Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Confessions of a Reformed Writer (Or How James Scott Bell Helped Me Find my Way out of the Mist).

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who loved to read. Writing books never ever crossed her mind. She beheld authors as on a pedestal. They were magicians who created the extraordinary stories that swept her away to other lands and times. Surely they weren’t mere mortals.

Time passed and the young lady grew up and got a job working for a movie company. One day, while traveling to a business conference, she grabbed a magazine in the airport newsstand. The magazine contained a feature on two women, California secretaries, who typed best-selling historical romances during their lunch hours.

That article was life-changing because the young woman, for the first time, began to consider that ordinary people could be authors. Did that mean even she could possibly become an author? Join the hallowed ranks of people like Frank Yerby and Gwen Bristow, Walter Farley and Irving Stone?

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I was that young woman. The year was 1984. I remember the moment as if it happened yesterday. I was a newlywed, alone on a business trip for Columbia Pictures. I picked up the magazine so I’d have something to read in my hotel room.  The two authors were Rosemary Rogers and Shirlee Busbee.

To this day, I credit that article for planting the seed that I could write a book. I’d always had ideas in my head. I’d always made up stories. It just never occurred to me that I could turn them into those magical books that meant so much to me.

Unfortunately, the article made it sound really easy. Have an understanding boss, type away whenever you have free time, and you too can write for Avon books.

I can hear you laughing at me.

It’s okay. With the gift of hindsight, I’m laughing too. Sort of. Apparently I’m a slow learner. And that’s where this story takes a detour - a thirty year detour.

But hang on. It has the requisite happy ending.

Along the way there were babies, graduate degrees, career changes (several of them), and even other interests.

But through them all, the seed that had been planted grew. Slowly - sort of like those evergreen trees that grow an inch every seven years. But it had deep roots that never let go. I snatched moments at dance class or in a coffee shop between work and picking up my daughters. I wrote freely and happily, ignorant of rules or conventions. I was in love with writing. Ordinary, mortal me was writing books!

There were some early successes (Golden Heart finals) and the amazing world of writers’ conferences where I met other women like me who also loved to write. We plotted over tea and scones while our children played. The rush and the joy were incredible.

But into every life a little rain must fall.



And then there was this thing called craft.

At writer’s conferences people were all talking about this mysterious thing called GMC. Everywhere I turned I was hearing Deb Dixon’s name.

I began to learn that writing wasn’t just fun. It took discipline, attention to craft, and (*heavy sigh*) it needed a structure.

I’ll spare you the following pain-filled years.

By now you might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with James Scott Bell.

Good question. I’m getting there.

But first…

A few years ago, as I was muddling through the land of unpubbed writers, I shared a post here about Jo Beverley and my light bulb moment hearing her speech at RWA about writers who write into the mist. That was so much nicer sounding than pantsers.  

 You can read that post if you want, but please come back. You don’t want to miss the happy ending. 

As more time went by, I had to acknowledge something. As much as I loved writing into the mist, it wasn’t working for me anymore.

The problem was I wasn’t just writing into the mist, I was getting totally lost in it. I was happy when I was writing, but I ended up with many, many hundreds of thousands of words on my computer and very few final, complete manuscripts.

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul, so I’m confessing. I was a mess. I was a messy writer, writing in a misty world, and I desperately needed a compass.

That’s where James Scott Bell comes in. I don’t know if he’s ever envisioned himself as a knight in shining armor, but he came to my rescue as surely as any hero on a white steed.

Confession #2. James Scott Bell has no clue about who I am. This rescue was rather anonymous.  It happened when I saw a tweet mentioning his book Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story.

I downloaded a sample to my Kindle App and my life changed again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You see, in between the mist post and me discovering Super Structure, there was some happy news. I sold a book. (More about that later).

Unfortunately, that didn’t solve my messy writing problem. In fact, it added pressure to repeat the feat.

My Kindle App doesn’t give page numbers for this book, but at the 11% mark I ran across a paragraph that practically screamed my name.  Bell quotes a post by John Vorhauson on Writer Unboxed about the huge, ragged mess he’s left with after writing his pantsed first draft. 

It made me want to cry. The mess he is talking about is one I know too well.
BUT, there was a ray of hope. Bell said he had a way to help pantsers become more efficient. Yes! My white knight!

The help he offers is a very simple but profound list of 14 signposts a writer can use to organize the story. The remainder of the book explains each signpost in great detail.

Why does this excite me so?

I’m a teacher. I know that children learn in different ways. So it makes sense that as adults we go about our work in different ways. Gather any group of writers together and you’ll see that we work in equally many ways. Pantsers are pansters (or misters) and plotters are plotters, and it’s really pretty futile trying to convince one that the other way is better.

The beauty of Super Structure is that it can work for each of us in our own way. Sort of like play dough, we get to mold it in a way that fits our style while keeping the same central backbone of structure. Plotters can use the signposts as they outline their novels. Mist writers like me can use the same signposts to make sense of the ragged mess of story we’re left with after speeding through that first draft. As Bell indicates, we’re not all that different really. The pantsers are simply writing that outline as a rather long, somewhat rough first draft.

In the book, Bell uses many examples from books and films to show how these signposts work to support great stories. He takes you through step-by-step explaining the role and location of each signpost. It’s amazing!

Why am I a fan?

Because for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel frustrated by my writing. I’ve tried plotting ahead. I can’t. My brain doesn’t work that way. The ideas that fill out my stories come to me as I’m writing them, as I’m getting inside my characters. I can’t force that ahead of time no matter how much I wish I could. But now, I have a way of wrangling all those ideas into a story with structure

And now for the happy ending:

I was chatting with Tina Radcliffe about Super Structure and how much I was enjoying reading it. She suggested I do a post about it. In a bit of serendipity, the date she asked for - today - was one year to the date when my full manuscript was due to Love Inspired as part of the Killer Voices contest.

On May 22, 2014, I had received notice that the editors wanted to see the whole book by June 9th.

