your story. Brainstorm and see what else you could do."

9. Make coincidences add complications, not take them away.

Jami Gold, The Green Lantern Movie: How *Not* to Plot a Story

10. Every scene should have conflict and a great way to test this is to do a Conflict Lock.

Kristen Lamb, Structure Part 8–Balancing the Scenes that Make Up Your Novel

11. Is there any point where a reader might feel like putting the book down?

James Scott Bell, 6 Common Plot Fixes

12. Subplots matter far more than their name implies. If a screenplay dies in Act 2 or Act 3, it’s just as likely the problem lies in the subplots as in the main narrative.

Allen Palmer, The secret to subplots

13. If a story goes too long without new information being revealed, the reader can get bored and feel that nothing is happening.

Janice Hardy, A Trick for Keeping Your Plot (and Story) on Target

14. What stirs our hearts isn’t the grand sweep of a plot but the piercing effect of moments along the way.

Donald Maass, Plot vs. Heart

15. It’s important to remember that your hook isn’t just the first line of a story, but a concert of parts acting together – the first line that pulls you in soundlessly or with a bang, the follow-up that adds depth and meaning to that first line making it as real as the Velveteen Rabbit, and the moment of clarity that connects the starting point to the rest of the novel.

Natalie C. Parker, The Anatomy of a Good Hook

16. The inciting incident is, by no means, an optional plot point. Without a life-altering event to catapult our characters in one direction or another, there isn’t a story.

Ava Jae, Plot Essentials: Inciting Incident

17. The pre-middle consists of the time period between receiving the invitation and the start of the “meaty” action. This is a great time for your hero to take a short trip, where he can naturally observe new things without “information-dumping” on the reader.

Christine H., What Every Writer Should Know About Their Novel’s Pre-Middle

18. Antagonists rule the middle and are there to teach the protagonist what she needs to know in order to prevail at the climax at the end.

Martha Alderson, How to Turn a Lackluster Middle into Page-turning Excitement

19. Before the Mid-Point both the hero and the reader experience the story with limited awareness of the real truth behind what’s going on. Because it reveals significant new information, everything after the Mid-Point carries new weight and dramatic tension.

Larry Brooks, Story Structure Series: #6 — Wrapping Your Head Around the Mid-Point Milestone

20. The midpoint moment is the moment that tells us what the novel or movie is all about.

James Scott Bell, Write from the Middle

Tweetable: The midpoint shift and the mirror moment are scene and sequel. Revelation and realization. External and internal.

21. At the Second Plot Point you can smell the ending just around the corner, whereas in the scene before you couldn’t. And yet, you’re not sure what it will be.

Larry Brooks, Story Structure Series: #8 – The Second Plot Point

22. The All Is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal. It reaches down into the core of our beings and takes what we fear in our lives and makes those things real.

Cory Milles, When All Is Lost, Your Story Succeeds

23. Your black moment isn’t black enough until the reader, and possibly even you as the writer, can’t see a way out.

Kara Lennox, Plot Fixer: Weak Black Moment and The End Does Not Satisfy

24. In many stories, the characters change a little bit at a time, but they won’t really change—deep down where it counts (and where it will stick)—until they realize how their beliefs are false. This revelation often happens all at once, right as they’re facing the biggest obstacle during the Climax.

Jami Gold, Building a Character Arc: Start at the End

25. The strategic purpose of a denouement is to reorient the characters towards the next phase of their lives.

Jason Black, Does your denouement murder your characters?

There are many names for the different points. To avoid confusion, I suggest picking one paradigm and sticking to it (with the addition of James Scott Bell’s mirror moment). But no matter which you choose, all the advice here should be easy enough to apply to the appropriate points in the your story.

Let’s recap. In a well-formed plot…

  • The midpoint shift and mirror moment embody your main theme. 
  • Tension is escalated with the use of well-timed conflict, obstacles, and complicating coincidences.
  • Your characters arc naturally because of the revelations, realizations, and crises they go through. In the process, they show more of themselves.

Creating a plot takes the courage to trust your choices, the stomach to nuke what isn’t working, and the perseverance to keep plugging away.

I won’t claim it’s easy. Sometimes I have to set a plot aside for a few days to see where it isn’t working. The problem might be in the themes or the plot points or the reactions. It might be that I’m unconsciously protecting my characters from the worst. There are a lot of areas to consider.

