My Newsletter ~ February 29, 2024

First published through as an email, February 29, 2024

By Word of Beth ~ February 29, 2024

Greetings, friends! Before we leave February, we’re going to give some structure to our lives with a themed newsletter, nearly all focusing on story structure. Behind every well-crafted manuscript is a carefully planned and executed story structure.

Never fear, though, if story structure isn’t your thing. There are books to read, a game to play, a link to an interview with my friend and accountability partner, Kathy Halsey, and some delight to finish with.

Unfortunately, I can’t magically make the various items in the Contents skip to that article, but it will give you an idea of what’s to come, and where to find the bit you’re particularly interested in. (But I hope you’ll give the rest a glance as well.)

Now, get a mug of something, and settle in. Remember, cat paw prints indicate a hyperlink. Click on the paws. After last month, I decided that I needed to use a couple more paw prints, so the link should be more evident this month. (I can’t simply do the ubiquitous “click here” thing, can I?)

Here we go…

Writing – Using Scrivener and your story structure of choice to piece together a beautiful revision (or outline).

Check this out! – Blog interview with my friend, Kathy Halsey, who is both author and writerpreneur. Do not miss this!

Editing – Checking story structure in a developmental edit, self-editing for story structure, *plus* introducing the Flubs2Fixes game.

Reading – A picture book and a couple of middle grades.

Resources – A couple of blogs and websites that I particularly find helpful with story structure.

Heads up – The next 12×12 Book Chat.

Just for fun – Something that has nothing to do with story structure!


Image by Suzy Hazelwood, from

Using Scrivener and your story structure of choice to piece together a beautiful revision (or outline).

This isn’t an ad for Scrivener, I promise! But if you use it, or if you’re interested in using it, you might find what I’m currently doing with one of my manuscripts helpful. (If you’re not familiar with Scrivener, the writing software from Literature and Latte, you can take a look at this link:  🐾 🐾    

It’s not unusual to suggest using Scrivener for outlining. It’s easy to structure your outline, drag and drop until you’re satisfied with the placement of all the bits, then start writing.

It’s likely not unusual to suggest using it for revising, either. But maybe this will give both those suggestions a little twist for you.

I want to show you how to use Scrivener and the story structure of your choice to piece together a lovely quilt of a revision.

I realized this method would work as I pondered (and pondered, and pondered…) how to tackle a major revision and restructuring after two things happened over the last several months:

  1. My new critique partner gave me tons of great suggestions for revision of one of my middle grade manuscripts, and
  2. I decided to change the structure of that manuscript to the one found in Save the Cat Writes a Novel.

Many pieces of the manuscript needed to be moved to other places, or discarded altogether, and I needed to be able to see how (or if) I was following the Save the Cat 15-beat structure.

And that’s where Scrivener came in, as well as the quilting analogy. I had so many pieces of the manuscript, like piles of cut-up fabric, that needed to be pieced into the right places to make the quilt, er, book, the best it could be.

I started by figuring out the pattern. Using Scrivener, this is easy. I created folders for each of the 15 story structure beats of the Save the Cat Writes a Novel method, with the name of the beat and the percentages Jessica Brody suggests as the folder title. I changed the icon for the beat folders so I can tell at a glance where the beats are, in contrast to the chapters.

Under these, indented one space, I created folders for the chapters I thought fit that particular beat. Under each chapter folder, I added the documents to hold the scenes.

You end up with a pattern that looks something like this

Beat (percentage)

            Chapter number


            Chapter number



Beat (percentage)

            Chapter number



Since I’m moving so many scenes around, I’m being very methodical, adding one scene at a time and revising it according to the comments from my crit partner. If you do it this way, make sure you revise the scene before you move on to the next one. You don’t want to end up with an unrevised scene in the midst of your carefully revised ones. You wouldn’t want to put a piece of scruffy, frayed denim in the middle of your beautifully-planned quilt.

One of the beauties of the Scrivener system is that if you realize a scene or a chapter belongs somewhere else, you simply drag and drop it in the new spot.

