Jo is spending time working on her novel. Whenever she gets a writing fit, she shuts herself up in her room and writes, ignoring everything else going on around her.
One day, Jo goes with a family friend, Miss Crocker, to attend a lecture on ancient Egypt.
Jo and Miss Crocker arrive early for the lecture, and Jo spends her time people-watching. Beside her, a young boy is sitting reading a melodramatic-looking paper.
The boy offers to let Jo read the story he has. She accepts, and finds that the story is a sensational romp involving love, mystery, and murder.
Jo gives the boy back his paper. He thinks the story is wonderful, but she thinks that she could do just as well. The boy tells her that the author, whose pseudonym is "Mrs. S. L. A. N. G. Northbury," makes a good living writing stories like that.
The lecture begins, but Jo can hardly pay attention to the speaker's description of ancient Egypt. She's busy writing down the address of the paper, which is offering a $100 prize for the best short story.
The next day, Jo begins writing the most sensational story she can think of. Her mother is a little disturbed by her obsessive writing.
Jo waits for six weeks, keeping her submission a secret. One day, she receives a letter saying that she has won the prize. A check for $100 is enclosed!
Jo tells her family about the prize and shows them the check. Everyone is excited, except for her father, who tells her that she can do better.
Jo's sisters ask what she is going to do with the money. She says she is going to send Beth and Marmee to the seaside for a month to help Beth get well.
Beth and Marmee go on the holiday that Jo pays for. Both of them seem much healthier and happier when they return from their vacation.
Jo keeps writing sensational stories and using her earnings to pay the family's bills and buy things they need.
Jo feels proud of her hard work and satisfied by the knowledge that she can help provide for herself and her loved ones.
One day, having finished her novel, Jo decides to try and get it published as well. After sending the manuscript to several publishers, one of them agrees to publish it – if Jo will cut it by one-third.
Jo asks her family what they think. Her father advises her to wait, polish the novel herself, and perhaps publish it as a whole one day. Her mother advises her to publish, even if she has to abridge, so that she can get feedback from reviewers.
Jo's sisters have equally divergent opinions. Meg thinks the novel is perfect and that Jo shouldn't change it at all. Amy thinks that Jo should do whatever the editor says, since he knows what will sell. Beth just wants to see it published soon.
Jo decides to publish the novel. She cuts it down one-third, but since she tries to take everyone's advice about what to leave in and what to take out, the result is a mess.
Jo is paid $300 for her novel. Her reviews are mixed, and she can't decide which of the criticisms are helpful and which are just silly. Now she wishes that she had published the novel whole or not at all; she thinks she's been misjudged.
Jo's family comforts her, and she comes out of the episode ready to try another novel – someday.