I love Bell's idea for a writing improvement program, although I haven't had a chance to develop one for myself. Once I stop popping out babies, I hope to have a little more time on my hands and engage in more deliberate craft studies.
Bell has a Writing Improvement Notebook, in which he has three sections. The first he calls Exemplars, in which he keeps paragraphs or pages from novels that really sing. The second is Outside Comments. In that section he keeps comments he gets from critique groups, readers, editors, etc. These are reminders to himself of what he needs to work on. And the last is Self Study. This is for overcoming weak areas in your writing by setting up a self-study program. The example he gives is this:
...you might need one called "Creating Sympathetic Characters. Write out a
specific thesis question: How can I create characters that readers will bond
with on an emotional level?
Suggestions Bell has are making a list of novels you've read where you connected with the characters. Select a handful of those, then re-read them with the study question in mind, looking for how the author accomplished this.
In my self-study section (to clarify, I've taken time to make the notebook, but have yet to put it to much use), I wrote that I wanted to create "bigger" and more interesting plots. So that's what I'll be working on.
Happy writing everyone!