Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I called the Plot Whisperer

Sandra here just chomping at the bit to share with you my experience with the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson.

Martha, the Plot Whisperer

Why did I call a Plot Whisperer?

I have a manuscript that has been requested by an editor.  I want to sell that manuscript. I had a gut feeling that something was not quite right.  The ending wasn't giving me goose bumps. 

I want people to read it.   And readers are more selective.  They have so much to read.
Vince said it the other day in his blog here at Seekerville.  Vince said,   "Having no investment in hundreds of books, makes me much less likely to finish a slow moving book."   He also said,  "Today, however, selling a book is just the beginning!  Authors need to get readers to actually read their books."

So I wanted to make my manuscript the best it could be.

I logged onto her website The Plot Whisperer for Writersand Readers and ordered a two hour consultation.  After the consultation, Martha and I decided we wanted to share with you the process in hopes that it can help you develop your plot and/or see how a plot whisperer can help you.

The first thing Martha did was to send me detailed instructions of what I needed to do before our phone call.

Please develop a list of the scenes you have in the order they appear in your project. If you have any question about what is a scene versus a summary, please refer to BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS Pure & Simple

If you have not yet written any scenes, make a list of the basic events or circumstances you envision for your project.
Please fill out the following information for your main character(s)
Protagonist name
What stands in his/her way?
What does he/she stand to lose?
Between now and our plot appointment, think about what you hope to say in the project, the deeper meaning you hope to leave with the reader. This is for the Thematic Significance plotline.
Write your theme as a statement.
Please send me via email both the completed Character Emotional Development Plot Profile (#2 above) for your main character, and the Thematic Significance statement (#3 above). (Do NOT send a list of scenes or any other information regarding your project, just the Character Plot Profile and Theme statement ONLY.)

****Hi, Martha here. At this point in the plot consultation process, although some writers send me a bit about their book when they sign-up, this is my first time learning specifics about the protagonist (and, if the writer so wishes, the antagonist and love interest as well). The theme statement the writer sends that best represents what they believe their story is saying gives me a window into the deeper meaning of their stories.

I don’t ask to see the scene list or read a writer’s work because I find it is easier to assess the plot and structure minus the words. 

Instead, on the consultation day itself, the writer recounts the scenes of her story to me, beginning with the 4 major turning points in every great story, the 4 energetic markers. I gain insight into the story by what the writer tells me. I gain insight into the writer herself by the way in which she communicates her story. 

I feel deeply humble and grateful that writers share their innermost passion with me.

The exciting thing that happened when Martha kept asking me questions is that I began to see the problem myself.  She didn’t have to “tell” me.  

I wrote all the information about the heroine, but not the hero.  When she asked me what his flaw was, I was stumped and saw immediately that I hadn’t given him one. This definitely needs to happen to give him depth and conflict.  

She asked me to describe the scenes in the first quarter of the book. She didn’t have to critique them.  She simply asked me “Why did that happen?” or “Why did he or she do that?” It made me think about it.

Don’t I already know I need to do this?  Of course I do.  But sometimes we get so close to our project we think what is in our head is on the paper. And it isn’t.  So this process really helped me to see where I had things that weren’t necessary or moving the plot along and also where I needed to add conflict or at least justification of why that scene was there.

****I whole-hearted agree with what you say, Sandra, about thinking what is in our head is on the paper. That is so true, especially so, I find, for writers writing memoirs or who base the protagonist on themselves or someone close to them. They know themselves so well, they forget the readers know nothing but what the author shows and says about the character.

An example of scenes not “moving the plot along and also where I need to add conflict or at least justification of why that scene was there” shows up early in Sandra’s story. (She’s given me permission to talk about her story)

Her first two scenes brilliantly depict the two main characters’ basic personalities and their core challenges, as they have to do with each other and personally. Both characters are strong and compelling and likable. Off to a great start. 

The third scene is a conversation with a neighbor. Yes, the information shared helps the reader understand the story set-up but introducing two characters sitting across the kitchen table and talking together immediately drains the story of energy. 

Instead, I advise that Sandra keep the energy of the story high scene-by-scene and tightly following cause and effect, at least long enough to draw the reader as deeply into the story as you possibly can before you let up. Tell the reader only what she absolutely has to know to make sense of each scene, for now, in the beginning.

Or, if Sandra is wedded to the scene, then to be sure to get them moving, to take action, preferably doing something that shows another side of your protagonist (a strength, a weakness, a skill, an unusual ability -- something that foreshadows a gift that comes in handy later in the story) and that deepens and broadens the readers understanding of her. In their dialogue together, try not to dump in a lot of backstory information. Keep in mind that one of the surest ways to pull the reader deeper into a story is through the use of curiosity. Don’t give away her backstory. And for sure, not her backstory wound. Not yet. That’s for later.

I’m not necessarily talking about high, external dramatic action. I’m simply advising to keep the story moving. The longer you can, the longer the reader puts off shutting the book. That’s a good thing!

That Sandra sets a ticking clock in this scene is great.

The other thing Martha asked me were questions about my theme.  She helped me to define it more clearly and then see if I was staying true to the scene throughout the scenes and especially at the climax and/or end.

 ***I blogged after my time with Sandra and shared a 5-step Theme Exercise, similar to what I shared with Sandra. 
Theme: A Writer’s Touchstone

She didn’t have to do anything with the plot. What she did was make me see the problem and then guided me into finding and discovering my own solution.

*****I generally begin a consultation by asking for the 4 energetic markers (I name each and explain them so there is no confusion about what I’m asking).

The first marker I ask for is the climax. Yes, I start at the end of the story first. 

What I love is how, even if the writer isn’t familiar with the terms, we can always find the scenes that function in the capacity of an energetic marker and that turn the story. 