...The point is: a healthy plot is worth the effort.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have any questions for M.J. ? Additional insights to add to the list? Chime in! What's the toughest part of plotting for you? 

If you'd like to join M.J.'s mailing list, she'll provide this post as a PDF here: 25 Penetrating Quotes on Plot PDF.

M. J. Bush blogs at WritinGeekery . She is a full-time writing coach, editor, and fantasy writer. She wants to "help writers climb through the jungle of conflicting advice and overwhelming information to find their personal perspective, true voice, and unique writing process."


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Prize is $250 and publication in Best New Writing to the best short fiction and creative nonfiction. Entries are limited to 500 words or less. Gover Prize winner and finalists will be published in the upcoming BNW edition. Deadline January 10th, 2015

VIGNETTE WRITERShere's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Entry Fee $25.  Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are some awesome tips! (And from some top notch experts.)
Sorry you've been that sick. Hope you're healed now in time for the holidays. Have a Blessed Christmas, Anne and Ruth!

December 21, 2014 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Thanks. I woke up this morning feeling energetic for the first time in a month. I think I've weathered the storm. Have a great Christmas yourself. I don't tell you often enough how grateful I am that you're such a loyal commenter.I always smile when I see your name. You're a legend of the blogosphere. Thanks a bunch!

December 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thank you so much for having me, Anne. I loved compiling this, and it sparked another list, one on scene execution, that I didn't have planned. I love how that works. I'm super looking forward to hearing the thoughts and additions that your readers have! Hi guys!

December 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Alex. They certainly are top notch. I love how much insight they can bring to the table, even in just a few words.

So good to hear that you're on the mend, Anne!

December 21, 2014 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—As Anne just said, you're a legend. It wouldn't feel like Sunday without you! :-)

Thank you for all you contribute all year long and do enjoy the happiest of holidays!

December 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

MJ—Thank you for a brilliant and oh-so-helpful list. No matter where, why and/or how I'm stuck in a ms, I know I will refer back to this post over and over again! Hope you have a great holiday and a wonderful new year. :-)

December 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Ruth. It's nice to know that we're not alone in getting stuck and referring back to the work of others. There's so much great advice out there! :)

December 21, 2014 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Shawn Jones said...

Welcome back, MJ. It's great to see you active again.

December 21, 2014 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

LOL Thanks, Shawn. Do you have a favorite quote or something you'd like to add? =)

December 21, 2014 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Marveloso! I'm a pantser in the process of diving into The First Big Edit on my WIP. These links & ideas will be hugely helpful. Thanks again..

December 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Christine Frazier said...

Thank you for including Better Novel Project! I am honored to have my link on this list of greats. Now I'm off to read 24 posts... :)

-Christine H. Frazier

December 21, 2014 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Traci Kenworth said...

Truly excellent advice!! If only I can gather my head around it all--

December 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Wonderful information. I am definitely going to be reviewing each of these. I can see where I have intuitively gotten it right and where I need some expert advice. Thank you so much!

December 21, 2014 at 12:22 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Terrific list here. Definitely bookmarking this post for future use. I've already figured out something I'm going to try in my WIP from one of the tips here. Thank you so much, M.J.

December 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Have fun editing, CS! May the inner editor be with you. ;)

December 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

MJ Bush! Hey, I know that lady! Good Lord, Anne, between you and the stars you bring in I'm turning into a groupie. What a splendid post, really made me think. The bit about the antagonists ruling the middle, wow- the tale I'm working on now doesn't seem like it fits. Until I remember, way back when the two novels were originally going to be one tale until I realized it would just be too long. And end-of-first/start-of-second? Bad guys running amok. I feel like the kid who threw the basketball back over his head and in.
Merry Christmas MJ and thanks for your inspirational prompts and posts. Anne, feel better in time for Christmas- more energy to you!

December 21, 2014 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thank you for your insight, especially worded as a possibility rather than an absolute. Beautifully done!

December 21, 2014 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Traci. You can grab the PDF to print the quotes if you'd like. It might help to look it over when you're plotting or editing. Either way, don't be afraid to refer back! I know I will. =)

December 21, 2014 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Those moments of revelation are precious. I hope it will all be intuitive soon, Christine! =)

December 21, 2014 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Ooh, goodiegoodie! I'm doing a little happy dance for you, Paul. Thank you for letting me know! =)

December 21, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

I'm blushing. Thanks, Will. Good luck with your tale of antagonists ruling the middle! ;)

December 21, 2014 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Rosalyn said...

