Category Archives: writing

The Monday Book: BLUEPRINT FOR A BOOK: BUILD YOUR NOVEL FROM THE INSIDE OUT by Jennie Nash

This week’s Monday book comes courtesy of Paul Garrett

I once had the opportunity to observe the construction of a high-rise apartment as I drove by the site once a month. The first time I went by they had cleared the lot. The next month they had begun to dig a hole. The next month the hole got bigger, the next month bigger still. Finally, after several months a concrete column appeared. After that, the building went up rather quickly. I often use this anecdote as an analogy for my writing students to emphasize the importance of building a strong foundation for their work.

In her newly released (September, 2021)  book, Jennie Nash, the guru behind Author Accelerator, where they train people to coach aspiring authors, is also a strong proponent of laying the groundwork for one’s opus. That’s why she has produced her Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out. With decades of coaching experience (She coached, among others, Lisa Cron on both her books.) She lays out a step-by step process to take the prospective author from the germ of an idea to a completed manuscript.

Blueprint for a Book is also the title of her Author Accelerator curriculum and could serve as a companion for her popular course, which is how I us it. (Full, disclosure I am a student of the course) or it could serve as a standalone guide. She avoids the jargon that many writing teachers use to show how smart they are; words like “premise,” “theme” “logline,” and “character arc” to make the material a little more accessible to the novice, but the experienced writer will find much to interest her as well.

Ms. Nash focuses on planning the novel and on the often overlooked but vitally important minutia of novel writing, whose neglect may be responsible for many of those unfinished and unpublished manuscripts languishing in drawers and on hard drives. Her best innovation is her “Inside Outline.” a way to marry the story and character arcs throughout the book for a more coherent narrative.

While the material seems tailor-made for the plotter, it may be confounding the pantser, who’s chomping at the bit to get it on paper. But the exercises can be helpful even after a rough draft is finished.

Whether just beginning your story, going into revision, or stuck in the middle, Blueprint for a Book can offer writers a helping hand.

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The Monday Book – The Sinner

The Sinner – Stuart MacGregor (J Philip O’Hara 1973)

There are many facets to the city of Edinburgh – cultural, historical, academic and poor suburbs. I lived most of my life within easy distance and rode the thirty minute train journey most weeks in the late 1950s and early 1960s to go to jazz clubs and folk clubs. It usually involved climbing the steps from the station to the high street, stopping at the pub halfway, then on up to Bunjie’s coffee bar and finally to number 369 and the jazz club before racing for the last train home.

MacGregor’s book is set around that time and captures the atmosphere well.

There are really three strands to the story – the main character is Denis Sellars who has an on-off relationship with Kate and is a folksinger. Then there is a debate between traditionalist folkies and entertaining folkies. There are many thinly disguised real people who emerge in this strand. Denis is caught in the middle and his brother is being groomed as an entertaining folksinger.

I could fairly easily recognize many of the ‘real’ people who were referenced and I worried about that, as I don’t think they were as ‘right and wrong’ as MacGregor suggests. My memory is of a much more understanding time and Hamish Henderson (who is one of the thinly disguised ones) always encouraged guitar wielding youngsters like me.

I do believe, however, that he captured a particular atmosphere of cultural Edinburgh at that time really well. That I recognized!

The relationship with Kate was also believable and, I’m sure, would chime with many of my generation.

MacGregor was a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, helped start one of the first folksong clubs in Scotland, and wrote songs and poems. After graduating, he married and moved to take up a job as a doctor in Jamaica. He died in a road crash around the time this book was published.

I was amused that the cover looks like a reference to Bob Dylan’s second album.

His best known song is ‘Coshieville’ a bittersweet love song set in a small hamlet in Perthshire when the hydro-electric dams were being built – here’s a nice performance –

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