This was true with Sandra. 

We start with the climax. Sandra recently cut a suspense sub-plot because it did not fit thematic with this story; the story is not a suspense story. Because of the cuts she made (I know how difficult cuts can be and am so impressed by Sandra listening her intuition and doing what needs to be done for the good of the story), she is unsure of what her climax is or even if she truly has one.

As we dig, smack dab in the middle of the wreckage of all the cuts Sandra made in her story glimmers the exact right ending, a climax fitting to her story overall. 

Her End of the Beginning scene hits at the exact right place, too. The crisis is there, too, and we discuss ways the scene of most intensity in the story so far can be developed and deepened and expanded further. 

That is why Martha can work with a plotter or a panster. I personally am a plotter, but there was a problem with the plot.  She didn’t tell me how to solve it.  She left that to me.  So a plotter or a panster would still have the freedom to work with their own writing style.

You can see from our interaction that the Plot Whisperer really did help me find the weakness in my manuscript. Now I can play around with fixing it.  Thank you Martha.

*****Any one who isn’t ready for a plot consultation or simply prefers to go it alone, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Create More Compelling Stories walks you through the process. Space is provided in the workbook where you can take notes, fill out the 7 essential elements of your scenes, plot scenes out on plot planners, deliberate your themes, and much, much more.

And you know, I have that book, but I didn’t go to it.  The consultation is more what I personally needed at this point. Sometimes we just need someone to talk it out.

In honor of our five year birthday bash I am going to pay for a one hour consultation with Martha. One lucky commenter will win the consultation.

Oh I love birthdays. I’m offering you your choice of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master or the companion workbook, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create More Compelling Stories, to 3 lucky commenters today. 

And to keep with the theme of fives this month, a fifth winner will receive a  copy of Price of Victory.  And I'm so excited because as of today the winner can choose between a hard cover copy or KINDLE.  I'm in ebook now.  woo hoo

Thank you Martha, for joining us today and sharing with Seekerville how exciting it is to work with a Plot Whisperer.   I can hardly wait to get started on all the ideas you’ve generated.  

Oh yes,  Chocolate Velvet coffee is on. A variety of teas and hot chocolate are on the table beside the yummy carrot cake that Martha and I both favor. (And we are sharing it only because we love you too, Seekerville, )

 (Yum! Thank you, Sandra. This was a blast! –Oh, dear. “Blast” certainly dates me. Many of you probably are not even familiar with the term anymore.)

Don't forget to log onto the Weekend Edition on Sunday for winners.

Have We Got Presents!!


  1. Ha ha, my hero in 1905 says "blast" so I know what it means. J/K, I'm old enough....

    What fun prizes, I'm just starting plotting now, I shall try to whisper to my plot as I go along.

  2. Thank you Martha and Sandra! I have The Plot Whisperer Book and plan on getting the Workbook. It's at the top of my list!

    How exciting to see how the right questions can put the spotlight on problems in a MS. I'm going to have to read that again tomorrow.

    Thank you for the insight and the Chocolate velvet coffee. Yum! And so many prizes available. I'm up for any of them!

  3. Hello Sandra and Martha! It's always interesting reading about what writers do to improve their work and this was certainly informative, I certainly know who to talk to if I ever write a book. ;-)

    Please pass the carrot cake. I hope it has loads of cream cheese frosting.

  4. thanks for the post. My goodness that sounds like a lot of information. I'll have to read it again.

    and perhaps get the book.

    Sure does give one something to think about.

  5. How exciting! I'm working on plot right now and I want it to work out. I just ordered Blockbuster Plots, because, uh, yeah, like I said, I'm trying to plot. Now. I've only made it to chapter two. I have a few scenes written on note cards, but not enough to keep the story moving forward and I know I need to have good motivation.

    Thank you for such a great post.


  6. Thank you both for the fantastic blog today.

    Martha, my internet connection was upgraded to a faster speed a few days ago and now I can watch You Tube videos. Top of my to-watch list is your Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

    Best wishes

    Ruth Ann

  7. Holy Smokes!

    This was like a bomb to my WIP. Forget about whispering.

    Now that I've sort of picked up the pieces, I think it's fitting back together. Mostly the way it was before, and some new parts.

    Wow. I love this place.

    Thanks for sharing, Sandra and Martha! This was a huge help and I think I need this book as a reference on my shelf. I don't have very many, but this one is a must.

  8. Martha and Sandra, thank you for this inside look!

    Look at all the folks you've helped already! That rocks!

    Lovin' the coffee, Sandra. Chocolate velvet hits the spot this morning.

    You know, when I struggle with where my plot should go, first I pray...

    And then I muse various directions in my head... And I kind of play it through, movie style, like that old Sesame Street routine: The little guy who pictured what would happen if he stole his sister's ball... and then she cried.... and then Mom would come...and then Mom would be angry... and then he'd mouth off...and then get sent to his room... while his sister ate ice cream...

    If I mentally examine the action/reaction of what the characters would do in my head, it helps me to "see" which would be the best direction to take.

    My theory is if all these stupid people are LIVING in my head, they oughta do something to pay their own way, right???? :)

  9. Welcome Martha.

    Sandra, congrats on your ebook. Thanks for sharing your session with Martha.
    I'm trying to write my synopsis now, and I think this will help tremendously.

    I ordered the Plot Whisperer the other day, but I'd love to have my name in the pot for the other prizes.

    Thanks so much!

    Jackie L.

  10. Thanks for the great advice, Martha.

    Getting an inside look at deconstructing your story and seeing how another person would fix a lagging plot is very valuable.

    Definitely a process I can use.