Such great tips! Though it does remind me about why writing is so hard--all of this just for a good plot, not to mention characterization, dialogue, emotional investment . . .

December 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Agreed. To lighten that load on your mind, a good plot helps the rest of that along. And to be fair, in my experience creating a good plot is highly dependent on creating good characters, which pulls the rest into reach. It takes practice, but from a craft standpoint, it's not as daunting as it seems because it's all interconnected and will reinforce itself as you get closer to getting it right.

December 21, 2014 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this helpful list. I know I will return to it often.

December 21, 2014 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Maia Sepp said...

Awesome, and comes at the *perfect* time.

Hope you feel better soon, Anne! And happy solstice.

December 21, 2014 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Allan J. Emerson said...

Good stuff--especially for pantsers like me who never know where the plot is going. Thanks Ruth and M.J.

December 21, 2014 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thank you, Leanne. Have fun with it!

December 21, 2014 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Happy plotting this solstice, Maia. =)

December 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maia--Thanks! I think I'm on the mend.

December 21, 2014 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

You're quite welcome, Allan. And thank you for the confirmation that these quotes appeal to pantsers too! =)

December 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Rimsha Saleem said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 22, 2014 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Great post! The toolkit every writer should have tucked under their desk. Thank you, M.J. And thanks to you, Anne and Ruth, for another year of pearls of wisdom scattered far and wide. Glad you're on the mend, Anne.

December 22, 2014 at 4:04 AM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Once again, proof positive as to why this blog is surely one of the absolute best for anyone calling themselves a Scribbler!

December 22, 2014 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Glad it lived up to your expectations, Churadogs. Thank you! =)

December 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

The underside of your desk must be an interesting place, Eileen. What other goodies do you have there? =)
(And thank you!)

December 22, 2014 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Once again a great post, thanks! This is very interesting because of two things: first, so many great quotes to use as information. Second, so many great books to read on how to polish the manuscript. Though I believe your summary is quite concise. A writing teacher once told me: two characters is more than enough, if your plot is just right. So focus on the plot.

Thanks for the post!

December 22, 2014 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

This post is so informative and so thought-provoking I'm going to read it again for the third time. Great advice. You're such an amazing resource for writers, Anne. You are a gift to our community and I'm your biggest fan. If anyone says otherwise - I plan to bring out the big guns and arm wrestle them for the title. AND I MEAN IT!

December 22, 2014 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Thanks so much. You are a sweetie. I love your blog! The tiny houses microfiction is awesome.

December 22, 2014 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

What's under my desk right now is a foot warmer for these chilly winter mornings and nest of power cords I'm convinced is multiplying like mice.

December 23, 2014 at 2:17 AM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Wow, this is one of those posts that is worth coming back to again and again. I really like the idea of a through line. Haven't really tackled that one yet in those exact words. And I have to practice adding new information strategically. I really appreciate it when other authors do that.

Anne, I'm sorry you haven't been feeling well, and I hope you're on the mend. I hope you ladies have a wonderful holiday season.

Here's to a wonderful 2015! *clinks glass*

December 23, 2014 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Julie: *clinks back* Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2014 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

That's an interesting quote. I think the reality cuts both ways, though. Those characters would have to be interesting. Just like the plot.

Thanks for commenting, Bernardo! :)

December 23, 2014 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Julie! A 3-readthrough post is quite a compliment. And isn't Anne great? =)

December 23, 2014 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Julie. I have to purposefully practice it, too. We're so careful to foreshadow and not give away too much, it's easy to overlook the need to give new information regularly. I really like to use the questions-raised-and-answered alluded to in #5 to monitor my use of information. :)

*clinks* Merry Christmas, and may the muse be with you!

December 23, 2014 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Anna Erishkigal said...

A timely article just as my forehead was getting bloody from banging it against the wall. Thank you!

December 23, 2014 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

I just wish there was something that applied to non-outliners. Everyone always kind of leaves us out.

December 24, 2014 at 3:21 AM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Thanks to you, and to M.J.Bush for these touchstones of useful insight. Everything here reinforces my certainty that there is no substitute for a reliable, experienced editor, someone who can see what the writer can't. But it's really tough to find such an editor--not because there aren't lots of good ones, but because the writer needs an editor who is compatible with the what that writer is trying to do. The plot for a novel that emphasizes psychology will certainly be different from one that is driven by external, action-oriented events. Or so it seems to me. I've been working lately with two editors. One "gets" what I'm up to. The other--a very, very smart person--has in mind changes in the plot . These changes are intended to reduce the commercial difficulties facing books that cross or cross-pollinate genres. But if I agree to these changes, the story I want to tell will be less complex, and (in my view) less interesting. This means I have to choose: will I alter the story I want to tell in order to improve the commercial odds, or will I stick with the story I want to tell?

