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4.6 out of 5 stars64
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on 18 November 2007
I've read many books on plotting and structure, but this is probably the best so far. It doesn't offer a miracle cure for ailing plots, or promote a magical formula for coming up with the perfect novel, or divulge any flashy techniques - instead, it provides a nuts-and-bolts, back-to-basics guide to developing a strong foundation for your novel.

It has to be said that a lot of books on writing can come across as quite patronising - not so here. The book has a very friendly tone and puts its points across in a simple, straightforward manner that's always easy to read and often quite entertaining. There are many tips and exercises, all of which are practical and useful.

I read this before embarking on my current project, but I imagine it would be useful whatever state your novel's in, as many of the hints and tips can (and should be) applied throughout the whole novel-writing process. My copy is already covered in highlighter pen and scribbled notes in the margins, and I have no doubt that I'll be returning to it again and again. I see this book as an essential reference guide to the craft of plotting, and would encourage anyone who's serious about novel writing to invest in this. If you only buy one book on plotting and structure, I'd make it this one.
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on 5 November 2006
If your goal is to write and sell fiction, this book will guide you.

It gives a valuable overview of good structure, identifies all the key elements, then provides you with a 'toolkit' of methods for structuring your own work, and tackling problem areas. Some books just tell you what to do, this book also tells you how to go about it.

It's well laid out, well signposted, includes examples from popular novels, and provides exercises to help cement the learning points.

Reading it is like sitting with a friendly expert who is willing to pass on all his experience, and who encourages you to apply it to your own work. It's the best book on writing I've come across so far.
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on 25 June 2006
You will be taken by the hand on a step-by-step journey to write a good book.
Bell is a very sympathetic and empathic writer. He is thorough, and most of all an enabler.
He said that he had believed the Big Lie, i.e. writers are born; fortunately he passes on his skills extensively so you can allow yourself to learn the technique of efficient plotting to become a good writer and not believe the Big Lie that there are only privileged writers born with their skill.
Following this book, you too will penetrate the secrets of good writing and its creative pleasure. You will feel satisfied with a good structure for your novels. (He said that people who came to him for advice sold their own books!)
Have confidence in James Scott Bell, you will want to write following his pieces of advice.
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on 10 July 2009
This book is everything I hoped it would be. I've recommended it to fellow aspiring writers I know.

Some great practical tips on how to get your plot started and ways to keep your ideas on track. It uses novels and films to clarify plot techniques and offers exercises at the end of each chapter.

I found the 'to outline or not to outline' part particularly useful in helping me decide which method works for me.

I have this by my side constantly as I soldier on with my first novel.

My first "how to write" book and worth every penny.
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on 8 November 2005
This book is simply wonderful! I read a lot of 'how-to' books and most of them are a waste of money. Worse, they are a waste of your time. Not so this one. I've done courses as well, but most teach you the art of the short story. When it comes to novels, though I am not exactly a novice with the written word there were some elements to my style that were lacking. Not so now!
The book is well written, easy and informative. It covers all the important elements of the craft in a clear and concise yet entertaining way. I won't bore you and list what those are - there's no point for I would have to write a novel here to list them. You are better off buying the book and discovering them for yourself. I simply cannot say enough good things about this book - it highlighted my strengths and my weaknesses so that I can now work to correct them. Sorry if I sound over enthusiastic but I feel as though I've found a rare treasure - an educational book that does precisely what it says it will.
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This review is based on personal experience and is penned in a bid to help other aspiring writers.

I have been writing about scuba diving and shipwrecks for several years (my first piece appeared in 1978!), and my books have won awards. That genre, however, involves research and describing whatever I find underwater.

Quite separately, for many years I have been working on a novel only to discover Fiction is not as easy as it might appear - even for a modestly successful writer such as myself. Fiction is not about my ability to tell a particular story. Instead, it requires me to learn how to weave intrigue into the everyday life of the central character so that the reader WANTS to continue reading. For example, a Memoirs or Biography is the retelling of a series of events - year by year, as they happen to the subject of the work. The life of a fictional character, however, cannot be a series of stories without the addition of unanswered questions and other events of which he is unaware (the intrigue!) along the way. In my case; yes I have a central plot, yes there is sex and violence (in moderation!) and yes the outcome is exciting. That however, is not enough and is why I have found myself starting and shelving the book over many years.

Finally, I recently purchased a number of books about writing techniques and the various lessons I need to learn. I am studying each in turn and each will be reviewed in time.

As the cover of `Write Great Fiction - Plot & Structure' by James Scott Bell suggests, this book gives an insight into "Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish." Already, I have learned a great deal and would suggest any would-be author of Fiction should study this excellent work.

Laid out with 14 chapters and 2 appendices, each heading covers a different element of the overall craft of writing in an easy-to-understand way which (as you should expect!) is also well written. Different aspects of writing apply to different authors, so I will not go into specific detail. Suffice to say Plot is explained from every conceivable angle and Structure is revealed as the central element which holds it all together. To that end we have chapters on; Beginnings, Middles, Ends, Sub-plots, Complex Plots in addition to problem solving and much more besides.

Within a few moments of starting, I found myself making copious notes relevant to my own novel as I continued reading. In no time at all, I had learned lesson about the development of the central character - who, incidentally MUST become altered by the events he experiences (I hadn't thought to describe such changes - but, of course, we are all changed by life itself).

Most important of all, this book asks the would-be writer to ask themselves the most important question of all; "Why should the reader want to continue reading your book?," and once I have answered that question to my own satisfaction I will finally have finished my novel!

Altogether, thoroughly recommended.

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on 12 January 2007
I really enjoyed reading this book. Whether you aim at writing commercial (plot driven) fiction, or literary (character driven) fiction, this book will be a useful read.

Extremely practical in its excercises, it is a particurarly useful tool for those who somehow, get lost in their own plots.
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on 9 March 2008
I teach novel writing. I found this to be a highly readable and exceedingly helpful book for those who want to take novel writing seriously. A few too many references to cinema plots, but essentially the best book I have read on the subject. Recommended
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on 19 February 2010
I bought this book because I was looking for some pointers on how to create good, solid, plot as I'd often had good ideas for story beginnings and not gotten much further than that. This book, which I've now read from cover to cover, was very helpful to me as it had all kinds of suggestions, pointers and ideas as to what makes an engaging plot and how to structure it -- there are also lots of suggestions for how the aspiring writer can come up with ideas for stories in the first place and how to develop them once the initial seed is there.

Furthermore the author's style (for me at least) was easy to read and what could have been a very dull, dry, text book actually turned out to be enjoyable to read as well - a bonus.
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2006
This book provides plenty of encouragement for the writer as well as useful guidance on how to build plots and plenty of real examples from the world of fiction. I'm still putting it all into practice in my writing, and can see the techniques as used in anything I read.

The book itself is entertaining and easy to read, explaining topics very clearly.
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