  11. I need a plot screamer here. Please put me in the drawing(s) -- I need to identify those 4 markers and create a more structured plot. Thanks for such great advice!

  12. AMAZING stuff! So incredibly helpful. Please enter me for the consult :) Already have the book.

  13. Wonderful post ladies! Thank you for sharing the process Sandra! I look forward to hearing about the sale of this book!

    And you are extremely generous with your birthday treats!

    I love the feeling when someone doesn't have to point out the problem but simply asks the right questions and you find it yourself. That's the sign that Martha knows just what she's doing!

    I am avoiding sugar and that carrot cake is driving me crazy. I must stand on the other side of the room!

  14. Thank you, Sandra. I am so excited about this post and have printed it out. I am struggling with this very issue at the moment, whether to cut a suspense subplot, etc.

    For those who want the Blockbuster book, it is $2.99 in ebook format at the moment. I live for inexpensive help.

    Please put me in for the consult, and Martha's books. I have yours but I will be buying your new one when it is sold!

    Peace, Julie

  15. What a wonderful post! I recently purchased The Plot Whisperer workbook for myself, and liked it so much I ordered another one 2 weeks later for my critique partner's birthday. I would LOVE it if I won an hour consultation with Martha.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us today. I agree, talking out your plot sometimes makes everything clearer. I do that alot with my husband who somehow always asks the perfect question that makes me see the big gaping hole in my novel--that's not always a good thing, lol.

  16. Oh, wow, Sandra! This is so cool! I think it really does help to have someone who understands the elements of storytelling who can ask insightful questions and get us to think outside the box, to help us fill in those "gaps" and see what we have more clearly. I have "The Plot Whisperer" and, of course, attended several of Martha's workshops at Desert Dreams last spring -- but I want to get the workbook soon!

  17. While I don't think I'll ever be a plotter, I'm discovering I need to become more of a hybrid, combining pantsing and plotting. Thanks for this look into the Plot Whisperer. I'll certainly be reading this post again then going on to discover more.

  18. Hybrid. lizzie I'm with you.

    Welcome, Martha. Or shall I say, welcome back.

  19. Good Morning Sandra and Martha!

    I am printing out this post and looking for those books.

  20. What an informative post. Thanks for sharing.
    amy campbell

  21. Good morning all. Thank you for stopping by and even better, commenting. I love hearing how writers work, what fills them with confidence and where we fall apart.

    Early on in my own writing, I learned to read my manuscript aloud. A different modality kicks in when the words hit your ears and you understand your story differently.

    That's why I developed the Scene Tracker and the Plot Planner -- for writers to see their stories differently. Rather than become seduced by your brilliant words, stand back and see the inner workings of your story.

    Like trying on a new dress and seeing it from all sides, not just front-on with our eyes squinted and head cocked to the side. All sides...

  22. Darn! From this angle, I see I better lay off of the carrot cake for awhile...

  23. Sandra and Martha, I loved hearing how the process works. Thanks so much for sharing this! So many great insights. I probably need to take some of this and figure out where my story needs to be stronger.

    Martha's on You Tube? That's cool!

    I'd love to be in all of the drawings. This was great today. I'll be coming back to re-read this.

  24. Wow, that sounds like so much fun, to have a consultation with a plot whisperer!!! I was thinking of a couple of my as-yet-unpublished books that I need a plot whisperer for! Sometimes you're just too close to the story to see the big picture. That is definitely true for me. That is why I think people with "editor brains" are big picture thinkers and therefore make good editors--or plot whisperers!

    I do need to get that plot whisperer workbook. That's just the sort of thing I like to use when I'm editing, or plotting. It helps to ask those hard questions, to get into the minds of my characters and into the details and purpose of my plot.

    Very cool, Sandra and Martha! Thanks for sharing this process with us!

  25. Melanie, I agree...

    Martha made a great point about that, about being too close to the story, or a hero/heroine too much like ourselves and we fill in the blanks mentally without putting them on paper.

    Such a common sense thing, but so easy to miss!

  26. Wow, This was not the morning to sleep in. Sorry folks. I never set the alarm because I always wake up early. Go figure.

    And so glad you're enjoying Martha's helpful hints.

    And glad to hear many of you already have her book. Isn't it helpful?

    And yes Renee the carrot cake is LOADED with cream cheese frosting. Ruthy's recipe. And don't forget folks we make cake with no calories.

    So Martha, go for it. smile And you too Debra.

  27. Rather than become seduced by your brilliant words, stand back and see the inner workings of your story.

    Hehe, love it!

  28. Melanie and Ruthy, I do that so often. I think something is in the story but find out it is only in my head.

    Hi Glynna, You're the one who kept telling me how wonderful the Plot Whisperer was. You were right of course.

  29. Susan and Virginia, I'm with you. Forget about whispering. The bomb and screaming is much more appropriate. LOL

  30. Ruth Ann and Jeanne, The YOu Tube videos are wonderful. You will love them. Something about hearing her talk helps to understand what she is saying.

    The books are great, but the videos help make it clear.

  31. Hi, Renee, it's great to see someone else on this blog whose not a writer. I imagine you must be a readaholic, or whatever name is in now?

  32. Hi, Renee, it's great to see someone else on this blog whose not a writer. I imagine you must be a readaholic, or whatever name is in now?

  33. This is a wonderful and informative post. Among other things, I learned that Martha did phone consultations. I did not know that!

    Thanks for sharing!

  34. Marianne and Renee,

    We love readers.

    You are always welcome here.

    Only you will find out how crazy a writer's world is. smiling.

  35. Good morning, Sandra and Martha!

    I liked this comment you made, Martha: Keep in mind that one of the surest ways to pull the reader deeper into a story is through the use of curiosity. Don’t give away her backstory. And for sure, not her backstory wound. Not yet. That’s for later.