I work well under pressure.  As the days to June 9th counted down, something clicked and I wrote like a maniac, determined to make that deadline. I had no idea if what I was writing was any good, but I didn’t have time to play like I usually do. I wrote at the speed of light, relying purely on instinct about where the story was going. Miraculously, Emily Rodmell found something worthy in my story and offered me a contract for the book.

Once that deadline was past though, I found myself falling back into the same bad habits. I was frustrated, but without the looming deadline, I didn’t know how to make my brain work differently.

So what do you do when your natural writing style is impeding progress and derailing your career?

You have two choices: give up or keep going.

If you decide to keep going, you have to remember the famous advice attributed to Einstein.  "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Fortunately my sanity was saved when I saw that tweet and downloaded Super Structure.

Out of gratitude, I’m offering one commenter an ecopy of SuperStructure.  Another reader will get an IOU for my debut, Christmas in Hiding, coming in October from Love Inspired Suspense under my pen name, Cate Nolan.

Oh, one final note: once I summoned my courage, I decided to put Christmas inHiding to the test. According to Bell, every great story has a moment exactly halfway through that is known as the “Mirror Moment”.  It’s the moment he wrote an entire book about (Write Your Novel from the Middle) It is the moment halfway through the book when the “main character has to figuratively look at himself, as in the mirror. He is confronted with a disturbing truth: change or die.”

Nervously, I opened Christmas in Hiding to the middle, and WOOOHOOOOOO, there it was, just where it was supposed to be - my Mirror Moment.

Somehow, in my mad rush, my instincts (honed by 30 years of trying) had me do it right.

Now I just have to pull it off again.

And so do you.

Good luck!

So let’s chat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts - about your writing styles, how you organize your writing, whether any of you are as messy as I am. Have any of you read Super Structure?

You already know Mary Curry. Now, meet Cate Nolan, Love Inspired Suspense author!

Cate Nolan lives in New York City, but she escapes to the ocean any chance she gets. A devoted mom, wife and teacher, Cate loves to leave her real life behind and play with the characters in her imagination. She’s got that suspense writer gene that sees danger and a story in everyday occurrences. Cate particularly loves to write stories of faith enabling ordinary people to overcome extraordinary danger. 


  1. Hi Mary, Congratulations on you first sale to LIS! I love reading call stories and it's wonderful to hear how James' book has transformed your writing. It's very cool to hear how the mirror moment is perfectly positioned in your story :)

  2. Mary, you have no idea how much I needed to read you post. I had one of those days. You know the kind. I know you do. The days when you're convinced that the books you've sold were total flukes and that you'll never be able to write a decent story again to save your life--or your fledgling career.

    But you just gave me hope! Thank you for that. I'm gonna hike up those big girl petticoats o' mine, set myself in front of my newfangled laptop and write--whether I feel like it or not. Whether what I end up splashing on my keyboard is any good or not. Because I'm a writer, and that's what writers do, right?

    I'm also gonna check out JSB's book. He knows his stuff, and if this here book can do for me what it's done for you, I gotta have it.

    Congratulations again on your Killer Voices sale! I was one of the hordes cheering you on and rejoicing with you each step of the way. I hope your release is everything you hoped it would be.

  3. Congratulations Mary! This is such awesome news! I'm curious about your pen name. Does it have special meaning or is it just a name you created?

    I could really use James Scott Bell's book but I would also love your book.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  4. Another 30 year graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, raising her hand!

    But graduation was really, really, sweet!! :)

  5. So this worked better for you than Hauge even? Your brain wrapped around it?? Why do you suppose?

  6. Hi Mary,

    I'm so excited for you! And I'm listening. Yesterday somebody else suggested I get JSB's Structure book. So I'm thinking I should!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Good morning, Seekerville.

    Thanks so much for having me again and for indulging my rather long trip down memory lane.

    I think by my post you can see part of my problem. The fact that my first draft of my next LIS came in at 90,000 words. Great, right? Um, not when the required word count is 55 - 60k.

    Never fear, JSB to the rescue. I'm cutting that baby down to size!

    Keli, I'm so glad you found it helpful. I do know exactly how you feel. It was pretty humiliating to have to admit to 1 in 30 the day after Laurie Ann's post about 13 contracts in 13 months! *hangs head*

  8. Narelle,

    Thanks so much for stopping by in the middle of our night. You're probably sleeping now, by hello and thanks for being enthusiastic for me.

  9. Hi Cindy,

    You're in the hat for both. Thanks for commenting. To answer your question, yes, Cate Nolan is based on something. Cate is short for Catherine (my Confirmation name) and Nolan is my mother's maiden name.

  10. Oh yes, Tina. Graduation was sweet indeed, but then come the post-grad blues and you start in all over again. But you know that. :)

    Thanks for having me today.

  11. Good morning, Jackie. Serendipity! Yes. Download the free sample for starters. I did that and I knew instantly this was just what I needed.

  12. Tina,
    Tough question. You know I love Hauge. I do. But Super Structure gives a very simple list of signposts that are great for wrestling that messy monster back into a cage.

    I tend to use Hauge when I'm envisioning the story and starting forward. I think this wrapped around my brain because I'm a scattered writer/thinker and this gave me a simple structure around which to organize the thoughts I'd already written.

  13. Congratulations Mary!

    I wrote 50K of my first draft and couldn't move forward anymore because I realised I had major plotting problems. Now I'm spending a lot of time planning, and I feel I can't move ahead until I've got the plot sorted out. So I'm definitely not a 'mister' :) I love JSB's teaching/coaching style so Super Structure sounds like it might be good for me to read. It might help me make sense of the 50K I originally wrote!

    Tina - I'm glad you brought up Hauge. I kept a post you did on Hauge a couple of years ago because it totally made sense for me. As a result I have his Six Stage Plot Structure chart on my wall beside my computer :)

  14. Good morning, Mary! Congratulations on the sale!

    And what coincidence that your topic is on a book that I just downloaded to my Kindle YESTERDAY! I had WAY TOO MANY years of barely begun or half-finished books--starting out with enthusiasm and a great idea and then flying off into the mist never to be seen from again. It was only when, as I gradually grew as a writer, that I began to better understand story structure. I still have MUCH to learn, thus the downloading of Bells's book yesterday! (Only $2.99 for Kindle right now!)