December 24, 2014 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--These quotes are helpful for anybody who is interested in writing a novel that has a plot . They don't tell you how to write your rough draft. Most of these quotes will help you polish that draft. Some people may pay editors to shape their raw words into a story, but that can run into a lot of money, so this can be helpful whether you're a pantser or an outliner.

This post is not just about "plotting" (the verb), but *editing* your manuscript so it has a "plot" (the noun). Most readers prefer books with plots, no matter what process the author uses to get the words on the page. Plot-free novels usually have a limited audience.

December 24, 2014 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anna--I'm so glad MJ's post helped you!

December 24, 2014 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--We do need editors, but a writer can do a lot of self-editing by using guidelines like this. That can save money and give us more control.

I write cross-genre novels so I know the problem. But I have avoided editors who want me to over-simplify my stories. Crossing genres makes me more of a niche writer than a blockbuster writer, but I'm okay with that.

December 24, 2014 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Weeellll, I gotta to dispute that. All of the advice above is for outliners. A lot of outliners think it fits everyone, and it doesn't. When I ran into two successful writers who don't outline, I was astonished to see that there was someone like me! I tossed out all the how-to advice like structure, know your plot points, know your backstory, and I wrote a solid book in 5 months. It just needs a clean up edit for typos, continuity, and dumb stuff. If I'd tried plot points, I'd have a mess. The two processes are very different and don't connect to each other.

December 24, 2014 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Congrats on finding readers who enjoy reading books with no plots! I do know some experimental authors like Donald Barthelme have had successful careers writing unplotted, non-narrative stream of consciousness stuff. You must be a very talented poetic writer.

December 24, 2014 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Anne, why are you assuming that I don't have a plot because I didn't use any of the techniques above? That's the problem with outlining advice like that. It assumes you don't have a plot if you don't use them, and that's flat wrong. You don't need plot points or structure to get plot. If you tell a story and escalate events in the story with each scene, you will have plot. This is why I keep saying that there's a chasm between panters and outliners. Outliners think it's stream of conscious if you don't map out plot points first, because that's how they're used to thinking. They don't see that there might be an entirely different way of writing that doesn't use the same techniques but accomplishes the same thing.

For the record: My story is a contemporary fantasy. A god wants to cause some mischief which would be disastrous for the island, and the main character has to stop him. When I wrote it at the beginning, I did not know ANY of that. All I knew was that I wanted to have monsters, and that the main character was going to fight them. I had to make sure NONE of the backstory from past incarnations got into the story. In the mystery I'm now writing (first chapter), all I know is that my main character is in this location. I'm letting the why wander into the story as it wants to, but I'm having to fight to keep left brain from coming up with a backstory because it will derail the story in the first chapter. I don't know will be murdered, I don't know who will be the murderer. I think there will be an actor and a dog in the story, but I could be wrong. I also think there will be a big storm in the story, but that could change as I move out of chapter 1. All of what I need will come in when it's supposed. I trust my writing process to do that.

December 25, 2014 at 4:48 AM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 25, 2014 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Thanks! Actually both "gel and "jell" are correct. It depends on whether you're talking about making a fruit product to put on toast or a hair product or a scientific lab product. When you're making "jelly" you wait for the mixture "to jell"--that is, solidify, which is the older word. Google the word and "definition" and you'll see that jelly jells.

Putting product on your hair is "gelling". It is also what some products used for bacterial cultures do in the lab. Here's dictionary.com on the word "gelling," which is a more recent word: "The invention of this word is credited to Scottish chemist Thomas Graham (1805-1869). Hair-styling sense is from 1958. The verb meaning "to become a gel" is attested by 1902; figurative sense is from 1958."

Suzanne Lakin may have more experience making jelly than putting product in her hair or making lab cultures. But both uses would be correct in this context.

December 25, 2014 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda this post does not have to do with with outlining. It has to do with editing. I'm a pantser and I find this all very useful when writing my final draft. These are the tips of 25 different experts to use or not use when you edit as you see fit. Whether you decide to edit your work or not is entirely up to you. Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2014 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Thanks for correcting my correction. Being bald, I'm not very au courant about gel, but I am on good terms with both jelly and Jell-O.