    I love it when a talented writer can do this - we readers want the story to unfold slowly so we can savor it, but at the same time we want glimpses along the way.

    One of my challenges as a writer is to give my reader that same unfolding experience when I already know all the details. Sometimes it works...

    I'd love to be in the drawings! Thank you!

  36. Ohh, loved this post! Thanks Sandra and Martha.

    I try to plot 4 "energetic markers" too. I call them EXPLOSIONS! lol

    They're not always real explosions, or like Mary's never-fail plan of shooting someone at every plot point, but they give the reader a surprise, a shock, or an "aha" moment to keep her reading.

    And, I like the idea of looking at the climax first too. Martha, you and I would definitely hit it off! A 2 hour chat on the phone would go really fast! lol

  37. I REALLY needed this post today as I work through my WIP. Thank you Martha and Sandra!

    It's nice to know that throwing too much out there too soon and thinking that your reader knows what's in your head are two things I constantly work on.

    What neat and generous prizes! Seekerville, you rock!

  38. Do you have the link to the YouTube videos in the post? Or do I just look up Plot Whisperer?

    I am such an auditory learner I jump up and down when I find resources I can listen to!

    I have marked my calendar for this weekend. If I don't win resources, I am going to purchase for sure. Sounds like everyone finds them to be a fabulous resource. Yeah!

    Peace, Julie

  39. Thanks for this post. Sign me up to win any of the above!
    Isn't it interesting how the best help for our writing is someone who asks the right questions to pull the answers from ourselves? That's the best kind of help, in my opinion.

  40. Thanks for the reminder about curiosity. When I read the first chapter to my critique group, everyone said, "I want to know more about (fill in the blank)." At first I thought I should go back and add the extra details they wanted, which naturally dragged the story to a halt. From now on I'll just smile knowingly and say, "Keep reading and you'll find out." :)

    I'd love to win one of the how-to books. I'm probably not far enough along to make good use of the hour call.


  41. I forgot about the no-calorie cake. Thank you, Sandra!

    Have any of you ever written an entire draft without going back and starting over at the beginning until you've written the end first?

    Impossible, right?

    Something to strive for nonetheless.

    Intrepid, forging ahead into the great unknown...


    Timid, running back and forth to safety...

  42. Julie if you go to Plot Whisperer website she lists all the You Tubes. They are great.

  43. Martha, I love that "timid running back and forth to safety" my my (holding hand up) Guilty.

    Julie had a question about You Tube. Can you let us know if there is another way? Thanks.

  44. Pam you and Martha would end up more like two days. LOL

  45. This is a super helpful post! The Plot Whisperer, I love it! Thanks!

  46. Very interesting post! I enjoyed it and learned from it.

    Thanks so much! Maybe I'll print this one off.

  47. Yes, my youtube channel is:


    On the right side are featured playlists. I've tried to organize them in helpful ways -- like if you're stuck in the middle of your story, you click on the Plot the Middle playlist and it will give you videos that fit in that category.

    How Do I Plot A Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? is by far the most popular. Another favorite is the Monday Morning Plot Book Group.

  48. Martha and Sandra thank you for sharing with us. It's great information especial for a panster like me. I need to get a copy of the book.

  49. Oh, please put my name in the hat for either the call or the book. I sooo need this.

    The ms I'm currently working on has several fun scenes, but I don't think they're going anywhere. And I've struggled w/my hero character too.

    Such valuable info.

    Connie Queen

  50. Sandra & Martha,
    Thanks for this information. I appreciate the guests on Seekerville, and Martha is one I want to learn more from. I'd love to have the plot whisperer book and/or workbook.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Ruth T

  51. Sandra and Martha, thanks for sharing this process with us! I'm within a chapter or two of finishing the "first" draft of my current wip, and since it's #2 in a 3-book series, already thinking ahead to the next book.

    And . . . since I am absolutely a pantser, beyond who the characters will be and that they will end up happy ever after, I have NO IDEA what's going to happen!

    So for me, every writing day is a journey of discovery. A scary one, for sure. If these exercises would actually help me find some answers ahead of time, that would be great! But usually I can't "see" what the story is about until I'm deep into writing it scene by scene.

  52. WAWZAH!
    Going to savor this with some of Helen's coffee and cake at the Yankee Belle.
    Or however that goes.
    Thanks Sandra and Martha!

  53. Myra, I see you as a natural-born storyteller. You know intuitively what comes next and are open enough to listen and trust what comes.

    For others of us, we learn that rhythm by writing and studying the craft and overtime come to an understanding of the inner workings of every great story.

    We have a great deal to learn from writers like you, Myra. Thank you.

  54. I already have your book Sandra - but I'd love to be in the other drawings.

    Especially as I spent last night crying and tearing my hair out over a plot point [er - only sort of figuratively].

    But I'm like Myra. I have a vague idea but that's about it. I can manage to get the [probable?] turning points on paper for the series, but that's about it. Such a pantser.

    Oh to one day be called a natural-born storyteller!

    Dunno about explosions etc but definitely something to think about as I dive into this more later today. I *think* I have the basis for the plot changes but gotta figure the rest out today.

    What I'm really, really thankful for is that I don't think I'm going to have to rewrite the last 1/3+ of the book. Some yes, but not a complete scrapping.

    Thank God.

  55. So, call me clueless, or tell me to buy the book, but can someone explain the 4 energetic markers? Is this something particular for each story?

    Gosh, I feel like I'm asking if the sky is blue since so many seem to know what the markers are.;)

  56. Hi Martha & Sandra,

    Thanks for sharing this process! I struggle with plot points and turning points and all of the above!