    Thank you for sharing the story of your journey, Mary!

  15. Mary, Thanks so much for your post. I am really encouraged by it. This is the second time this morning that I am seeing James Scott Bell's book mentioned to me. I think God is trying to tell me that I need to get this book ;o)

    Congrats on your new title!!

  16. Hi Mary,

    I've enjoyed watching your writing journey. Last year this time I'd started writing my own LIS so I'd be ready for this year. When I got half-way in I discovered it was outside the LIS guidelines and I had other goals to accomplish. I'm the the type who colors outside the lines--on purpose. So I need reminders to stay on course.

    Congrats on your success.

  17. Morning Mary and welcome to Seekerville today. What a great and inspiring post. I had no idea you had all that background because when we met you seemed so with it. smile I love hearing these stories because then it encourages me to keep on going.

    Congratulations on your LI. Have to chuckle when you say your original was 90,000 words. I'm that kind of writer too. LOL

    Have fun today and thanks so much for sharing.

    PS I think I'll download James Scott Bell's book. I've met him and heard him speak. Apparently I should have done this ages ago.

  18. I love how you picked your name. Isn't it fun? And isn't it great that you are at the point you need to? YAY

  19. What a great post Mary! You've convinced me. I NEED that book. James Scott Bell, rescue me from my mist. Which by the way, I love that term Mist Writer. Sounds so much better than a pantser. But whatever you call it - I'm definitely one of them and have learned a few tough lessons about trying to deviate from my God-given methods. I'm so looking forward to reading your book Cate Nolan!

  20. Mary, thanks for sharing your fascinating journey. I think I've read all of James Scott Bell's books for writers and found them really helpful. I've read a few of them twice.

    I've had to toss thousands of words, too. I'm a very messy writer.

  21. I haven't read Super Structure, but I'm planning to go a-hunting for it now on Amazon!

    I tend to start writing from the first page rather than outline a piece before writing, although I am working on outlining more. Craft is something I'm working on, so thanks for the great post!

    Would love to join the drawing!

  22. Hi Mary,

    Congratulations on your sale! Glad you stopped by for your virtual coffee this morning at Seekerville. My husband went fly fishing this morning so I've been up since 5:30. It took me two cups of the real deal to get to this point.

    I can't agree with you more about JSB's Super Structure. I used it while I was writing Dreams of My Heart, and it helped me build the bridge that allowed my imagination to soar. I'm a panster/plotter kind of gal.

    Please throw my name into the hat for your book! (And yes, I use too many exclamation points. ;-)


  23. Hi Mary,
    I absolutely love your post. That first paragraph is me through and through. I love learning about your journey, a journey I toy with taking from time to time. I enjoy reading so much I sometimes think I want to write too. Then on the flipside I think if I delve to far into the mechanics of it, it might "demystify" the joy of reading for me and that would be horrible.

    So, question #1, does writing alter reading enjoyment? I'd love to hear what you and the seekers/authors have to say about that.

    Question #2, I wanted to know about your pen name too, so thanks for answering that, but I'm curious as to why you chose to use a pen name.

    Please enter me for your LIS, Christmas in Hiding, I love suspense books.

  24. Mary, your story mirrors mine, except that I'm not published yet. I loved to write and I did write, but nothing clicked until I began to learn about structure. Haven't read Bell's book yet, but have been studying Dwight V. Swain and other teachers and learning to strengthen my structure. My crit partner is also a strong structure person and is helping me. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially this.
    Kathy Bailey

  25. This was just what I needed to read this morning—thank you, Mary! :-)

    Outline is a word that throws me back to high school and a stern english teacher determined to make me enjoy outlining. The very word makes me smell chalk and hear scratching on a green board. Now my teeth are hurting . . .

    Being a linear writer, I start with an opening and write the story as it unfolds in the lives of my characters—plotting and planning is too much like packing for a long trip—when I'm finished, I'm tired and no longer want to take the trip.

    BUT I want to learn to plot. Next stop, Amazon. Maybe JCB can rescue me too!:-)

    Loved your post.

  26. "The problem was I wasn’t just writing into the mist, I was getting totally lost in it. I was happy when I was writing, but I ended up with many, many hundreds of thousands of words on my computer and very few final, complete manuscripts."

    I LOVE this! I don't know about the mist, but I've totally been lost before. Maybe the fog was so heavy I couldn't see. I don't know.

    Congrats on LIS! So cool...

  27. Good morning again. I'm at school (We run well into June up here) so I'll pop in whenever I have a break.

    Hi Helen,
    I understand that feeling of not being able to move on far too well. It gets even more complicated when you don't do well at planning ahead. Lots of sighing here.
    I also have that 6 - stage plot structure posted by my computer. I guess I need all the help I can get.


  28. What an upbeat, encouraging, teaching post, Mary. So fun to hear what worked for you and why. Question: do you think you would have been receptive to this approach had you known about it earlier?

    Congratulations on Christmas in Hiding! May there be many more stories.

    Nancy C

  29. Hi Glynna,

    In a sad sort of way, it's nice to know I'm not alone (though I would love to spare others the misery). I guess Bell understands the desperation and frustration of his audience. I hope you find the book useful. Thanks for your encouragement.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Loraine, it's so gratifying to read that my post can encourage others. I've certainly been the beneficiary of years of encouragement from others. I hope you find the book as helpful as I did.

