Sunday, April 4, 2021

Bone, Bread, Blossom by Molly MacRae

I feel like a carnival barker when I talk about writing. Like a snake oil salesperson. “Step right up and sit right down and you—I say you—can write a novel.” I tell people some version of that in workshops and when I’m on panels at conferences. I believe it, too. If I can do it, you can do it. 

But just as in writing, telling isn’t always convincing. Showing is the way to go. Showing is just the ticket. The golden ticket. And I’m here today to show you how easy it is to write not just a novel, but anything at all, with my uncomplicated, illustrated, enumerated, encapsulated, oversimplified infographic guide to writing anything at all. Mixed metaphors included at no additional charge.

1. Start with a bare bone of an idea. If you’re writing a mystery, your story might literally start with bones or a body.

Bones in my window seat

2. Mix your ingredients to form the cohesive dough of whatever it is you’re writing, knead to develop the glutens of it, and watch it rise.

Bread dough rising on my kitchen counter

3. Your work started out like a tiny flower bud. Now, with all your time, attention, and concerted effort, your work—and you—have blossomed!

Peonies blooming out my side door

Like a snake oil salesperson, I’ve probably glossed over a few details and may have left out bits of information that some might deem vital. For instance, have you ever looked closely at a bare bone?

Close-up of bones in my window seat

Bones are intricate. They’re fascinating. And a framework of bones—a skeleton—is miraculous for what it can do. If you’re so inclined, you might build a skeleton for your writing in progress, and you might call that an outline. Do you need an outline? No, but it’s a process that many writers find valuable. Others don’t. There’s no right or wrong. There’s only the way that works for you.

The actual nitty gritty of writing could be a book all on its own. There are plenty of those out there and I’ll put a list of some of my favorites at the end of this post. Some of the books are aimed at children, but that’s good. People who write good nonfiction for children make the information they’re trying to get across accessible and relatable.

So, there you go—bone, bread, blossom, book. If I can do it, you can too.

A short, very short bibliography of writing manuals:

 Howdunit: a Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club, by Martin Edwards

Writing Radar; Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories, by Jack Gantos

My Weird Writing Tips, by Dan Gutman

On Writing; A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

Stein on Writing; A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft, Techniques, and Strategies, by Sol Stein

Do you have a favorite book on writing? If so, pop it in a comment below.


Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest and connect with her on Twitter  or Instagram.









  1. Tell us about the bones!

    Great analogies here and the perfect takeaway - there is no right or wrong, just what works for you.

  2. What a fun way of looking at it Molly.

    To your list of books, I'd suggest Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

  3. Fun post! And here's another book to add to your list: How to Write a Mystery - A Handbook by Mystery Writers of America. It's filled with lots of good advice by writers we all know and will be published later this month.

  4. Hallie Ephron's Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel.

    Love the bones. My dog would chew them to shards.

  5. I love “Structuring Your Novel” by K.M.Weiland. I go back to it again and again.

  6. An amusing way of making us pay attention to some of the basics, which we seem to overlook sometimes.

  7. All the books mentioned in your blog and the comments are great... I also like Janet Evanovich's book on writing. Funny and on point.

  8. What a fun way to look at writing. I also like Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver.

  9. Thanks, all, for your kind words. Thanks, also for the great additions to my short list of books. Mally, nice to see you here. I'm looking forward to the new MWA book. Jim, you're right. Renni Browne's book is terrific. I have it on my shelf, too, and was lucky enough to meet her several times when we both lived in east Tennessee.

    Kait, those are bones from an old cow skull that my parents gave to our children 35 years and 3 moves ago. These days it's happy sitting in pieces, in the sun, on the window seat.