    Btw, what are the 4 major turning points? One is climax which I think I have down pat, but the others elude me!

    I would love to be in all the drawings!

    Off to check the You-Tubes.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  57. Okay Martha, I'll let you answer Susan and Christina's question about the energetic markers. Or as Pam calls them, explosions.

    Myra, she is soooooo right about you. smiling

  58. Martha, I am definitely of the age to appreciate having a blast! LOL

    Thanks for the great post, Martha and Sandra! And for sharing your consultation experience. Martha, I've been watching your videos online and have learned so much!

  59. Watching the videos now. Good stuff!

  60. I'm always up for new ways to look at fixing things. Your books sound very helpful. I'd love to win a copy.

    Thanks for sharing both sides of this experience. It makes more sense that way. I want to know the 4 major turning points too!

  61. Oh my! I have got to get the book and workbook. I love it...Thank you for sharing today. Every author can use any and all info when it comes to making your writing better.....

    Thank you so much...


  62. Thanks for the great post! I need some steering in my story right now and any ideas helps.
    I've seen the books around the web but haven't had the chance to read them. I'll look for them now.
    THANKS again!

  63. Martha, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for bringing her, Sandra. I found the post fascinating. Lots of great information and what look like wonderful resources for writers. I'm heading out to You Tube!


  64. This was a great post! Thanks to you both for sharing.


  65. Today is my birthday so I am delighted for the opportunity to celebrate with you. And what a wonderful birthday gift, all that information.

  66. Missy, This is a blast isn't it???

    I'm so outdated that I didn't even realize a blast was also. LOL

  67. Happy birthday, Simply Sharon!

    Yikes, go for a walk and I miss out on all sorts of fun!

    Okay, the energetic markers.

    The beginning of your story (1/4 of the word, scene or page count) ends with The End of the Beginning scene. This moment turns the story from the introductory world to the "good part" -- the middle.

    The 1st half of the middle of your story (1/4) ends at the halfway mark with a Recommitment scene (or commitment scene if your protagonist has been kicking and screaming all throughout the exotic world thus far.

    The 2nd half of the middle (1/4) has another one of the 4 major Energetic Markers that lands around 3/4 or so of the way through your story = the darkest moment in the entire story and represents a death of some sort -- like the death of an old personality that's been holding your protagonist back

    The last quarter of your story holds the climax which lands a chapter or scene before the end and showing the protagonist doing something that would have been impossible anywhere else in the story. She needed to experience every single scene to learn and grow and change and transform and seize the prize at the end.


  68. Hi Martha and Sandra:

    This is fantastic! Reading it is like doing a consultation. I am going to answer the same questions that Sandra answered and discover what new ways I can use to improve my plot.

    “The exciting thing that happened when Martha kept asking me questions is that I began to see the problem myself. She didn’t have to “tell” me.”

    This is the called Socratic method of teaching. It’s the best way to teach but the hardest to master. The teacher really has to know the material inside and out as well as knowing how to ask the right questions in the right order. I call this method: ‘teaching from the inside out as opposed to the typical lecture where the student is taught from the outside in. That you would make this observation is a great endorsement of Martha’s methods.

    BTW: You can read how well the Socratic method works in Plato’s dialogue, “Meno,” in which Socrates teaches an illiterate slave boy the Pythagorean Theorem by simply asking questions. Plato was a playwright and his work is the easiest philosophy to read.

    Martha is so generous with her knowledge, it’s flat out wonderful! It makes me want to make videos of my rewards program.

    Sandra, you also said something that really rang a bell!

    “But sometimes we get so close to our project we think what is in our head is on the paper.”

    I’ve seen this problem in novels but have never encountered such a clear way of expressing it. It’s a problem when a passage has been rewritten dozens of times. At this point the author really no longer knows what is still in the copy and what is not. The copy plays very well in the author’s mind but to the reader it is very choppy. I actually asked an author, (a Seeker!) did you write that first chapter twenty times? She said, “No, I wrote it fifty times.” (A first novel, of course.)

    Another bad case of this is with the first one or two pages of a book. The author knows the whole book and all the events and characters but the reader knows nothing (except the blurb). I’ve had books where I had to reread the first two pages over and over and still could not make much sense of them. But once the book was read, those two pages read perfectly well. No problem.

    Again: this post rings so true. I can’t wait to test my WIP according to these guidelines. I can already see things I need to do to make it better. Thanks for this great material.

    I must say, however, that the “Whisperer” thing has me intrigued. The horse whisperer tries to whisper the horse into doing something it naturally does not want to do. Can a ‘plot whisperer’ whisper a non-plotter into plotting? As they say, “You can lead a horse to the best water in the world but you can’t make the horse drink”. In essence, can you get pantsers to plot? Of course, pantsers are really ‘after-the-fact’ plotters. Which leads to one last question for Martha:

    Would you rather consult on a plot after the first draft is completed or before the writing begins?

    Martha and Sandra: thanks for being so generous with your expertise and willingness to share. I’ve been very impressed and helped by all Martha's videos.


    P.S. I have Martha's plotting book so I’d like a chance at the workbook or consult.

  69. Aaaack!!! Natural-born storyteller??? I'm so flattered! I thought I was just a lazy writer who couldn't focus well enough to map out a story ahead of time! See, I'm one of those writers who hears somebody mention a word like "snowflake"--or worse, "outline"--and runs to hide under my desk.

  70. Wow, this is a great post with a lot of great information in it. Thank you for coming to Seekerville today and letting us know about all of these wonderful resources. I have never heard of the energetic markers, but they do make sense. Thank you for that!


  71. Socratic method--exactly how my son-in-law teaches. Until the kids left for the mission field again last summer, he was teaching Old Testament at a Christian high school, and every kid he ever had in his class just loved him. While other teachers were cramming facts down their throats, he was inviting them to think and reason and discuss.