  32. Cate Nolan..........very cool.!
    Looking so forward to the book, Mary!

  33. Okay, I preordered Christmas in Hiding. LI Suspense! FUN!!!

  34. Yay, Mary/Cate! Congratulations on being a LIS AUTHOR!

    Your story of finding your way in the mist is so encouraging. I'm envious of the evocative label, mister, you found for panster. I'm a plotter. Now I want to consider myself a treasure hunter because that sounds more exciting than plodding along. In my treasure hunter type of writing, I already know what I'll discover at the end, but I want the trail to be in the right direction and provide interesting clues along the way. Super Structure sounds like the perfect craft book for adding important sign posts to my treasure map. Thanks for helping me find another valuable James Scott Bell book.

    Please enter my name for either book. Good to learn how you came up with your pen name....I'd wondered. I'm looking forward to reading the Cate Nolan debut novel.....and love the title! Wishing you many more book blessings!

  35. I love hearing stories of how authors came to their understanding. And I love craft books! I have Bell's Write from the Middle book, but I don't have this one. Can you say one click? Speaking of mirror moments, I'm right in the middle of Gwen Bristow's Jubilee Trail where Garnet has hers! I always knew we were kindred spirits! Congrats on the LIS contract and here's to many more!


  36. Mary/Cate, Thank you for the inspiring, exciting post! I so relate to your struggle to go from having fun with writing to having success with writing!

    I'm a bit of both panster and plotter and struggle to get a handle on the story with every book. Guess I'd call myself a hybrid mess. Like Piper, I have Bell's Write from the Middle craft book, but think I need to buy this one too. Thanks for letting me know that it's only $2.99 now, Glynna!

    Mary, I'm so excited for you on the release of your debut LIS!!

    Will I see you at RWA?


  37. I love this!

    I am currently reading James Scott Bell's Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story. I'm 100% a pantser, and I'm praying using Bell's techniques will help me take my Blurb 2 Book manuscript to the next level.

    Mary, thanks for sharing and for always being so encouraging!! I can't wait to read your LIS debut novel.

  38. Congrats, Mary! I'm all about structure now, even though I started out winging it and not doing very well. Conflict, what? I cut my writing teeth on Dwight Swain, so I'm a GMC fanatic.
    You go girl!

    I'm curious how/why you picked a pseudonym so different from your own name when you were already known to the writing community. I love to hear how authors come about their decisions on branding.

    Great post. xoxo

  39. hi Mary
    fellow Killer Voice peep here. I don't have your problem of too many words - rather, I don't ever seem to have enough. Perhaps I've taken the concept of brevity too far. I'm so excited about your debut LIS and would love an IOU for it to come my way. It will probably help me as I muddle through my R&R from KV (yes, I'm still muddling and worried the editors will take me for a lazy writer)

    This post is wonderful in many ways and gives me hope, however minute. Thanks!!! I believe I'll be wandering over to Amazon to get that 2.99 Kindle Super Structure book. I've got the Writing from the Middle one but haven't read it all yet. I think I'll really need this as my MS gets a complete overhaul. I take solace in the fact that the editors liked my idea and want me to try again.

    Great, great post and many thanks for sharing!!!!! *snoopy dancing for you as count-down to release day approaches* (October is my birthday month so, great debut month IMHO *heh*)

  40. Hi Mary, what an interesting post. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I've read Write Your Novel from the Middle and would love to read Super Structure, so please enter me in the draw.

    I tend to write myself into corners, so some sort of roadmap would be a great help.

  41. Great post, Mary. I tend to be a bit of both plotter and pantser. I plotted the novel I started writing for Speedbo, but there were plenty of places where I really had nothing and I am trying to work through those sections to see what comes. I haven't been doing a very good job of it. Congrats on your success. Please enter me in the drawing for either book.

  42. So have you changed your writing style, Mary, or learned how to work within that structure?

    I tried to change.

    Then I realized I just needed to trust myself.

    Perhaps I should read Bell's book.

  43. You worked for Columbia Studios? More details please! :)

    I want the whole story. How exciting!!!

  44. It's such fun to read all your comments and see where everyone else is on the journey. I promise to get back to each of you, but it may take a bit. Lots of construction and end of the year activities here at school and of course today had to be the day my lunch break got cut short.
    But I will keep popping in and will answer everyone as soon as possible.

    I really do appreciate all the encouragement and everyone's shared thoughts.

  45. Michael Hauge also talks about the mid-point moment.

    Hmmm? I need to check my stories.

  46. Mary, when is your last day of school? School here has been out for almost three weeks. Of course, we also go back the middle of August.

  47. Hi Mary:

    When I was a student pilot my flight instructor used to say, "flying into the mist is the fasted way to crash and burn."

    He'd also say, "You're not a bird, don't try to wing it!" A pilot can be going full speed straight towards the ground and believe with all his soul that he is climbing. The body, in other words, lies!

    I couldn't wait to buy "Super Structure". I hurried to Amazon, clicked on purchase, and was told I already owned the book! JSB is on my auto-buy list for all his nonfiction books. Still a good thing because when I checked my Kindle, I hadn't read it yet! I need to get on it this weekend.

    I was at Bell's class in Crested Butte and he held the audience spellbound the whole time without ever using notes or overheads or any props whatsoever. He just hit us with one useful bit of information after another. We didn't want to miss a word. I've never been so well rewarded for listing to a writing teacher before. If you can see him in person, do it!

    Now what I'd love to know is how hard is it to wait for so many long months until your first book comes out? For me, not having to wait so long might be the best part of being an Indie writer. (Even for me it seemed like it took two years for Tina's first book to come out.)


    P.S. Please put me in for a future on your debut book. I always double my reading of Christmas books. The happiest HEAs are always around Christmas. I'm still feeling warm after-effects from reading "Red Kettle Christmas"! Whence comes another?

  48. Mary, I love, LOVE your story! I haven't read SuperStructure yet, but I've read a few other JSB books. He has an amazing way of sharing how to craft a great story. The mirror moment is something I'm working to incorporate into my stories, too. It's fun to hear how your writing journey is progressing! Congratulations on all you've accomplished. :)

  49. Mary, I completely get the 30 year journey.
    Lots of parallels. :)

    So keep going, girl. Enjoy the ride!!!

