Several days ago I downloaded a little eBook that was free at the time: The Busy Writer’s Guide to Plot by Marg McAlister.  It’s a quick and easy read; I ended up finishing it in two sittings, and I think I must have highlighted about a quarter of the book.  I couldn’t believe how much useful information there was packed into such a short volume!
The author suggests a unique approach to planning out a book’s plot: set aside one hour, broken into several segments, and in each segment of time, jot down ideas about a specific aspect of the plot.  Her method is designed for people trying to come up with ideas for a story they’re about to write.  However, it would work just as well for someone who already has a plot in mind and wants to strengthen it, or even someone who’s already in the middle of a writing project.  Whether you’re a published professional or a ten-year-old writing stories for fun, I recommend this resource!
I sat down to outline the plot of the book I’m currently writing, Prince of Malorn (in the same series as Prince of Alasia and In the Enemy’s Service, which you can read more about by clicking on the book covers in the sidebar to the right).  Even though I’m over halfway through and already know where I want the plot to go, McAlister’s book helped me see several ways in which I could improve it and add tension.  I actually got interrupted a total of eight (EIGHT!) separate times while I was going through the suggested hour-long planning time, so it ended up taking more like three or four hours.  But in the end I was quite satisfied with the results!

Here’s the review I wrote for The Busy Writer’ One-Hour Plot on Amazon:


This is one of the most useful writing resources I’ve ever seen! I already have two published books and am working on two more, and when I first started reading, I thought, “Next time I start a new book, I’ll definitely have to try this method.” But by the time I got half way through, I had decided I needed to put my current writing projects on hold until I’ve outlined the plots using the One Hour method, even though I already have them planned out in my mind. I can see that using the techniques in The Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot will make them much better. I heartily recommend this resource for anyone interested in writing fiction, whether professionally or as a hobby. Now I’m going to buy the One-Hour Character book by the same author.

Sure enough, I did buy The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character the day after I finished the Plot book.  I read it in one sitting and immediately sat down to type up what I’d learned.  Korram, Thel, Ernth, and the other characters in Prince of Malorn will grow more through the course of the story and have clearer relationships with each other now! 
The author recommends using paper note cards, but for the activities in both books, I decided to make my own digital note cards; I just prefer to keep things on the computer.  Actually, I made blank templates as well so I can easily fill them in another time when I’m working on a new book.  If you’ve read one or both of McAlister’s books and would be interested in creating your character/plot note cards digitally too, I would be glad to share the templates I typed up.  Just email me at valiera (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send them over!

Here’s the review I wrote for The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character on Amazon:


I read one of Marg McAlister’s other books, The Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot, and immediately knew I had to get this one too. I seldom pay for eBooks anymore, with so many available for free all the time, but this would have been worth twice the price. I’m over half way through the book I’m writing at the moment, and even though I thought I already “knew” my characters pretty well, I now have lots of great ideas for how to develop them further and make them more vivid. I recommend this useful resource to any fiction writer!
I’m always looking for good writing resources.  If you have others you recommend, please feel free to mention them in the comments.  Thanks!

Also, I emailed Marg McAlister and she was kind enough to email back (very promptly!) with the links to two of her websites which writers might find useful: (hundreds of articles on writing, ecourses to sign up for, and all sorts of other resources for writers) (her blog, also featuring writing-related articles: some her own, others by guest bloggers)