The Seven Point System, Finale

Happy Friday! Here’s part five of Dan Wells‘s presentation on Seven Point Story Structure, the grand finale in which Dan demonstrates how all of your seven point plots can come together into key scenes that prove the power is in you!


Seven Point Story Structure Videos:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4

Mad-Eye Moody’s Advice for Writers, Part 2

Illustration by Mary GrandPré

This two-part series is about Mad-Eye Moody’s advice to Harry Potter on how to successfully pass the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament. Part one covered play to your strengths.

Bring What You Need
For Harry, this meant using a summoning charm to bring him his Quidditch broom. For the writer, this means making sure you have all of the tools you need.

Unless you write everything longhand, your most valuable tool is likely your keyboard. Are you able to type well on yours? Do your fingers hurt after sprinting out a couple thousand words? Are the keys so close together that you regularly make fat-finger typos? Software engineer Scott Hanselman likes to say, “There are a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die.” If your keyboard doesn’t feel like an extension of your fingers, rip it out and get a new one. Do you use a laptop that has a bad keyboard? Get a new laptop, or just get a good new USB keyboard, or get a docking station with which you can use a new keyboard. When you sit down to write, bring what you need.

What software are you using to compose and save your hard work? Is Microsoft Word working out OK for you? Do you wish you could use something more powerful, something more geared for professional writers like Scrivener? What are you waiting for? Bring what you need.

Do you like what you’ve written but wish you could get another opinion? Bring what you need and find yourself a writing critique group. Do you wish you had a paper notebook to carry with you wherever you go to jot down ideas as they come to you? Go to the nearest office supply store and get what you need. Do you really wish you had a more powerful grammar checker? Subscribe to Grammarly and bring what you need.

This is your writing. This is what is likely one of the most important things in your world. Why on Earth would you not equip yourself with tools to help you do it to the best of your ability? Bring what you need. If there is some physical or bit-based or human resource that you need, buy or find or hire that tool. And do it yesterday.

And yes, I get it that sometimes the best tools cost the money you need to pay the rent and put Ramen on the table. I’m not saying you should become a starving artist (though I do like to support starving artists when I can). All I’m saying is if writing is a must and not a should to you, the tools that will best let you do it are necessities, not luxuries.

Treating yourself well is like casting a summoning charm: accio success!

The Seven Point System, Part 2

Happy Friday! Here’s part two of Dan Wells‘s excellent presentation on the Seven Point Story Structure. This one contains one of my favorite quotes on writing, a quote I turn to for comfort and affirmation often:

There is no outline in the world, especially for a genre novel, that doesn’t sound stupid when you describe it to somebody.


Seven Point Story Structure Videos:

  1. Part 1

Tech for Writers: custom dictionary search from your browser

Did you know about the Google trick where you can get the definition of any word by searching for “define <word>”?


It’s a neat trick, and the result that Google gives you includes their ultra cool “use over time” feature, sometimes.


But if you’re like me, you may have a favorite dictionary. (Mine is Merriam-Webster.) Wouldn’t it be a great writing tool if you could somehow program a web browser like Google Chrome so that when you search for “define <word>” you get the result from your favorite dictionary?

Here’s how to do it!

First, go to your favorite dictionary and search for a word. When the results page comes up, pay particular attention to the URL — the website address. You will need this soon.


Next you have to go into Chrome settings. Click the hamburger icon near the top, or use the keyboard, Luke and enter chrome://settings/searchEngines into the address bar. The browser will open a short list of “Default search settings” and a likely very long list of “Other search engines.”


Scroll all the way to the bottom of this window and you’ll see three text boxes.


In these three boxes, enter a name for the search engine (anything you want), the keyword you want to use (in this case: define), and finally the “URL with %s in place of query.” What’s that? That’s the website address I said to remember. Just replace whatever word you searched for with %s.


Click Done and you’re done. Now go to the address bar of Chrome and type: define nincompoop, or whatever word you want to look up, and when you press Enter, your result will come not from Google, but from your favorite dictionary.


Power User Tip: you can do the same thing with the keyword “thesaurus” and your favorite thesaurus.

The Seven Point System, Part 1

It was inevitable that at some point, I was going to feature my favorite writing video series as one of my Friday Videos. So here it is! Dan Wells is by far my favorite of the four authors on Writing Excuses. His advice is always spot-on, never pretentious, and is delivered with wicked humor. Just like the video series you’re about to see!

If you’ve never seen Wells’s presentation on the Seven Point Story Structure (sometimes called 7PP for Seven Point Plot), you’re in for a treat. He not only explains it thoroughly, he puts all sorts of stories from all sorts of genres through it to show off its universal usefulness.

I can’t remember if it is in this video series or in an episode of Writing Excuses, but I’m fairly certain I once heard Wells say that he doesn’t necessarily consciously make a 7PP for each of his books, but when he gets stuck on a plot, he falls back to this technique to figure out why. I’m much the same.