  50. Mary, I am deeply touched by your kind words. Nothing makes me happier than being able to help another writer. Congratulations on your recent success, and may there be many more!

  51. Woot!! Thanks for stopping by Seekerville!!

  52. I'm chiming in with Tina to thank James Scott Bell for stopping by Seekerville. You are such an encouragement. I have now Super Structure on my Kindle and can't wait to delve in, but must finish my edits first. This makes my third JSB How To book.


  53. Welcome, Mary! I did the same thing with one of my books after reading Jim Bell's book about writing from the middle. There was my mirror moment!

    Really busy this week with a grandson's graduation festivities. Hope to get back to Seekerville more regularly in a few days.

  54. Welcome back Mary!! What a wonderful post! I love this story and the happy ending. :)

    You know, I'm kind of doing the opposite. I was a pantser briefly way back in the beginning, then a long-time plotter, and now I'm heading back the other direction a little. I've written a couple of my novellas without much planning ahead and had a really good time with it. I'm just not sure what to do in the future! Maybe a mix. :)

  55. I see Jim dropped by! I'm glad he heard about the post. :)

  56. Sherida, I like the term treasure hunter! I think that's kind of what I did with my novellas. :)

  57. Barbara, it sounds as if we may be similar.

  58. Mary, congratulations on your book. This post was just what I needed as I begin my writing journey. Please enter my name for either of the books. Thanks.

  59. Vince, a number of us heard JSB at ACFW some years ago. He was wonderful!!! We were all hanging on his every word!

    How lovely that he could stop by the blog today! Waving, in case he returns! :)

  60. Janet, you mentioned edits. I'm revising my last twenty pages of a novella. I'm inching along and taking entirely too much time to get to THE END! Maybe I should have Started in the Middle! :)

  61. Amen to the messy writing stuff! LOL I've never heard of the Mirror Moment...must check that out!!!! Loved hearing about your writing journey. So encouraging. Can't wait to read your debut.

  62. Mary Curry, I love this story. I think I read that same article about Rosemary Rogers...I just knew I'd love being an author for Avon and had picked out the model of red sportscar I'd buy with my first royalty check.


    ANYWAY, I'm glad you mentioned JSB. I love his writing philosophy(s). Writing a book from the middle works with my brain. I'm skipping off now to check out Super Structure and will probably use my 1-click so it will magically appear on my Kindle. Don't you just love this day and age???

    Once again, super congrats on your sale to LIS!!!!!!!!!!

  63. Glynna, thank you for mentioning the $2.99 price of Super Structure . I just downloaded it...along with Write Your Novel from the Middle which is also $2.99. I can afford $2.99.

    Thank you, Mary and James Scott Bell!

    So remove me from the structure book giveaway, but PLEASE keep me in for Cate Nolan's Christmas in Hiding!

    Now to look for my Mirror Moment!

  64. Cate, I'm just got home from a night on a Chicago airport floor, and I tend to say all the wrong things when I'm tired (the plus side of that is that I have a GREAT DEAL OF EXPERIENCE apologizing....) so I'm going to just say how wonderful this is!

    Pantsers have to learn how to pre-plan or pre-structure to a certain degree, and this is full of awesome advice.

    I'm stopping now.

    I have identified my own weakness and silence is better at the moment.

    Love you to pieces.


  65. Thank you, James Scott Bell for dropping by Seekerville!

    I now have Super Structure on my Kindle.
    I've pre-ordered Christmas In Hiding.

    And a super Woot! to Killer Voices!!

  66. Aw, James! Thanks for dropping by!

    I love that Killer Voices opened doors for new writers to step through. I would not be where I am today if Melissa Endlich hadn't found me in Finally a Bride (Oklahoma Romance Writers, I love 'em!!!!).

    How special it is that Love Inspired isn't afraid to launch new authors each year.

    Cate, I just made toffee/brickle Chocolate Chip cookies. I brought a plate to share because I got nothin' but love for ya!

  67. Ah, I just checked the middle of the novella that's in edits and I think I have that mirror moment. Yay! :)

  68. I'm home, I'm home. I can finally catch up.

    First, thank you to everyone who has stopped by to visit today. Thank you, James for stopping in to say hello and for your gracious words. I hope you had a chance to see all the wonderful things everyone has had to say about you and your teaching. Well-deserved praise!

    And now I'm off to catch up on comments and answer questions.

    Since I'm enjoying a late afternoon snack of German Chocolate Cake gelato, I'm bringing some to share with Ruthy's toffee-brickle cookies. All calorie-free of course thanks to the wonders of cyberspace.

  69. I echo Vince's advice to sign up for JSB's classes whenever you can. Great teacher and I only fell asleep once! lol

    JK JSB!

    Rhonda, good luck on your Blurb2Book. Cheering all the B2B's on! :)

  70. I think we just need to call you Mary Cate from now on. :) The name's just too cute not to.

    Ruthy's cookies... Mary Cate's German Chocolate Cake. What are you guys trying to do to me????

  71. Elaine, I love people who are comfortable enough in their own skin to do things their own way. I like to think that's what I was doing as a mist writer, but I suspect I was just confused - and stubborn. ;( Best of luck to you as you strive for your own goals.

    Uh oh, Sandra. I may have to hide next time I see you now that the rose-colored glasses are off. ;) My story is nothing if not encouragement to not give up.

    A favorite quote that has sustained me through the years is attributed to Richard Bach (who says he got it from someone else). "A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit."

    I may have taken breaks, but I didn't quit.

  72. Pam, Mary Cate seems to be the popular way it's going. Maybe I should stick with that.

    Cindy, Isn't mist writer cool sounding? It just reminds me of these wonderful, mist-laden mountain scenes and me happily writing away. Except that Vince had to go and crash my plane. ;)

    Hi Cara, I also have a bunch of his other books. This just happened to be the one that spoke to me where I'm at right now. I agree, they're all tremendously helpful.

    Hi Sarah. Yup, that's me. I jump right in, not knowing much at all. My first draft is definitely a discovery draft. Got you in the drawing.