This will work for any story structure you choose. The same holds true for your initial outline.

Happy writing! Happy quilting!

Photo by Dinh Pham, from


Photo by Marcus Winkler, from

I had the joy and honor in February of doing an interview with my friend, author and writerpreneur, Kathy Halsey. I mentioned Kathy in last month’s newsletter when I wrote about accountability partners.

In the interview, Kathy talks some more about how we do this accountability thing, and also talks about her wonderful services for writers at Ask Infowoman. You owe it to yourself to check it out! (But do come back. There’s more in store below!) Here’s the link:  🐾 🐾  


I want to keep to the theme of story structure here, and talk a bit about how I edit for story structure, then make suggestions for how you can self-edit for story structure. Then, there’s a game that will give you some editing practice! (Editors find such things exciting. Your mileage may vary. 😉 )

When I’m doing a critique or developmental edit of a book, there are a number of things I look for, one of them being story structure. Of course, I don’t know what particular structure a writer has used, or even if they have used one, but I can tell if all the elements of a story are in place, and are in the right order. Yes, there’s an order.

Humans have been telling stories and listening to stories since long before we started writing them down, and over the centuries, we’ve become fairly hard-wired to expect certain elements to happen in a certain order.

So I look for things like

  • The main character’s goal, need or driving want
  • Inciting incident
  • Obstacles
  • The antagonist at work
  • An “all is lost” moment
  • Some sort of winner-takes-it-all showdown between the main character and the antagonist
  • A denouement – how the main character moves into the new normal

Of course, that’s a very simplified view of what I look for in story structure, but you get the idea. You can find more information in my set of Manuscript MiniGraphics at this link:  🐾 🐾  

When you’re revising, it’s a good idea for you to check your story structure as well. You have an advantage over me – you know what structure you used to build your story. Was it a 3-act structure? A 4-act structure? The 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey? The Save the Cat Beat Sheet structure? Joyce Sweeney’s Plot Clock structure? Or something else?

Get out the basics of that structure – if you have them in your notes, great. Or in a book, also great. Or find them on the internet.

Now, go through your manuscript, and note which scenes belong in which element of the structure. Do you have all the elements? Are they in order? Do they lead logically from one to the next?

What does the information about that story structure say each element should consist of? Can you find those elements in your scenes?

You’ll likely find some places where you’ve veered away from the structure, unless you’ve been very careful. That’s okay. Revision gives you a chance to steer off the rocky detour and get back on track. (Or, to go back to our quilt metaphor, rip out the stitches and re-piece the quilt.)

You may even realize that the structure you initially chose doesn’t work for your story. That’s what happened to me with the manuscript I mentioned earlier, and that’s why I’m doing such detailed, careful tearing apart and reconstruction.

This isn’t the whole editing or revision process, of course. But it’s a place to start. It will help give your revision – dare I say it? – structure as you continue to work.

There are some resources below that you may find helpful in this, as well.

And I’m always available to help you along the way, with a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or YA manuscript. Just check out the Services and Rates info at this link, and see if we can work together.

Now – I promised a game that would give you a chance to try out some editing. I’m planning to make this a regular feature of my monthly newsletter. It’s called The Flubs2Fixes Game. In it, I’ll give you a short passage of writing (off the cuff writing of mine) and you can see what errors have been made, what you’d edit and how. Then there’s a link to click to go to a page on my website where you’ll see how I’d edit the same passage. Not only does it give you some editing/revising practice, but it lets you see my editing style.

Are you ready?

Here’s the first excerpt:

Ebony, the little black kitten, was sitting huddled at the back of the crate. The little black kitten was afraid of the big human who had caught her Mama and her two brothers and her. Mama was hissing. She knew that meant danger.

