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!

Continue reading

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Coming April 15th… Project Management

romance writers chat topic project management

So you have any idea for a book. You start writing it. Maybe you even get to finish it before the panic sets in, and then…holy crap.

Being a published author isn’t just about getting words on the page (and that’s hard enough all on it’s own). How do you take an idea from plot bunny to paycheck, not just once but enough times to make a career out of it? And how do you juggle all those steps when you’ve got more than one project going, all in different stages? With as fast as Romance wants authors putting out books, there’s a lot of overlap and that can be difficult to manage.

Join us on April 15th to talk about the project management side of being an author on #RWChat Sunday 4pm PT / 7pm ET.  

Coming April 8th… Mentorship

romance writers chat topic mentorship

It’s impossible to do this alone. Writing may be solitary but without support and learning from other writers, we’ll never make it in this romance writing business. What have you learned from those you have mentored over the years? Is there a way of passing on personal experience that is more helpful than others?

#RWChat thrives on authors paying it forward. Come tell us about your experiences mentoring or being mentored, Sunday April 8th at 4pm PT / 7pm ET. 

Coming Feb. 11th… Kissing

It’s Flirty February! Join us for a whole month devoted to romance-specific chat topics.

Romance Writer chat topic February 11 Kissing

First kisses. Last kisses. Soft and sweet. Grab you by the hair and ruin your life (in the best way). No matter what heat level you write, there’s a lot riding on the kiss. In fairytales, true love’s kiss is magic, but that’s a lot of pressure on the page. How do you live up to the kissing hype and do it justice for your readers and your characters? Let’s talk about all the ins and outs of locking lips on Sunday, February 11th.

Coming Feb. 4th… Chemistry and Compatibility

It’s Flirty February! Join us for a whole month devoted to romance-specific chat topics.

Romance Writer chat topic February 4 Chemistry and Compatibility

The flames, the sizzle, the burn—whether it’s slow, scorching or subtle, the chemistry that binds our lovers together is what gets the romance started and keeps it going for the whole story. The goal is identifying unique qualities each character has that are compatible enough to end in mutual love and HEA. Everybody has their own way of developing chemistry in a romance. Come share yours and learn about it with others this Sunday 4pm PT/ 7pm ET.

The Practice of Learning Dialogue

This coming Sunday, January 15th we’re doing a chat all about dialogue, and our co-host, Kimberly Bell, has lots to share about her process of learning to write authentic conversation.

 

Dialogue

I get a lot of compliments on my dialogue. In fact, some of the best early advice I got in my career was that my dialogue was my strength, so I should let it shine. But why is it a strength? How? What, exactly, do I do?

I don’t know.

I wish I had a better answer than that. What I do have are some aspects of my life that I think have contributed. Continue reading

Coming Jan. 21st… Dialogue

Romance Writer chat topic January 21 Dialogue

How our characters speak says a lot about who they are and what kind of romance the book will be. But finding the right voice and making each character’s word flow unique while keeping it believable and interesting is a tangle of intricacy. Come find out how other writers make their dialogue gripping and not a snoozeville of “hey, how are you?” This Sunday 4pm PT / 7pm ET.