Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'The Marshall Plan for Writing- reviewed by Janel of Janel's Jumble- a writer

Author: Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett
Published: 2010, ebook
Genre: How-to
Source: FSB Associates/Anna Suknov
Synopsis from FSB:
  The Marshall Plan® -- a structured approach to writing fiction and narrative nonfiction.
Combining more than 60 years of experience as authors, editors and literary agents, Evan and Martha created innovative resources for writers that break down each writing project into its core components, making the writing process manageable. They also provide refinements which include tightly focused topics, highly differentiated formats, and the skillful use of narrative fiction techniques and narrative nonfiction writing modes.
So, you have decided to write a novel, maybe even participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). What do you do now? If you are new to the novel writing process you most likely have a lot of questions on where to start and what to do. The Marshall Plan ® for Novel Writing is a 16-step process that can take you from the idea to a completed manuscript in 30 days or less.
The plan addresses the technical and creative aspects of writing a novel. First, you need to figure out what kind of genre you will most likely succeed in. Then you need to decide how long the novel will be. Armed with this information and a list of characters, the process then breaks the novel into the appropriate number of sections, basically action units.
Depending on the length of the intended novel, the plan recommends anywhere from 40 to 120 sections. When using The Marshall Plan ® Software producing these sections is literally a fill in the blank process. The software contains all of the sheets detailed in the book, from character backgrounds to section sheets. The software also has instructions and advice on things to consider as you work on the programs tabs, basically a condensed version of the topic covered in the e-book. After you have gone through the plan and filled out the appropriate number of section sheets you will have a detailed plot outline to write your novel.
As a short story writer I have to admit I am intimidated by the process of writing a novel. Keeping track of plot twists, subplots and a cast of characters for over 50,000 words is a task I am honestly afraid to tackle. Do I think this plan will work? Yes. Do I think it is for everyone? No.
The author has had many years of experience in the publishing industry. He knows what “works” in novels and used that knowledge to formulate this book and software. If you want to write a novel, that has a good chance of being published, I think following the guidelines in the plan will give you a nice advantage. After all of the sections are completed a very detailed outline is produced. Plotting out all of the twists and subplots will definitely speed up the writing process for beginning and experienced writers. The outline should also navigate around the dreaded writer’s block since you will know exactly what your characters need to do and where your plot and subplots are going.
If you are the type of writer that likes to sit down, start writing and see where you go, the detailed outlining prescribed by this plan may not appeal to you. Of course, you can use your wandering mind in the planning process and the advantage is that you will know when a subplot or scene isn’t working before you waste hours and words writing it. Also, I think the worksheets are useful for any writer. If plotting by the seat of your pants isn’t working well, I don’t think it can hurt to try planning and pre-plotting. If you are serious about writing a novel, but don’t know where to start, The Marshall Plan® may be the push you need by taking some of the mystery out of the process.

** Thank you so much for reviewing this Janel. You're input has been invaluable.


  1. What a detailed review! I read this book many years ago and it took a decade or so for me to truly comprehend all the material. I think novel writing is a process and any how to book is a step in the right direction.

    Great post. :)

  2. What a valuable book! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  3. Wow, it sounds like it does everything but write the content for you! (which is too bad; that would make life so much easier, I'm sure!) Thanks for the guest review from Janel, who also has a wonderful and eclectic blog!

  4. I'm much more suited to enjoy the talent of others in writing! Great review.

  5. Sounds like a great book. Will have to check it out.

  6. The timing of this review couldn't be more apt. Three times in the past couple of weeks someone has told me that I should write a book. Flattering, but also daunting. I just spent a while looking for a book just like this on Amazon and couldn't pick one. The Marshall Plan sounds perfecto!

  7. J. Kaye - You're right, there is a lot in this e-book, but I think if you don't mind working from an outline it's a valuable resource for setting up the outline.

    Julie - I agree!

    Blodeuedd - Thanks! Glad you liked it. :)

    rhapsodyinbooks - The very detailed outlines will make it much easier to write the book, kind of like filling in the blanks. Thanks!

    Nise - I always tell people to try writing if they are at all interested in it. :)

    Robin - It has some interesting, concrete steps on how to write a novel.

    Janel's Jumble

  8. I first heard about this book earlier this year - brought it home from the library - and it sat on my bookshelf until I had return it to avoid fines :(

    I will definitely add this to my list of "reading on writing" material and hopefully I will do a better job of actually reading the book this time. It sounds fantastic!

  9. Molly-I've done that with library books many times. If you are really interested in writing a novel this book has some interesting ways to do it!

    Janel's Jumble

  10. I borrowed this book from the library awhile back but didn't get too far. It just felt like it was stifling my creativity. LOL

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