  72. It's so helpful to see how a consultation would run. I learned a lot! Thank you.


  73. I'm a plotter, but coming up with unique, compelling plots is my weakness. I'm so glad this worked out for you, Sandra. I will have to check out her workbooks. Thanks for sharing!

  74. The Plot Whisperer and the Plot Whisperer Workbook saved me from walking away from my work in progress and helped me focus on each scene - my protagonist's emotional development and maintaining the theme as the story progresses. Thank you so much for creating this series.
    Lisa Pedersen @UrbanMilkmaid

  75. Thank you, Vince, for your kind words! I've got one of those mesmerizing glows replete with goosebumps to the point I'm ready to follow you anywhere.

    What a nice thing to say.

    i love to do plot consultations with writers no matter where they are in writing their stories.

  76. I'm definitely an out-loud thinker, so I can totally relate! Great post! Helped me see things from a big-picture vantage point. I love the way Martha's questions help expose the answers that were there, maybe latently, the whole time.

    Please enter me! I'd love a chance to win any of those books. :)


  77. Excellent post. Thank you both. And thanks for the giveaway.

  78. great post and comments. You all have such good questions.

    Thank you for the You Tube videos Martha!

    Happy Brithday Sharon. I'm going to go have a carrot instead of the cake.

    I'm plotting a new story. right thhis very minute...well when I get off the internet, so I'm going to re read.

  79. While on Martha's website, looking at the link from the post, Theme: A Writer's Touchstone, I saw another of her books advertised. It isn't available until 12/12 but looks like it will be very helpful. It is The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing. The prompts seem to be different tidbits that would give your story and characters dimension. That is going on my Christmas list!

  80. Oops, wrong date January 2013.

  81. I need a motivation whisperer. But something tells me motivation doesn't whisper. It drill-sergeant shouts. :) I usually panster my way into getting to know my characters, and then I loosely outline the plot from there. Someone isn't cooperating, and so I am unmotivated, looking at November's nanowrimo with a mix of dread and euphoric optimism. Whispering "help!"

  82. So happy to see your comment about the new book, Donna. I am so excited about it.

    The PW book came out last year explaining all the concepts with lots of story examples and along with the emotional ups and downs a writer experiences as she gets nearer and then thrust further from her writing goals, a journey very similar to what her protagonist experiences.

    The PWWorkbook is a place to plot and analyze your plot with space to fill in the exercises and templates and plot planners and scene tracker.

    The PW Book of Prompts takes what you understand from the book and created in the workbook and gives you scene-by-scene writing prompts to get you from the beginning to the end of writing your story with a plot.

    It's available for pre-order now. Hint, hint...

  83. thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! so helpful just to see the process.

    i would love a chance at either the book or workbook. not ready for a consult though...

    i am so looking forward to my birthday (the 29th) to see what cool post the ladies of Seekerville have created. a birthday gift waiting in the wings that i know will be awesome. all the Seeker birthday posts have been wonderful!

    Thank you muchly, Martha and Sandra.

  84. Kathleen, I believe motivation is directly linked to how confident you feel about what you're writing next. When you're uncertain or just moving words around on the page, your energy fades and you find reasons to procrastinate.

    When you feel confident about the next scene you want to write, you may feel a bit of trepidation but I bet you're also fired up, excited to see what comes.

    That's exactly what the PW Book of Prompts addresses. Turn to the section that corresponds to wherever you in the writing process and find affirmations and plot prompts to guide you forward.

    That book doesn't ship until Dec. this year. In the meantime, you can use the PWWorkbook to get your plot all set and organized and on your way. The new book will come out at the exact moment you need a bit of support. Or, so is my dream...

  85. Thanks for the reminder, Pammy. I just realized I haven't shot anyone in a while.
    I think that explains my general malaise.

  86. Oh my gosh!

    Oh my gosh!

    Oh my gosh!!!

    Great stuff today. Thank you for bringing Martha to Seekerville, Sandra.

    Just what I needed to read and process for my WIP.

    I'm saving this post and adding it to my important reference material.

    Hugs to both of you!

  87. >>Intrepid, forging ahead into the great unknown...
    Timid, running back and forth to safety...<<

    Ah, yes. Did I ever recognize myself in the "Why Writers Go Back to the Beginning" section in The Plot Whisperer. I felt like Martha had been watching me :-)

    The consultation sounds like it was terrific, Sandra. I so appreciate how Martha asked questions that guided rather than provided answers ... sharing insight and encouraging growth.

    Would love to be entered for the workbook!

    Nancy C

  88. Vince, Leave it to you to recognize the Socratic method of teaching. smiling

    It really does work though. Did you find it helped you?

  89. Mary, I can't believe you haven't had your sharpshooters out in awhile. tsk tsk. Get busy girl.

    Great comments all of you.

    Kathleen. Shouting helps. Trust me. LOL

  90. Really interesting, Sandra! I have all of Martha's books and I use them! They're so helpful.

  91. Martha, thank you so much for mentioning this on your blog today! I'd never heard of Seekerville.

    Sandra, thank you so much for making your exchange public. What a great - and brave - idea!

    I'm plodding with my plotting. I'm very visual so the Plot Planner is perfect for me. I had my dad make me a classroom-size whiteboard. I used black tape to map out the end of the beginning, crisis, climax and resolution architecture. Now I can use dry-erase markers, which make it so easy to move around above-the-line and below-the-line action.

    I have all of Martha's books and they're fantastic. I feel very fortunate to have found such a marvelous, inspirational mentor.

  92. Welcome to Seekerville Sara. You can see from the archives that we have many blogs with great info to share about the publishing world. Enjoy.