  73. Hello Barbara. You've got me craving another cup of coffee to go with the cookies. I've already eaten way too much of the gelato while I typed.

    You said, "... it helped me build the bridge that allowed my imagination to soar."
    YES! That explains it perfectly. I'd also say it kept me tethered so I didn't fly to far afield.

    Sorry to be so long answering your questions, Tracey. I usually can squeeze in some time during the school day, but they're also doing construction in my building so today was crazy.

    Different authors may have different responses, but I have to say that for me, writing totally altered my reading enjoyment - to the point that once I even stopped writing for a while because of it. I am a reader first and I didn't want to lose that pleasure. I've learned to really appreciate and respect authors whose books so consume me that I don't even notice their craft.

    As for the pen name question - that was really because of limitations that my day job puts on my ability to use social media. I wanted to be able to separate the two parts of my life/career. There are definitely drawbacks, but it was necessary for me.

  74. Hi Kathy/kaybee There are so many great craft books. I think it's really a matter of what each of us needs at any given point in our writing that decides what clicks.

    Personally, I love craft books because they get me over my self-imposed hurdles. If I sit down with a craft book, I usually don't get very far into it before I'm chomping at the bit to get back to my own writing and try it out. That silences the critic in my brain. That's what works for me anyway.

    Mary Hicks! I hadn't consciously thought about it, but that's an interesting possibility. I know I rebelled against outlining in HS too. I just wanted to get into it and get started. One thing I know about me is that I think best when I'm already working. So jumping in and beginning works. I just have to go back and clean up the mess later.

    Hi Connie. Yes, sometimes that mist does become a pea soup type fog. That's when you need help (a knight on a white horse????). Thanks for the congrats. It's still pretty surreal.

    Chill N/Nancy C asked if I would have been receptive to such an approach if I'd known about it earlier. That's kind of difficult to answer. It's not that this is so revolutionary compared to what I was doing. It just streamlined the process and gave a structure to it. Essentially I still have to go back and do the work, same as always. I'll have to let you know the answer to that going forward, I think (if that makes sense).

  75. Thanks for pre-ordering my book, Mary C. That's a bonus I hadn't even considered. :)

    Hi Sherida. Treasure hunter sounds very cool for a title/style of writing. Aren't we all looking for treasures in our story world. I'm going to keep that in mind.

    Thanks for your kind words about the title. I was thrilled they let me keep it.

    Hello Piper. I love that you're reading Jubilee Trail. I actually bought a copy of Celia Garth from Amazaon not too long ago because I wanted to re-live those happy, youthful reading experiences. I may have to re-read Jubilee Trail next. I really do think those books and authors I mentioned above are why I cut my writing teeth on historicals.

  76. Janet, You will see me at RWA. I'm so happy you're coming.
    From what Bell says in the introduction, Super Structure expands upon something he touched on in Writing from the Middle. I'm currently reading that, and while there is some overlap, I'm finding the repetition instructive and reinforcing.

    Oh, Rhonda, all my ranting about it must have gotten to you. I hope you're finding it helpful as you push through on Blurb2Book. I'm rooting you on! Thanks for taking the time away from writing to stop by.

    Cheryl, I remember when I finally deciphered GMC (and bought Deb's book). I felt like I'd been let in on some deep, dark industry secret. I always have made sure I can identify those things for my H/H, but the motivation usually deepens as I write and sometimes the goals shift a bit before I get to the end.

    DebH I'm so glad you're still working on it. As you can tell, I totally get the muddling. When I didn't have a deadline pressing down on me for this second LIS, it became far too easy to muddle again. That's why I needed Super Structure to ground me. Hope it helps you too!

    Hi Ruth Ann. Speaking of names, yours is two of my younger sisters combined. Wonderful name. :) I've had to write myself out of many corners, but often I love what I learned during those detours so I've learned to embrace them (though it's always painful to slice and dice later).

  77. Mary Cate,
    I appreciate your honest answer about the reader versus writer question, I'd never ask anyone about that before but was really interested in knowing. For Me, it's not worth the risk, lol.
    Thanks for your time on such a busy day.

    Congrats on your first LIS book, looking forward to it.

  78. I am a hybrid writer. I think. I Need some structure, but not too much. I tend to work best with a one page-- not outline, but it's not exactly a "beat sheet" either. But kinda. One page. Which leaves me with lots of room for exploring that mist and figuring out how I get from one point on my one page to the next. When I write a scene, I basically line my characters up on their marks, remind everybody that "this is the scene where Joe tells Pip's fortune. Ready? Go!" And then I write down what they do. I tend to also, as I get into the story, keep a running, constantly expanding list of the next scenes I want to write, so then I just have to look at my list to see what's next. (Until I get to the end, of course.

  79. My pleasure, Tracey. It may be different for others, and for me, I'm never able to totally quiet those storytelling voices so I try to switch off.

    My dear Debby, I'll have to let you know with the next book. I think it's bound to change my writing style in the sense that I'll be aware as I'm writing to look for those milestones and to deliberately create them when necessary, but I hope it continues to work for me as Barbara Scott described about.

    PS: the job wasn't all that exciting because I worked in the legal department. But I did get to work on fun movies like Ghostbusters, The Big Chill, and a bunch others that escaped me. Then there were the TV shows - Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island etc.

    Sandy, what you described is exactly what happens to me. I speed along and then suddenly I'm lost. In the book, Bell promises that won't happen if you follow his structure because you'll always have guideposts to show you where you're going. Hope so. :)

    Our last day for students is the 18th, but we have to be in until the 29th.

  80. Hi Gail,

    I'm curious. How do you go about creating that one page? When I try to do something like that, my brain just shuts down.

    I guess it goes back to what Debby said above. You have to trust yourself and what works for you. I'm hoping this is it for my. A hybrid of mist writing with structure.

  81. Myra I almost included that because I remembered you doing a post on Writing from the Middle. If anyone wants to check, it's here:


    Thanks for affirming this.

