Thursday, 2 April 2009

Plotting away

Natalie Goldberg is the rock star of writing gurus. I adore and respect her constant ability to assist, inspire and comfort me in my writing life.
If I just randomly dip into any of her well thumbed books I am sure to find a pearl of wisdom that will enrich my writing. Sometimes her advice is of the inspirational kind and at other times it is more practical.

Today I opened up her book ‘Thunder and Lightening’ (Bantam Books, 2000) and found advice on plot and narrative. Any advice on plot and narrative is greatly appreciated. My book feels like it is going well but I am always worried as to whether my plot is sound and will carry the reader on a satisfactory journey.

Here are some of the things Natalie Goldberg wrote in the chapter ‘Shall We Plot Along’:

“Our human lives seem to unravel – there’s no apparent plan. But a fiction plot illustrates the universal structural law of Karma. You do something and there is a result. Plot is the direction, the core we only see – if we’re lucky – when we turn around and look back years later.”

And in reference to her struggle with plot when writing her novel Banana Rose: “My job was to grab my reader’s hand and move her along, hook into her longing for meaning – what’s next, what will happen to Nell now that she did this, then this. There had to be forward motion.
I realised that there is a reason cars are not equipped to go backward for long distances. We all have an impulse to go ahead.............”

And: “But, of course, we also need to be interested in the novel’s character to get in the car in the first place. If he’s a real dud, we won’t care what happens to him. The author will lose us no matter how many action firecrackers he tries to explode. If we like or identify with the character, we just might go a piece with her even if she’s just bumbling down the side of the road.”

All Natalie Goldberg’s books include lots of anecdotal accounts of her life, written in an amusing way, that explain how she came to learn the gems of advice she gives. The above quotes don’t really do her justice. She has a website . Check out her books they are definitely worth a read.

I am waiting for the time when I can afford to attend one of her writing courses. Guess I’ll have to publish the bestseller before I can afford the flights to the US. Today was a good writing day and so I hold out hope!!!!!


  1. Natalie Goldberg is inspirational. Thank you for the post, Kat. And good to hear today was a good writing day for you. Keep on going!! :-))

  2. I haven't come across her before, but I will look out for her books.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. I've never heard of this author, but I'm inspired to seek out her books now! Hope the writing's still going well :o)

  4. Glad your writing is going well chicken!
    Now the madness of Easter is over for me and the return to school looms on the horizon I am hoping for some time to get back to ninteenth century Cornwall!!!

  5. I love 'how-to' books especially writing ones!


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