How to Plan a Story :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™

Here’s a small gift to my writer-friends, complements of Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty.

How to Plan a Story

In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), we have an excerpt about how to plan a story from Jack Woodville London’s book, A Novel Approach (To Writing Your First Novel, or Your Best One).


Mignon Fogarty,

October 31, 2014

Still More On That “S” Word

Back, by popular demand (yeah, right).

I researched a short excerpt from Second Corinthians chapter nine — just a small part of Apostle Paul’s teaching on Stewardship (giving and generosity)  and included some links to commentaries for your amusement.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

The following links give a fair representation of the commentaries available on Some you may like. Some will seem rather stiff and technical, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable if you’re interested in what the Bible passage really says.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary
Barnes’ Notes
Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible
Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Expository Notes with Pratical Observations on the New Testament
Heinrich Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament
John Gill’s Exposition on the Entire Bible
Justin Edwards’ Family Bible New Testament
Nisbet’s Church Pulpit Commentary
Robertson’s Word Pictures
The Pulpit Commentaries
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Vincent’s Word Studies

The above passage is directly related to the virtue of generosity, specifically to providing the poverty-stricken saints’ needs, and generally to aiding the poor of the community. As the general population discriminated against Christians, the church was anything but rich, and such giving came at the expense of their quality of life, with the poor giving to the poor.

Verse 10 uses natural seed sown and bread produced by the harvest to exemplify and promise God’s abundant provision for the Church’s material and spiritual needs. As gratitude for Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice fills all true Christ-followers, they naturally covet personal righteousness to match their imputed righteousness. Conversely, any who claim to be Christians, but fail to seek personal righteousness, are either self-deluded, or outright liars.

That’s my, rather opinionated, take on this short passage, but after reading those commentaries in their entirety, I think I’m exactly right (at the moment I’m watching for lightening to strike me for lying).

Your homework mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find out what commentary use can do for your Scriptural understanding, if you don’t already know. Some of them break down the Greek grammar to its understandable, least-common denominator, while others seem like Greek to me. I’ve provided the links so you can see how rich are the resources on, and I’ve just scratched the surface.

Have fun!

Flip Wilson’s Geraldine

I’m not vain! I’m just gorgeous.

The line got laughs, but fact is, the devil didn’t make him/her do it.

You young’uns probably don’t know old Flip, so I’ll tell ya; Flip Wilson is the comedian who invented the iconic character named Geraldine, a young black lady whose escapades, if Flip had not been black, would have gotten him blackballed(no pun intended) by the civil rights community. Geraldine’s signature line was, “The Devil made me do it!”

Jesus, who might be considered the authority on the devil’s tricks and deceptions, said:

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”(Mark 7:21-23 ESV)

That pretty much eliminates all our excuses.

The Patience to Live Fully

Thanks to Brian Loging for sharing this.

Essentialist and Wannabesaint


Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Lets’ be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

There are days when Henri Nouwen speaks directly to me, this is one of those days and I…

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No Small Thing

Today’s Our Daily Bread shared Jesus’ grief when his friend Lazarus died. Wouldn’t you think that Jesus’ foreknowledge of Lazarus’ death, and his resurrection, would have shielded Jesus from this death’s emotional impact? Why, then, did Jesus, the Author of life, weep at Lazarus’ grave?

I think Jesus felt this intense grief because he is the Author of life. What mixed feelings the Creator must have felt when he breathed into Adam the breath of life, knowing even then that his beloved creature would sin and have to die. But he also knew that not only Adam and his descendants would suffer death; the Word’s plan of salvation required that even the man he would one day become, the virgin-born Jesus of Nazareth, would pay the ultimate price for sin he would never commit.

Life is God’s love-gift. Because God is love, he created mankind in his image so he could bless us through fellowship with himself. When we see someone holding a conversation with their reflection, we assume they’re bonkers. And even more so if they kiss and caress their reflection. Since God isn’t crazy, he has no use for a simple reflection of himself, so he gave us the one divine attribute that makes us unique: personal volition, or free choice. But without alternatives, there is no choice. So God issued just one Executive Order: Do not eat of the tree in the garden’s center, or even go near it. History tells the tale of their choice through endless accounts of mayhem, much of it committed in the name of religion. If that’s not the definition of irony, what is?

Death is the great, sin-born tragedy that rains down on the just and the unjust. We all pay that price because we all share the guilt. But God’s Word speaks of a second death, that makes our inevitable physical death seem like a small thing.

For those who faithfully follow Christ, having realized their depravity, begged his forgiveness from a contrite heart, and repented of their self-centered lives, physical death is indeed a small thing; it’s just the doorway to eternity with God, where we will fully enjoy the divine fellowship for which he created us.

Toppled by Christmas

Essentialist and Wannabesaint

Woman ‘toppled’ by Christmas trees
It was the Nightmare After Christmas (from the New York Post).
A Manhattan woman claims in a lawsuit that she was toppled by a pile of rotting Christmas trees left out on a sidewalk.
Gwendolyn Deluca was strolling by 752 West End Ave. in January 2011 when she passed as many as 30 used Christmas trees left in “a large, unstable pile” on the sidewalk “without so much as a sign warning passers-by of the looming danger,” she charges in Manhattan Supreme Court papers filed last week against building management.
The stack of pines stood 5 feet high and “created severely dangerous” conditions for pedestrians, Deluca claims.
Deluca became a victim of the timber terror when the pile collapsed and “caused her leg to be trapped by Christmas tree(s),” tripping her on an already icy sidewalk and causing “permanent” injuries, according to court papers in which she accuses…

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Escaping Life

Heartbreak is as much a part of loving as death is of living.

Essentialist and Wannabesaint

A wonderful short story by Tennessee Williams, “Something by Tolstoy,” tells the story of a young, and quite shy boy, Jacob Brodsky, who was a Russian Jew and whose father owned a bookstore. Jacob’s father’s desire was for his son to go to college but Jacob desired nothing but to marry his childhood sweetheart, a beautiful French girl named Lila.
Submitting to his father’s will Jacob went to a university but soon after the elder Brodzky fell ill and died. Jacob moved back home, buried his father, and realizing life was short, married his love, Lila. They then moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management.
Jacob loved his life but Lila felt confined and restricted. She wanted more adventure, more excitement, and found it in a talent agent who recognized her singing talent and enticed her to travel around Europe with a vaudeville company…

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Death steps in…

Essentialist and Wannabesaint



It is odd to watch with what feverish ardour Americans pursue prosperity, ever tormented by the shadowy suspicion that they might not have chosen the shortest route to get it. They cleave to the things of this world as if assured they will never die, and yet rush to snatch any that comes within their reach, as if they expected to stop living before relishing them.

Death steps in, in the end, and stops them, before they have grown tired of this futile pursuit of that complete felicity which always escapes them.

– Alexis De Tocqueville


tws logo sand web address

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Resisting the Darkness

This is a powerful piece, and well worth internalizing.

Essentialist and Wannabesaint

Henri Nouwen - Icon“…What is the greatest temptation? Money, sex, power? They seem to be the obvious ones, and we are easily caught by one or all of them. In the monastic traditions, vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience are intended to help monks and nuns resist the temptations of money, sex, and power and to follow the way of Jesus.  But over the years I have come to the conclusion that the greatest and most destructive temptation may not be any of these three. I wonder if the greatest temptation is self-rejection. Could it be that beneath all the lures of greed, lust, and success rests a great fear of never being enough or not being lovable?

Instead of taking a careful look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others’ limitations without rejection or judgment, when I fall into temptation, I tend to blame myself-not just for…

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