Over Spring Break, I put my fiction reading on hold and devoured Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot in two days. This is what my copy looks like now.
I didn't have any of those little paper flag thingies handy so I just grabbed the full-sized sticky notes and started marking stuff. There was also copious amounts of underlining in multiple colors and several pages of handwritten notes in my brainstorming spiral.
Craft books are very hit or miss for me. This book hit everything I needed to hear at this stage. Jane Cleland spoke my language.
What kept me engaged with this book were the practical strategies and applicable examples. It is a quick read with a conversational tone.
I am not a plotter by nature. Although this book is heavy on what some might consider plotting, it offers concepts that are beneficial to any style of writer. There is a "roadmap" with page numbers and specific expectations for each step of common story structure, but Cleland stresses more than once that you should not feel as if you are searching for the single right answer. There are different ways to achieve the same goal.
The book offers examples from popular fiction as well as two case studies of books in progress. There are worksheets of questions to prepare your plot, get to know your characters and my favorite, discover where you have a knowledge gap about your characters.
There are also practice exercise and FAQ's.
When I searched some of the other reviews for this title, the main complaint was that the book seemed to provide a preset formula for writing. While that is true, I don't think that is a negative. Other books, such as Story Genius , address the idea that our brains expect a story to follow a certain style and structure. That doesn't have to make a story "cookie-cutter." It keeps it concise and appropriately paced for the genre.
I already have list of what I intend to incorporate in my next manuscript and I've been playing with some of the character questions for days now.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to improve their writing skills.
Also, shout out to K. M Weiland's entire Secrets of Story Structure Series ! This was one of the first craft books to truly click with me. I mean, the woman uses superhero examples! What else could you ask for?