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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Changing Gears

As I embark on the editing process with Book 2 of my Sealed With a Kiss series, I came to a rather startling conclusion two weeks ago.

I don’t want to be a pantster anymore.

Shocking, I know. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves. Yeah, yeah, I know—this news probably not as shocking for you as it is for me. But truly, this is a huge deal for me as a writer. It is not so much just a change in strategy, as it is an entire paradigm shift in how I approach writing.

Pantstering (wow—now I’m really making up words, lol) is how I have written since I first sat down in front of the computer to tell a story three years ago, and it is how I have identified myself for the last year and a half as I have learned how to be a professional writer. It’s what gets my blood going when I sit down in front of an empty page, the endless possibilities of which racing through my mind.

But… here’s the rub. As much as I love the writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing, I really hate the revising-seventeen-times-to-get-it-right thing. After all, I may have sold my first book, but after the endless edits it required, I might have well have written three more in the time it took to fix the thing.

And now, as I stare in the firebreathing face of my first professional deadline, I’ve decided I kinda want to know that all those loose ends get tied up tidily. I want to pull the reader along in a well-thought-out story arc, where the character growth is subtle but purposeful, and, quite frankly, I don’t want to be sick to death of my own story by the time I'm done.

So, thus begins my foray into becoming a plotter…er, rather a plotster. (I can’t change myself completely, after all!). After the fantastic workshop by Cherry Adair, which led to me reading the fantastic book by Debra Dixon, GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT, which led to some rather fantastic epiphanies about how I wanted my story to go, I am ready to give it the old college try.

Today, after two weeks of plotting, brainstorming, and character mapping, I am set to begin the rewrites of Book 2. My goal is to go into this revision with such a flawless gameplan, I’ll emerge on the other side with a fantabulous book.

That’s the plan anyway, lol.

I’ll keep you updated as to whether my characters cooperate or not. So tell me, are you a Plotter, a Plotster, or a Pantster? Have you ever changed your methods, changing tactics after years of using the opposite method? Will Ava Stone and Lydia Dare turn their backs on me know that I have gone to the dark side, lol? ;)


  1. Yep... Writing with the intent to earn requires most of us to become a bit more deliberate with the process. No worries. You're not the first to cross over.

    I changed over after my first book sold and have been a happy happy girl ever since. Good luck with book 2!

  2. I found I HAD to become a plotter, for the very reason you mentioned above- my story was only halfway written, but I'd still spent a ton of time having to "start over" at chapter 5 because my plot took off in a new direction.

    I started to notice that I came up with the same great ideas by brainstorming as I did as a pantser, only I figured them out BEFORE I had to scrap 10+ chapters. That simple fact sold me on plotting.

    I do not plot chapter by chapter, but I do decide beginning, first middle, second middle, end. That way, even if I change something, at the very most it will take out only a fourth of the book. :)

  3. Oh my goodness, Mari - you just made me feel much better! I was so worried I'd go through all this effort and would suck anyway, then I would end up right back where I started!

  4. Wow -another convert! Thanks for the boost of confidence, Lorenda! That is exactly the tactic I'm taking - I'm plotting the main points, a few key scenes, and the character's overall GMCs, but not chapter by chapter. *Now* I'm starting to get excited that it may actually turn out well!

  5. I changed after my second book. I realized I hate revising, so maybe I should try plotting it out first. By the time I was done with my timeline of what I wanted to happen, I was so eager to write the book and it's come SO much easier!

  6. Woohoo, Kim! I'm loving these success stories. I find that I am indeed really eager to get on with it now, especially since I've got some really great scenes lined up. Despite my impulsive nature, this may very well work out for the best :)

  7. You're not a traitor! I love the "pantster" joy but I too need to know where my book is going, only to avoid the sad state you describe: having to dump chapters already written.

    This happened to me, too. :-( I ended up rewriting two-thirds of the book!

    Now I start out with a target ending. Then I plot about five chapters out (to allow my pantster soul some fexibility). As I get close, I find my brain plotting another five. It's working well. I also keep lists of who/what my characters are, etc. :-)

    Good luck!

  8. The lists for character traits/personalities has really been good for me too, Regina. I followed Cherry Adair's advice and created character diamonds using their sun signs. In every scene, at least one of the four listed traits is showcased. It helped me to add dimension to my characters.

    And, yeah- I'm totally on track to rewrite half to two thirds of this book. Sigh... Hopefully it willbe worth it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Erin,

    I've always been a pantser-plotter hybrid, but I didn't have as much of a direction as I do now. There isn't time to be wandering around aimlessly now that there are deadlines to meet.

    With that being said, I still don't know exactly what is going to happen within a scene. I usually have a goal and a basic idea (i.e. heroine is going to hide her identity and it's going to be funny) then my characters take over. I just have to know when to rein them in now. If they are taking off in a direction that isn't going to accomplish our goal, we have to have a sitdown. And sometimes they are right and I'm wrong. ;)

  10. Oh, Erin. You're following the same track I have followed. LOL. My first two books were written as a pantser...and had to go through countless revisions to make them make sense. With my third book, I decided to try something different. I outlined. Not chapter-by-chapter or anything like that, but the big scenes. And guess what? I only needed that primary draft, plus some tweaks. The same held true for book #4, and I'm following the same pattern for #5 as we speak.

    I plan out very basic ideas of scenes before I get started. One or two sentences on a notecard. Forty to fifty of those cards for a full-length novel. As I write, some of those get tossed, a lot of smaller scenes get added in to fill-in-the blanks, and I realize that some of those scenes would be better if I did them in a different way than I originally imagined them. And I leave my characters some breathing room to surprise me as we go. It always happens.

    I did surprise myself recently, though. For the novella I just finished, I couldn't plot it to save my life. My characters refused to allow it. So, instead, I sat down and started writing. It all turned out okay. I'm not ready to go back to pantsing it for a full novel, though. That's just asking for trouble.

  11. Lol, Samantha- don't you just hate it when your characters ignore you and they end up being right? I think you have a good system: a goal and the tone for the scene. I have been writing sticky notes with a scene and three reasons for it. I'm hoping to move the plot along at a nice clip, with *something* always happening. In my earlier attempts at writing, too many times I'd have "well-written" scenes where nothing was really happening. Thank goodness for crit groups pointing that sort of thing out!

  12. Catherine, learning more about your method proved very helpful to me. Although I use sticky notes instead of index cards, I learned that jotting down key scenes and what their point was worked pretty well. And I love always being open to letting your characters surprise you- it sure keeps things interesting!

  13. Regina - I've noticed I still get the "pantser glow", but I get to enjoy it first, before the hard work starts. :) One thing is for sure, there's nothing quite like the excitement of seeing a story unfold.