    Missy, I'm in the same boat. I'm hoping the mix will work to help me have fun but be efficient.

    Helen, I'm so proud of where this journey has taken you! I guess we're proof no one should give up!

    Thanks for your kind words, Jeanne. I'm enjoying your successes as well. Having writing friends who understand you makes this whole journey a wonderful ride.

  82. Vince, Thanks for telling us about the class. I'll definitely be on the lookout.

    As for waiting so long, ODD is the word that comes to mind. Surreal works too.

    Last summer, right after my sale, I got to go to RWA and celebrate with everyone. That was the fun part. Revisions, art fact sheets, etc. were all in the future and it was just a fun time.

    I did have a choice not to wait, but my lovely editor (Emily Rodmell) told me that holiday books (unsurprisingly) do better around the holidays. Since my alternative was to have a Christmas book out in April, I was happy to agree.

    Because I work full time (and tutor), having a slower pace did make the year easier on me. I'm just starting to get excited about the upcoming release. :)

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge about pilots and the mist. I did remember reading that. How terrifying. I can't claim my writing is as terrifying, but it sure does have a dampening effect on a career.

  83. Almost caught up!

    (And hubby's probably wondering what's keeping dinner!)

  84. Welcome to Seekerville, Gail Dayton.

  85. Thanks for the congrats, Bettie.. I'm so glad the post was helpful. Best wishes on your writing journey.

    Hello, Kav. Gotta love a fellow messy writer. You've been such a great support on this journey. I wish you well on yours!

    So, Audra, where did we go wrong? Back in the day, anything seemed possible. Although, with all the options today, maybe that red sportscar is still in your future! I'd happily settle for a beach house with a porch now though.

    We've got you covered, Sherida. Happy reading. (Don't you love those words?)

    Yay for your mirror moment, Pam. It's so validating!!!

    I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the divine Ms. Tina for hosting me. Extra gelato for you, my dear.

    Thanks again for the cookies, Ruthy and for biting your tongue perhaps?????? (color me confused on that one.)

  86. I'm off to walk the dog, but I'll be back in a bit and would love to chat more if anyone is still around or checking in.

  87. Mary! I LOVED this post! I so needed to hear all of this today. I've been wandering around aimlessly in the mist for about 6 months now I think. That definitely explains how I feel about the writing anyway. I can totally relate to Keli's comment earlier about doubt, that's for sure. I'm also terrified to open up my book and see if the middle lands me anywhere near a 'mirror moment'. :) I don't think I've quite figured out for sure how I write yet, so this was very inspiring! I am going to check out the Super Structure book and see if it will help me get a handle on the method to my madness.

    Thank you so much!

  88. Mary/Cate...LOVE THIS!! I will admit to feeling sentimental reading your story. You're such a courageous person. Thanks for sharing.

    I will have to read that JSB book. I read Writing from the Middle, it was eye-opening. I tend to be a pantster, but when I actually tried to get to that Mirror moment...wow.

  89. I'm around...out here on Canada's west coast I haven't stopped for dinner yet. :)

    Congratulations once again on your success. It was a long time coming but I'll bet it's all the sweeter for the wait.

    It's interesting that I also considered James Scott Bell to be a voice of sanity in my chaos. He was at the Surrey Int'l Writers' Conference as a replacement for Donald Maass one of the years I attended, and I had a Blue Pencil session with him. In writing 'pantser style', my stories ended being up from my Christian worldview, but were too edgy to be inspirational fiction, and I didn't know what direction I should go. He talked me through a logical process and I came away with a clearer idea of direction. What a blessing he was to me! I haven't read his book on structure although I have others of his. I'd like to read it, and yours, too.

  90. Hello to my fellow Killer Voice sisters! It's been so much fun to travel this path with you.

    I hope everyone who stumbles upon this post finds some consolation or encouragement from seeing my long journey. When I wonder about how long it too, I just consider that where I am right now is right where I'm meant to be - in God's perfect timing.

  91. Carol, what a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. That logical process is what appealed to me from Super Structure, I think. I tend to be an emotional writer but at some point logic and business sense need to kick in.

  92. Mary, I'm so glad you'll be in NYC too! Did you wear the First Sale ribbon last year?

    I have the Writing from the Middle, but haven't gotten to it yet. But I do have my copy of Super Structure. Glad that they reinforce each other. The more I hear great points, the better!


  93. I did wear it proudly - along with my PAN ribbon.

  94. Hi Mary! Hi Cate! (okay, wasn't sure which name to write - - so I decided on both) ;)
    Wonderful post, and I am SOOOO excited about your LIS release! I will watch for it and definitely plan to purchase. :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  95. You have a late school year, Mary. And what do teachers have to do for an extra 11 days after school is out? Here teachers go one day longer than the students!

  96. We have a week of Professional Development, Sandy. Once that's up, we're on call but don't necessarily have to go in.

    Hi PattiJo. Thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for being excited for me.

  97. So excited about your debut, Mary!!! Can't wait to read the story. Looking forward to seeing you at RWA!!!

  98. Mary - I need your book and James Scott Bell's book. Great post, but now I'm scared to look at the middle of my story! LOL1

  99. Late to the party, but I remember that Mist article! Glad you found something that's helpful to you!

  100. If I hang around long enough I may first to the party tomorrow! I am anxiously waiting to reading your suspense novel, Cate. I wonder if I'll still hear " your" voice? Love your pen name!

  101. MARY!!! OR should I say, CATE!!! LOVE this post, my friend, but especially LOVE that you are published, girlfriend -- SUPER CONGRATS ON A JOB WELL-DONE!!

    I am curious, however, why you chose to do a pen name? I originally thought I would do a pen name, but after finaling/winning some contests (finaled in the GH too like you), I figured my real name had a small amount of leverage, so I went with that instead.

    You said: "And that’s where this story takes a detour - a thirty year detour."

