Bell tells writers to put the Big Lie to sleep

If you’re like me, restarting after years of putting my writing life aside, you can’t help but be moved by the opening sentences to Plot & Structure:

I wasted ten years of prime writing life because of the Big Lie. – James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell gave up on becoming a writer because he had been told

  • writing can’t be taught;
  • writers are born;
  • the story just flows naturally on the page;
  • you either have what it takes or you don’t;
  • if you don’t, you’ll never get it.

Today, Bell is a bestselling author of suspense novels who learned how to write. It was his desire and his goal. “The itch to write would not go away.” He started reading books on the craft of writing and realized that the Big Lie was exactly that. He was learning how to write, it was a life-changing discovery, and there was no stopping him.

Bell now spends a good portion of his life sharing his story and teaching the craft. He tells his students to put down the Big Lie and replace it with the Truth:

The truth is that craft can be taught and that you, with diligence and practice and patience, can improve your writing. – James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure

His words are like balm to my writer’s soul.

Bell mentored my friend Katie in her early days. She is now a published author, so it was with her recommendation that I bought this book. Bell’s teaching is practical and his writing tone makes you feel as if he’s sitting on the couch next to you. It’s a friendly conversation with someone whose goal is to turn you into the writer of your dreams.

In the book’s introduction, Bell gives six ways to become a good plotter. When I read them, though, I saw them useful for any aspect of your writing life:

  1. Get motivated.
  2. Try stuff.
  3. Stay loose.
  4. “First get it written, then get it right.”
  5. Set a quota.
  6. Don’t give up.

That’s solid and easy-to-swallow advice from a professional, successful writer. Bell is a cheerleader for writers who are new to the craft and have faith in their ability to learn. Read his book to get the complete picture. You’ll be freed from the Big Lie.

[Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell is part of the Writer’s Digest “Write Great Fiction” series, and is the first in the series that I’ve read. Next on tap is Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. FYI: Iā€™m not an affiliate for Writer’s Digest. I just think Plot is a great book. Please see my Disclosure Policy for more information about payments for writing.)

How has the Big Lie been holding you back from moving ahead in your writing life?



7 thoughts on “Bell tells writers to put the Big Lie to sleep

  1. I Like this read and its sooo true I think my lie was,I am not good with grammars and so on. And a few months back I even got discouraged to write. I am in a writers group and everyone was very understanding being new and all with writing. But one writer told me so long I don’t know how to write I should not post any short stories and I should take writing classes first. Before I do anything. After that you can say I got a little bit depressed, but you can see I pulled myself out of it. I was like hey I got a good story line going. I know what I want do to for a long time . And a little Grammar would not stop me to write my novel and to become a Writer.
    And for what you have editors who can help you with that? lol ( need to find one first ) my thing is you want to be Writer, Author, then just do it šŸ™‚ follow your dreams. Even when you have stones throw in to your


    1. Yes — follow your dreams. It’s also good to point out that English is your second language and German your first. Like I mention in the article I wrote about you, it was the excitement you have for your new writing life that drew me to your blog. No writer is ever finished learning and we can all use a refresher course on grammar and word usage every now and then (you find posts here on Darla Writes). I subscribe to to keep the discipline before me each day. And you’re right: there are plenty of editors and ghost writers who will help prepare your beloved story for publication. Thanks, Nicki!


    1. It’s freeing, isn’t it? I’ve read through the book once and now I’ll go through it again with the highlighter. Can you recommend one of his fiction books to me? I noticed you have a link to his website on your blog. I visited his site, but I’m not a fan of thrillers or horror (a zombie lawyer?).


  2. This is a welcome post. Only a few days ago I read on another blog the exact opposite, that writing is a gift and cannot be taught. The entire idea makes me want to cry.

    Been a tough week so I’ll end it here, but want to say thanks for posting this.


    1. Last Thursday we had a student art show. The visitors were wowed by the first graders’ display of a fruit and vase pencil sketch with shadowing technique. Our art teacher explained that she shows her students an early piece from her college portfolio as an example and then explains the technique, step by step. Her example looks like the finished work of the first graders. She first learned the technique in college; they’re learning it now. It’s all in the teaching, practice, and discipline, along with the belief that you can do it. Be a first grader, Kate! I hope you have an uplifting week.


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