I wish Nik Morton had published Write a Western in 30 Days with Plenty of Bullet-Points (Compass Books, 2013) 20 years ago.
Oh, so here’s the beauty of Morton’s pistol-whip chapters. He has a brilliant way of condensing a great deal of information into manageable junks without sacrificing clarity or content. The resulting book works both as master course and as a refresher course...
Chapter seven is, I suspect, the heart of the book for most readers. Morton, by this point, has referred to the “plot plan” enough that when you finally hit page 72 you feel as though you’ve finally arrived at, if not your destination, at least one heck of a fun way station...
“Writing a novel is much easier if you have a plot to follow,” writes Morton. “It doesn’t mean you’re in a rut. The plot is a rough-and-ready road. As the story progresses, you’ll find that characters will want to take the occasional more interesting byway. Some writers let the characters wander off at a tangent and never rejoin the original plotted road; others are hard taskmasters and bring the character back in line after a fascinating diversion...
“A story is often about a character’s growth or change through adversity, which is brought about by facing obstacles and overcoming them,” he adds on the next page. “Though sometimes unwelcome, change is inevitable in life; in fiction, change is vitally necessary. The plot provides the means for the character to evolve.”
The plot plan, like life itself, is a “working document” and change is inevitable.
The whole chapter is like that—one beautifully rich paragraph after another.
Part of the reason why I think my 23 year old version of myself would’ve loved this book even more than the 43 year old version does is that by about the third chapter, Morton makes it clear that he has thought of everything. ..
If Nik Morton taught a course based on this book I’d be the first to enroll and I’d sit up close.
Thank you, Jeremy!
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and lecturer living in his wife's hometown in South Carolina. He teaches part-time at Wofford College, volunteers at the Carolina Poodle Rescue's dog sanctuary. The son of a son of a son of teachers, Jones is the founder of Living Words, a creative writing programs for seniors with dementia, and of Shared Worlds, a writing and world-building camp for teenagers. He is currently working on a series of stories for High Noon Press about a character created by one of his literary heroes, Frank Roderus.