  93. Great post, with some invaluable insight. Thanks, very much.

  94. Hi Martha and Sandra,

    I have The Plot Whisperer and plan to dive into it this week to plan my Nano. As a "pantster" the prospect is a little daunting.

    Thanks for your work.

  95. Hi Martha and Sandra,

    I have The Plot Whisperer and plan to dive into it this week to plan my Nano. As a "pantster" the prospect is a little daunting.

    Thanks for your work.

  96. Nancy, I'm glad you recognized yourself. Does knowing that going back and starting again is futile until you've reached the end at least once help and prevent you from falling back on the old habit that doesn't work?

    Hi Sara, I love that your dad helped you with your board. I love that idea -- right up my alley, big and visual!

  97. Hi Sandra and Myra:

    I try to use the Socratic method in every class I teach.

    Myra had a great comment about her son-in-law’s teaching:

    “…he was teaching Old Testament at a Christian high school, and every kid he ever had in his class just loved him. While other teachers were cramming facts down their throats, he was inviting them to think and reason and discuss.”

    Here’s the thing: Socrates believed that we knew all things before we were born. When we were born all that knowledge was washed away. Learning was really just ‘remembering’ what we once knew. In the Meno a slave owner challenged Socrates to get his slave boy to ‘remember’ the Pythagorean Theorem. Socrates, by asking only questions, maneuvered the slave boy to where he came up with the answer. In effect, the slave boy came up with the theorem in the same way Pythagoras originally did -- by answering the right questions. Of course, Pythagoras was smart enough to ask the right questions in the first place. It has been said that the hardest part of science is asking the right questions and not in answering them.

    When the people you are teaching learn important things by answering your questions, like Meno’s slave, they feel smart and empowered. Very often they also understand why what they now know is true. They could do it again! What they just learned is not just a fact they temporarily committed to memory without understanding based on what a teacher told them.

    It is very hard to teach this way. The teacher must have total command of the subject. Then the teacher must compose many questioning approaches that will ‘pull’ out the requisite knowledge.

    The Old Testament and ethics are ideally suited to the Socratic method. Many subjects are not. Like historical dates. But plotting is made to order for this approach. I'm glad to see it being done here. When someone can do this, that’s who you want for a teacher.


  98. This has been running through my head all day long. The videos are priceless gems. Only made it through five before I had to jet out of the house, but I took notes answered questions while watching. Well, at least I was when I wasn't being seduced by oceanic scenes. Love me some ocean!

    Anyway, this blog is perfect timing for me. I intend listening to the next 40+ videos and then write my synopsis, hopefully with a good plot and the four energetic markers.

    Thanks, Seekerville! Sandra and Martha. Y'all rock. (Oh, can you tell I'm excited? I get to plot with some know how)

  99. Thanks so much for the YouTube links.

    I must echo Tamara and all the other pansters who have commented today. We have been given a friendly way to channel our ideas. Thank you for making structure a less than scary word!

    Peace, Julie

  100. I wrote both the PW book and workbook with women always in the front of my mind, from a woman's pov and addressing women's fiction (among other genres).

    Men traditionally have dominated the world of plot with war analogies and sports metaphors.

    I wanted to give women who gravitate towards character-driven writing and generally consider themselves pantsers a way into plot.


    Because I believe women have important stories to tell and I truly believe that a story with a plot is better than a story without one.

  101. Hello Marianne! LOL I'm not a writer but yes I'm a readaholic or bookaholic. I mostly just review books but I do enjoy visiting various blogs like this one too and chatting with all the fun, like-minded people! :-)

  102. So much good information. Thank you, Martha!
    Linda Cacaci

  103. Sandra, No calorie cake? Where's the fun in that??!!! heehee

  104. WEll Renee, Of course there are calories. But we are all in denial where they are concerned. We just claim that cakes baked on Tuesdays have no calories. And frosting loaded with cream cheese and sugar definitely doesn't have calories when whipped up on days beginning with T.

    I mean aren't we fiction readers and writers after all?

    And don't we love Happy endings?

    Oh please pass me another piece of cake. yum.

  105. Vince, You are so right in saying that teaching this method is a lot of work for the teacher. But isn't it worth it when you see those faces light up with the dawning of understanding?

  106. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  107. I have the Plot Whisperer book, and the workbook is definitely on my "books to purchase" list. Thanks so much for the insight into the consultation, too. I've been watching Martha's videos on you tube and they are great.

  108. A lot to digest here, in the post and the comments. Thanks for all the info, and for the giveaways too. :)

  109. Incredible post! This post will certainly be printed for my Seekerville Notebook. I think I need to order The Plot Whisperer express delivery for my NaNo project. I'm a panster, but I think I need to change my ways. Thank you so much.

  110. Thanks Seekerville! Martha, you're awesome! You're plotting advice always seems to click in my brain. Thanks for another nugget of information!

  111. Thanks, Seekerville, for having the Plot Whisper on! Martha, you're AWESOME, and I love the little nuggets of information you share with us. Thanks for all your wisdom!

  112. This is absolutely amazing!!!!! Thank you sooooo much for this blog. It has my mind whirling with ideas and, just maybe, the light bulb is flickering on!!!!! And wonderful that this is just a click away for eternity!!!!

  113. What a wonderful give away. And it was great to read how the plot consultation works. Sometimes you just need someone who is removed from the story to point out the issues.

  114. Oh these are the kinds of days I hate that I have to go to work. What a great post and fabulous discussion.

    Sandra, I love that just talking through it helped you see where you were going wrong. Thank you for being so incredibly generous with your offer of prizes today. I'd love to be in.