How many errors can you find in those four sentences? After you’ve had a try at editing the sentences, you can go to my website and find ut how I would edit it. Click on the paws!  🐾 🐾  

A little note for my Canadian readers of a certain age: when I wrote “Are you ready? Here’s…” I felt like saying “here’s my castle.” For everyone — that was part of the opening of an iconic CBC children’s TV program that ran from the late 1950s to the early 1980s called The Friendly Giant. Often Friendly would read a picture book to the viewing audience of kids, so it’s fitting that the next section of this newsletter is the Reading section.


Photo by Katrina Bolovtsova, from

I have only a few books to tell you about this time – books I really enjoyed, and hope you’ll enjoy as well.

Picture Book:

NOT MY CIRCUS, written by Janet Sumner Johnson, illustrated by Patrick Corrigan: This is a delightful, funny romp of a book that riffs off the popular phrase, ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys.’ Janet has a total blast playing with that phrase and all the possibilities inherent in a little girl, sent to the market for eggs for her mom, but coming home with a circus. Janet and her book were featured in the February 12×12 book chat, and I thoroughly enjoyed both the book, and the chat between Janet and Julie Hedlund.

Middle Grade fiction:

THE MISFITS 1: A ROYAL CONUNDRUM, by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat: Lisa and Dan make a great team to tell and show the tale of a girl who is chosen to go to a special school, and then is chosen for an elite group of middle school misfits who are trained to fight crime. It has funny and poignant moments, moments of mystery and many moments of mayhem. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. The first book was just released on January 2, 2024, though, so I’ve likely got a bit of a wait ahead.

THE WINTERTON DECEPTION 1: FINAL WORD, by Janet Sumner Johnson. Wait a minute! Where have we encountered that name before? Yes, the same author who wrote this month’s picture book also wrote one of this month’s middle grade novels. This has the flavor of The Westing Game, for those who like their mysteries with a side of puzzles-to-solve. There’s an elite spelling bee, a treasure hunt, family secrets and family dysfunctions, all culminating in a page-turning, nail-biting conclusion. Again, I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, due to be released October 8, 2024. Guess what one of our October books will be?


Photo by Pixabay, from

The story structure theme continues:

  • You don’t need to stay with the same story structure for every book. Radical thought, right? Instead, as writing coach Dani Abernethy suggests, use the story structure that suits the story you’re telling.  🐾 🐾  
  • Jessica Brody, the author of Save the Cat Writes a Novel, has a fantastic website and blog. This post helped me understand the Save the Cat beat structure:  🐾 🐾  She also has a free resource (my favorite price!) that lists all the beats, which one can then fill in with elements of one’s project.
  • If you like formulas/formulae, calculations and spreadsheet magic, Jami Gold has several story structure spreadsheets that fill the bill. Disclaimer: I have played with a few of these, but haven’t used any of them in depth. Someone in the KidLit411 Facebook Group suggested them, and I wanted to share. You have to scroll down to find the spreadsheets: 🐾 🐾

Heads up! 

I mentioned Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Book Chat in the picture bok section of the books I read in February. The Book Chats are open to everyone and they’re free. The next one will be Wednesday, March 20. Learn more about the book chats and sign up to the mailing list at this link:  🐾 🐾  

Just for fun 

Not about story structure, I promise! Although it is about communication, in a way…

You may have gathered that I like cats. (😉) This month’s “just for fun” features two videos from a feral cat rescue livestream that I have followed for the past 2 ½ years. The kittens featured in these videos have now been adopted, but there will always be more, likely from a couple of feral mamas who are very elusive beings and have resisted all potential of TNR. Anyway, on to the fun part.

The videos: be sure your sound is up, and be sure the sound is turned on for the video.

  1. In which Turkey and Douglas (tuxies born near Christmas along with their sisters, Holly and Tinsel) tell Shelly, the owner of the rescue, that they did, in fact, get cuter overnight.  🐾 🐾  
  2. In which Turkey tries to keep up his end of the conversation…  🐾 🐾  

That’s it for this month, friends, but there’ll be another newsletter coming your way on the last Thursday of March, the 28th. 

Until then, keep your story structure on track, and make sure you communicate your need for breakfast clearly. 😉


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By Word of Beth Newsletter is published the last Thursday of every month.

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