December 25, 2014 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

That's why I raised the point because the outlining techniques go all the way through with everything -- from the creation stage to editing and revision. It's so prevalent I don't think many people even realize that it's there. Three to five years ago, I would have read your comment about finding these useful and tried some out, thinking it would have helped me. And then I would have thought I was broken because they seemed to work for everyone else but me, and all I had was a story that had twisted into a horrible twenty car pile up (and I wish I could say I was exaggerating). I wandered the message boards and blogs looking for something to help me, and the only thing I started to conclude was my writing was completely broken. I wished someone had said the things I'm saying so I would have known the problem wasn't me. The techniques may not be used for creation of an outline, but they are strongly rooted in what makes outlines.

December 25, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

Wow!! This is so great.

December 25, 2014 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--Thanks! I thought MJ did a great job!

December 25, 2014 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

*Offers a bandage*
I'm glad I can help, Anna!

December 26, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Hi Linda =)
I think part of the problem here is a misconception about process... there are more variables than simply outlining or pantsing. Our minds can work in many different ways. If you can't think in terms of plot moments, but you think in terms of escalating the story, that's fine.
I think that you might find one or two of the quotes valuable, specifically 5, 8, 9, 11, and 13. Those are at about the same level of "plotterness" as escalating as you go along... raising questions and answering them, brainstorming to avoid the predictable, making coincidences add complications, watching for moments when the reader might want to put the book down, and revealing new information regularly. None of those things should be limited to plotters or even pantsers that think in terms of plot.
May the muse be with you! =)

December 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

You've just pointed out a piece of wisdom that many authors miss. "The writer needs an editor who is compatible with the what that writer is trying to do." Absolutely. There's so much advice out there to ask for a sample edit, but what I see as even more important is seeing if they can understand why you wrote the story the way it is and whether they can differentiate between what would be "flesh wound" changes and what would mortally injure your story. But sometimes an author loses sight of that, and a great editor will put the writer back in touch with it before suggesting changes. Sorry, a bit off topic.
Great comments, Barry. =)

December 26, 2014 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Thanks, Nina! =)

December 26, 2014 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Hi, Anne. I've been a (ashamedly, nonactive) follower for years. I'm polishing a book for publication. The song Desperado makes my opening scene, and your blog post a while back is the ONLY resource that clearly spells out how to get permission for song lyrics. Yet I'm not finding the publisher; I'm learning everything else I never wanted to know about the song. I'm also not finding Michael Murphy's blog/site, anything. (He gave input on that post.) Oy vey. This is my long-winded way of asking if you wouldn't mind taking time in your very busy schedule to check in with me. I'd like to pick your brain, if you're willing. Rawknrobyn@aol.com. Otherwise, if you have a contact for Michael, that'd be great. Or any other link to a music database besides the two you wrote about (ASCAP and BMI). THANK YOU SO MUCH. I didn't realize it'd cause such a migraine to incorporate song lyrics.

Have a great season and New Year. Thank you again, for at least, reading thru this. =) xo

December 27, 2014 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Love these! And I gave a great sigh of relief every time I realized I could find each plot point/device in my ms outline. Except the "All is Lost" point. I had one in my last book. Maybe it will appear in my new WIP as I go on.

I'm wishing Anne, Ruth, and MJ, and their families a wonderful 2015!

December 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger MJ Bush said...

Good luck with your WIP, Lexa. I'm sure the all-is-lost moment will appear. And have a wonderful year!

December 29, 2014 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Brandon Brown said...

This blog is by far one of the best resources I've been able to find for writers, both new and experienced. Thank you for your amazing work Anne and Ruth. A big thank you also goes to M. J. Bush for compiling these great tips with links to the material that goes in to more detail.

February 1, 2015 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Brandon--Thanks so much! We really appreciate our readers. And yes, I agree, MJ did some wonderful work compiling these fantastic quotes and links. I know a lot of research went into this post!

February 1, 2015 at 5:28 PM  
OpenID melaniedawnn said...

This post is excellent! Very helpful for me to think over and make adjustments to my writing. Thanks Anne for sharing!

February 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melanie--Thanks! I really appreciate all the work M.J. put into this. It's so helpful and inspiring.

February 11, 2015 at 12:39 PM  

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