  115. I'm so excited to learn who among you wins the plot consultation!

    This has been an awesome day. Vince, I'm printing out both of your insightful messages.

    Still light here in No. CA. I'm look forward to meeting you who jois the party after dark...

  116. Plot Whisperer said...
    Nancy, I'm glad you recognized yourself. Does knowing that going back and starting again is futile until you've reached the end at least once help and prevent you from falling back on the old habit that doesn't work?

    Yes, it does. I'm learning to leave comments in the WIP when something crosses my mind or I'm tempted to go back and "refine." Changing the old habit has taken a lot of resolve, though :-)

    Nancy C

  117. Kav, you've made several comments over the last few days that makes me wonder if you're my long lost twin, if I had one.

  118. Hi Sandra and Martha! I'm so excited to find this post as I'm reworking my plot right now. I feel something isn't complete and can't put my finger on it. But I'm midway through the Plot Whisperer videos on Youtube and have learned SO much!

    I'm bookmarking this blog post and pulling it up when I break out my plot files again.

  119. WOW!! Thank you Sandra and Martha--great post (yep, another one for my Keeper File). I found myself nodding in agreement with so many examples you pointed out--I sure needed this post! ~ Hmmmm....you mean no one says "blast" anymore? LOL--I confess, I still use that word *grin*. Thank you BOTH for sharing with us! Blessings, Patti Jo

  120. LOL Sandra, well in that case pass me two pieces. ;-)

  121. What a great day wasn't it Martha? We have had so much fun with all of you.

    Thank you Martha for coming today and sharing your insights with Seekerville.

    Friends be sure and check the weekend edition for winners. I don't have a cat dish like Ruthy, but do have a good sized dog bowl if the Lab will keep his nose out of it. LOL

    We won't draw until morning so if you come late to the game you can still make comments. But I know the new post will be up in a minute or two.

    Thanks again Martha and friends.

  122. Thank you, Sandra, and thank you to everyone who visited and all of you who commented.

    I'll check back in the a.m. (Pacific time) to check for any last minute questions.

    Otherwise, Sandra, I've got my fingers crossed that you'll come up with another terrific idea for a plot post to celebrate the PW Book of Prompt in January -- the 3rd book in the Plot Whisperer trilogy.

    Happy plotting everyone!

  123. I loved hearing the inside scoop of a consultation with Martha. Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  124. Thank you so much for your post today. I would love to be entered into the drawing for your giveaway today!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  125. Excellent post full of information! I think I need this book as part of my writer's resources. Yes, enter me for one of the fabulous prizes!

  126. Great post! Please enter me in the drawing!

  127. I'm purchasing The Plot Whisperer TODAY! Right now. I have the amazon window open. Thank you for this information, and for the examples. The insight will do me a world of good. :)

    This human runs on java fuel. I need a refill please.

  128. I'm actually reading the Plot Whisperer right now. I've already read Blockbuster Plots, and am hoping to finish the current book AND the workbook by November 1st--in time for NANO. HA! Don't know if I will make it, but I am learning lots, and I've read a lot on story structure. I'm a plotter with a plot that isn't working for me and Martha's books are really helping me think about it a little differently. She gives a little different take on each of the parts. For example, she gave me more insight on the purpose of the first energetic marker and what it needs to accomplish for the protagonist. It really made me understand more what HAS to happen there. I would LOVE to win the consultation to speed up my process.

  129. SANDRA AND MARTHA ... SO sorry I am late to the party, but WOW, what a party and what a blog!!

    Sandra, it was SO helpful to go through this consult with you and Martha, getting both sides of the story -- fascinating!! It reminds me of a patient lying down on a couch in a psychiatrist's office and unloading their problems -- the doctor simply listens then gently guides them to the answers that lie within their own psyche!! VERY COOL!!

    LOVED your statement: "Keep in mind that one of the surest ways to pull the reader deeper into a story is through the use of curiosity."

    EXCELLENT point and one I had not really thought about, but definitely will in the future, so THANK YOU both!!


  130. Awesome! Thank you so much for such a helpful article, and for your generosity! I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

    Amber S.
    Larkspur, CO

  131. The climax of my novel has wobbly knees, so a plot whisperer sounds like exactly what I need. Thanks for introducing us to Martha ~ and please do enter me in the drawing.

  132. I have read the Plot Whisperer and it has helped me work through some of my early plot issues. I haven't bought any of her other books yet, and think the Plot Whisperer Workbook may have to go on my wish list! Thanks for this insight into what a consultation with Martha is like, I'm hoping I get to the point in my WIP that I can use a consultation like this.

  133. I'm coming in late. We were on the road in western Kansas yesterday. No internet there. :)

    I would love to visit with the Plot Whisperer. sallybradleywrites at gmail[dot]com.

  134. Excellent information which is helping me get my plot energized. Thank you!

  135. Oh, goodness. So much good information. I think the workbook will be on my tbb(to be bought) list.

  136. Thanks for the fascinating look into an author's writing/editing process! It just reminds me as a reader how much work goes into a novel.


  137. Interesting. I follow Martha's blog, which is tremendously helpful, but very interesting to experience a plot consultation through Sandra's eyes.

    I think a lot of writers feel like the answers to their writing problems are within them, but they just need a little help uncovering them.

  138. Martha & Sandra, thanks for sharing your experience!!!

    eva maria hamilton at gmail dot com

  139. Your plot information is priceless Martha & I enjoy your work so much.

  140. Is it too late?

    I'm going to pass this along to my friend with a link to this blog so she can get some pointers. She does short stories but would like to expand to a novel.

  141. How fascinating! Thank you for taking the time to do this!

  142. Something unique: the plot whisperer. Sounds truly interesting and good to hear that it worked for you. Thanks for having this on the blog.