Review: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

He’s polite about it, but you can tell that James Scott Bell, author of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, has no patience for pantsers. 

James-Scott-Bell-Plot-and-StructureAlong with Randy Ingermason’s The Snowflake Method (review to come later this year), I picked up James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure out of sheer fear. Not a fiction writer in the slightest, I’m working on my first full-length novel and, as any true procrastinator is wont to do, I hit the books to research my biggest weakness: plot that works elegantly to advance characters and ideas.

Here’s how it went.

What Worked for Me

I like Bell’s approachable, conversational style. Some writers are able to wear their learning very lightly, and nothing about Bell’s voice in this book seemed to indicate that he belonged to a rarefied cadre of Writers that we aspirants couldn’t hope to join (as is the case for many, many writers who try and teach).

After approachability, he makes a convincing case for structure being a help and not a hindrance to creativity. As someone who flounders without some sort of parameters under which to work, I appreciated this approach deeply.

What Didn’t Work for Me

I’m a super selfish, heat-seeking, Millennial reading missile, and I found myself skimming a lot of material that I found extraneous to the thread of wisdom weaving through the book. Too many asides, too many examples, and slightly too many quick-hit recaps at the end of each chapter. You might find these helpful; I did not. Once I found the nugget of knowledge in each well-defined section, I wanted nothing more than to more straight into application of said nugget.


I’ve kept it in rotation on my Kindle app, and as I work through phase one of my novel-writing journey, I find myself returning to it to check on the fine points of structure, recall an example, or retrieve some other helpful nugget.

8/10, would buy again.