    LOL, Mary, you and I are sounding more and more alike all the time, girl. I had a forty-year detour from my first ms. :) But you do a lot of growing up/learning in those many years, don't you, though? ;)

    I am SO excited for you and wish you the very best, Mary!


  102. Hi Mary, What a great post. So very encouraging! Thanks for sharing with us. I've never heard of writing in the mist. I'm still learning which way works best for me. Would be thrilled to be entered in either drawing :) Super congrats on your LIS sale. If I don't win it here, I'll definitely be buying it later!

  103. Hi Mary,

    Such an encouraging post! Thank you for sharing your story.

    Please enter my name in the drawings!


  104. What a great post! I'm definitely a misty writer, so much so that now that I can sell on proposal, I realized that I still need to write half the book before I even know where it's going. If I try to plan ahead, and write a synopsis beforehand...it's pretty ugly. lol
    Congrats on your book!!!! Can't wait to read it. :-)

  105. Congratulations Mary! I couldn't be happier that all of your hard work got you where you have always wanted to be!

    I will be looking for Christmas in Hiding!

  106. Definitely a pantser too (although "mister" does sound better). I'm finding that it really is an obstacle hen trying to get a project finished. I will definitely be checking this book out...if I don't win a copy :) Thanks for a great post!

  107. Hello Mary! I'm late to the party. boo! I just wanted to comment anyway and tell you how much I loved your post. I recently read JSB's "Write Your Novel From the Middle" and it totally changed how I was writing. I'm already an extreme plotter but I was still fighting with that sagging middle. The mirror moment really made me rethink a lot of things.
    Anyway, congratulations on your book(s)!

  108. Congratulations Mary! Loved this post! Thanks for sharing your story. I haven't read James Scott Bell. I have to write to figure out where the story is going, and then sit back and figure out how to connect what I have. But what I've found is, most of it's already there. Would love to read this book to make that process easier! Congratulations again on your published book. Love the title!

  109. Hi Mary! Thanks so much for this great post. I haven't read Story Structures by Bell, but it sounds useful, especially to this pantser. :)

    Congrats on making it through the Killer Voices contest and getting a contract! That's totally awesome! I'm in the middle of trying to meet the deadline for their latest Blurb2Book contest. I have until July 15th. Like you the deadline is doing me a world of good.

    Thanks again for this wonderful post. Would love to read this book, Lord willing.

    Happy Trails,
    Crystal L Barnes

  110. Oops. I meant Super Structures. Can you tell I'm on deadline? :)

  111. This comment has been removed by the author.

  112. Great post, Mary. I'm in the process of making changes to my schedule in order to create space for my writing, and other things important to being human. I know that one of my downfalls is not knowing for sure where I'm going. This book sounds like it could be helpful. I've heard his name for years, with the intention of purchasing some of his books on structure. I'd love to learn more form Super Structure!

    I also have a 13 year old granddaughter who's working on her first novel but feeling stuck. (It's really quite good!) This might be helpful for her as well!

    Congratulations, Mary! And thank you for being an inspiration.



  113. Hi Terri,

    I think Super Structure would be a great fit for both of you. And at $2.99, it's a bargain.

    I love that your granddaughter is writing. Have you ever seen the book Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine (author of Ella Enchanted)? It's specifically written for young writers. I love to use it with my class.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  114. Hi Crystal, I'm so excited for you for Blurb2Book. Thanks for taking the time our to visit and comment. I'll be cheering you on.

  115. Hi Sally,

    You said " I have to write to figure out where the story is going, and then sit back and figure out how to connect what I have. "

    Yup, that's me to a T. This helps me in the figuring and connecting part.

    Thanks for visiting and for the congrats and for always being such a kind supporter.

  116. Jessica and Melissa, Thanks so much for stopping in and commenting. I really appreciate it. Jessica, I'm afraid I'll be that way too!

    Donna, Thank you for your kind words. They mean so much.

    Terri, I was terrified to look! Especially because the book had already passed through final edits so there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

    LeAnne, Thanks for offering that on Plotting from the Middle. Sometimes I need to be smacked in the face to realize what should have been obvious. This book did that for me (figuratively speaking, of course.)

  117. Glynis, Isn't it nice to know we're not the only ones - and that there's a good solution? Best of luck overcoming the obstacles and finishing the book.

    Hi Pat, If you want to find out more about writing in the mist (which really is a viable way of writing for a lot of people), check out my earlier post on it that's linked above. I tried to explain it. Personally, I know I'll always be a mist writer to some extent. I just feel like now I have a guide rope.

    Hi, Edwina. Thanks for stopping by. We'll be sure to enter you.


  118. That's a great question, Marianne. You'll have to let me know the answer. I feel like my voice is very much present - especially because I wrote it so tightly that I was really living inside the story.

    Julie, Yes, indeed. There was so very much learning and growing along that detour. In many ways, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm trusting in the timing. :) But it's comforting to know so many of us were detouring at the same time.

  119. Hi Mary,
    Sorry I missed this post yesterday. Hopefully, you'll find this belated note. I am so in the mist. Your advice is terrific. I will have to read Bell's book! Congrats on the Killer Voices contest. Looking forward to buying your book in the fall!

  120. Hi Lyndee,

    I was so surprised to find new comments today so I made sure to keep checking back. Happy to see a fellow mist writer. I hope his book helps you as much as it helped me.

  121. So good to see Helen Wakefield visiting from Down Under. I'm with you. Hauge is my main man and now I am adding JSB to the mix. I see success in my future.

  122. Thanks, Mary. I think we can never have too many cheerleaders. :)

  123. I think I've practically become an expert on story structure, believing plot is a combination of art and science. If I'm going to change my story, I'd rather change 20 words in an outline, instead of 20,000 in a manuscript. (That's experience talking.)No more pantsing it for me.

    I'd love to read more on the subject.

  124. Hi Peggy,

    I'm glad that works so well for you. I agree. I'd much rather do it that way, but my brain really doesn't work well that way. It's true of everything in my life. I've never been any good at planning (which makes my husband crazy!).

    Thanks for stopping by!