Guest Post: From Pantser To Plotter, Sort Of

To get ready for our Project Management Chat, our guest today, Jemi Fraser shares her journey from pantsing (writing “by the seat of your pants”) to plotting a story in advance.

 

When I started writing, it was totally for me. As a kid, I’d created many, many stories in my head. When I had two little kids running around my house and a full time job, I decided to try writing down a Star Trek story. Over the months, every last angsty, over-the-top word poured out. I had a blast!

A year later, I wrote another story. This one was to be the first in a series with a slow-building love interest. The MC was a reporter, the hero a cop. That story poured out as well.

And thus a pantser was born.

If you haven’t heard the term, pantser applies to those who write without a plan, by the seat of their pants. This is in contrast to plotters who enjoy working with outlines and other devices of torture.

Over the next few years, I wrote a few more stories and at one point I thought I should try to write a Real Book. I discovered NaNoWriMo on October 31st that year and wrote my 50k during November, then wrote another 120k to finish the story.

That overweight story had some potential, so I ventured online and found out about agents and queries. I had no idea that so many people wanted to write novels and I was thrilled to find other aspiring writers. Then a critique group. And finally, FINALLY, I found out about revision. We’d had no creative writing courses in school and despite the thousands of words I’d written I knew nothing about revision. And the idea of plotting out the story in advance? Shocking!

Eventually I wondered if those crazy Plotters might have discovered something rather helpful. Maybe plotting wouldn’t take the joy of discovery out of the story. Maybe it would help with the ENDLESS rounds of revision I’d been working on.

Maybe.

With a little trepidation, I tried my own idea of Plotting.

  • Character names, jobs, and major personality traits
  • Setting
  • Crisis moment
  • Ending = HEA

Altogether, my plotting encompassed about 150 words.

It worked. Sort of.

Yes, I had a better idea of the shape of the novel, but it still left me with too much clean up.

I tried a few craft books. They hurt my head. I don’t make To Do lists. I think Big Picture and work mostly on gut and emotion. These books with their lists, questions, arcs, and bullet points probably work really, really well for people with more linear brains. My poor global brain did a lot of whimpering. Imposter Syndrome set in. Hard.

Then I stumbled across Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. This book helped my brain relax a little bit. Libbie’s style wasn’t a perfect fit for me (are any two brains really alike?) but it was a better guideline. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes added another layer.

Before I started my current draft, I thought a lot about my characters and their flaws. I thought about how those flaws would contribute to the plot and the problems they’d encounter along the way. I made a separate Path for each character. I blended the Paths together.

As I’m writing this, I’m nearing the end of that draft and feeling pretty good about it. I’ve tweaked the Paths as I’ve written, but I haven’t strayed too far. The biggest advantage is that the conflict is much easier to maintain.

Now I just have to wait and see how many revision rounds this story will take. Who knows, maybe it will be the one to kick start my querying process!

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Coming Aug. 13th… Writing Strong Settings

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Graphic by Alexis Daria

A romance is a romance no matter where is takes place, right? It’s timeless. So does setting really matter? Without a doubt, yes. Where and when a novel takes place is vital to the plot and characters. Setting can create tension, add wonder and even serve as a character in the story. It can supports a novel, makes it richer and unforgettable.

Come chat about how you do your settings and learn how others do it too. Sunday 4pm PT / 7pm ET.

 

 

Balancing the External Plot: Take the Lead

romance writers chat graphic what do they do besides kissThis week on #RWchat, we’re discussing the non-romance plots in our romance novels. In other words, what do the characters do other than kiss? Yesterday we heard from C.L. Polk about Witchmark. Today, Alexis Daria talks about the external plot in her upcoming debut, Take the Lead.

 

How did you come up with the non-romance plot?

I’m a huge fan of Dancing with the Stars, and I was originally inspired by some of the stories they tell through their dances. I made a list of routines like the one in the video below, with the intention of using them as writing prompts.

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Balancing the External Plot: Witchmark

romance writers chat graphic what do they do besides kissThis week on #RWchat, we’re discussing the non-romance plots in our romance novels. In other words, what do the characters do other than kiss? Author C.L. Polk talks about balancing a mystery plot, a fantasy world, and romance in her upcoming novel, Witchmark.

How did you come up with the non-romance plot?

I knew I wanted to write a romance plot, but I really wanted them to have an adventure while they fell in love even though Tristan and Miles are from very different worlds. It took a long time trying to put the pieces of the story together because it’s a mystery that reveals terrible secrets at the end. I had some images firmly in my mind, like Miles’ tiny office at work and Tristan’s townhouse full of mirrors. The story didn’t come together until I had a vision of Miles being horrified, watching his fellow soldiers marching in their victory parade. When I figured out why, all the pieces fell into place, and I was ready.

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Coming June 18th… The Non-Romance Plot

romance writer twitter chat june 18th the non romance plot

Graphic by Alexis Daria

It’s not only about the love story. We have to put other stuff in our plots and in our character’s lives besides romance. How do we round out their experiences and our stories? How do you come up with an external plot that’s both separate and complimentary to the romance driving the story?

Join us to chat about it next Sunday 4pm PT / 7 pm ET.