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Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Well, I've been finishing up the character profiles for my WIP, a paranormal suspense story and trying to get down to some serious writing. First chapter is done, and I'll be starting on chapter 2 today, after the day job and once I've gone and worked out at my local Curves.

I've done a mini-outline so that I know where I'm at least beginning the story. I don't always write up an outline/synopsis of any sort when I'm writing, but for some reason this story just seemed to need it, so that's what I've done.

I'm not a "pantser" or a "plotter" per se. I'm basically a hybrid of the 2. I'll get the idea for a story, that kernel where the spark or inspiration comes from. I'll try to get that written down quickly, because if I don't, it will sometimes go out into the ether, never to be seen again. Then I'll try to do some character development, getting to know the heroine, the hero, and the villain. Then it's a lot of seat-of-the-pants writing, hoping that the story will flow.

Whenever it doesn't, or I hit a roadblock, that's when I'll start outlining pertinent areas. The things I want to happen or the locations I know will be in the book. Sometimes this will be enough to break the logjam and get things rolling again. Other times, my procrastination gene kicks in, and I'll let things sit for weeks at a time without every sitting down to the computer (or even picking up pen and paper). That's when it's really hard to get back into the flow, at least for me.

I find that if I write on a fairly consistent basis (or try to), the story seems to appear on the page much easier. If I take long breaks in between, it's much more difficult to get the rhythm back that was there in the beginning.

So, which type of writer are you? Do you plot every move of your story before you begin? Or do you just let the words flow and like the surprise of what comes from that?


Janis Patterson said...

Lovely post, Kathy!

Personally, I am a pantser through and through. I love the uncertainty of not knowing what's coming next - after all, if I can't keep me interested in the story, how can I expect the reader to be interested enough to go on?

Sandy Blair said...

Hi Kathy.
Great post and congratulations on your book's critical success.

I'm a pure pantser aka "organic writer." I have one character and the opening set up in mind before starting a book. As these flesh out the secondary character(s) come to light as does my black moment. Once that comes together, I've hit my stride.

Wishing you the very best. Say "hi" to those at DARA for me.

Sandy, in the frozen north

Kendall Swan said...

Great post, Kathy!

I think I may be like you, a sort of pantser/plotter hybrid. I kind of think of myself as a pantser who strives to be a plotter. I'm always so in awe of plotter's efficiency. The extensive outlines, the speed of the first draft--these are beautiful things to me. I still haven't executed them and don't know that I ever will. But a girl can dream.

See you in a couple weeks.


NAKED Vampire

Kendall Swan said...

Oooh Sandy-- we miss you!!!
Come back!! :)

chris k said...

oh -pantser a thousand percent

I wish I had a vague idea where the heck I was going when I start to write - Usually I have a main character and a vague idea of setting.

After I place my fingers on the keys I think what would be a good opening line - and that is the end of preplanning. lol.

From there I get just as excited as a reader as I discover what happens next and the different characters who pop up.

Even when I know I'm writing a book that is not commercially appealing - ie - no real hook - I still have to finish just to know how it ends!! lol.

If I force myself to plot- I'm very very boring. Yup- totally a pantser.

Shirley Wells said...

I've always been a pantser. I've started off with a vague idea and dashed off to get the story written. I've always believed that if I don't have a clue what's going to happen, the reader won't guess and become bored.

However, I've decided I need to grow up and plan a little more. A pantser's way - or my way - involves way too many rewrites. I'm hoping that writing to a plan will increase my output. Hmm, we'll see. :)

MaureenAMiller said...

Interesting debate, Kathy.

I've tried to plot, but often when I start writing the scene it takes on a life of its own, and all that plotting goes out the window.

Sometimes if I get stuck, I'll dummy down the scene I'm working on just to move it along, and then later return and embelish it.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Kathy!

You are a very complicated pantzer, that's for sure.

I'm definitely a pantzer from beginning to near the end. Usually by 2/3's of the book I have a definite idea what happens next all the way to the end. Often I'll sketch out the ending, making sure there's a conclusion to any dangling parts, a conculsion to the external plot and the dark moment that leads to a satisfactory HEA.

Toni Anderson said...

Wow--I'm a real plotter. But that doesn't mean things don't change along the way. Stories have to follow a logical route (well my stories do, I wish I could be more Pulp Fiction sometimes :) so sometimes my characters have to do something I haven't outlined to get them to the place they'll be. But I pretty much always know the beginning and ending of the book--I 'see' them LOL. If I stop writing and hit a road block I know I've gone wrong somewhere and have to back up. But without a plot I'm totally lost and would probably finish the story in 3 chapters :)

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, PP Kathy!

I'm pretty much a pantser. I have an idea and in a romance, know the end will be an HEA, but the journey....oh, the journey. And I like it because so many unexpected things come up.

For me, pantsing writing is fresh.

Phyllis said...

Good Morning CP/PP Kathy! I agree this is a great post.

I'm mostly a pantser, but I have to admit I'm a closet hybrid. There are just some things I need to know...( I think, but my characters change my mind later)...

Hi Sandy from the frozen world!


Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh, I *wish* I could be a plotter! Imagine knowing where you're going when you sit down at the keyboard. I've tried all manner of tools and techniques to plot out my stories and they don't work for me. I like Sandy's use of the term "organic" -- that's what I'm going to call myself from now on: an organic writer.

Diana Cosby said...

Hi Kathy,
Fun topic. :) I started out a major plotter, but with every book I write I find myself becoming more of a pantzer. To me, there is no right way, but that which each book's characters dictate. Thanks for asking, and I wish you continued success!

Kathy Ivan said...

Wow! Great see so many of my DARA friends here today.

Janis, I'd love to just be a pantser but I find if I don't plot out a few of the steps ahead, I tend to not put enough red herrings in there to throw of suspicion!

My dear Sandy, we do miss you here in Dallas. I like the term organic writer. I do tend to start with one character and an opening, too. Then my plotting begins. . .

Kendall, a pantser who strives to be a plotter--I love that! I work just the opposite. I'm the plotter who strives to be more of a pantser. :-)

Kathy Ivan said...

Oh yes, Chris, I definitely know you're a 100% pantser. It is fun, though, to see think you have your characters heading in one direction, and they turn everything upside down and go and do just the opposite of what you have planned!

Shirley, that's why I tend to do a bit more plotting--I don't want to have to keep rewriting my story. The pantser in me gets the opportunity to fill in the blanks between what has been outlined, though, so its all good.

Maureen, Iknow exactly what you mean. Too much plotting can take the fun out of what you are writing. I think that's one of the reason I'm a hybrid writer, just enough plotting to know where I'm going and then let the characters take control of the rest. :-)

Good morning, Suz, glad to see you here. I'd never make it 2/3 of the way through if I didn't have some sort of idea of where I was headed. Although many times when I get to the big black moment, none of that is plotted, I like for it to just explode on the page. Then tie everything up in the HEA. That's the best part, other than writing THE END.

Kathy Ivan said...

Toni, a sister plotter! I agree, if I didn't have some plot to back me up, and know where I'm going, I'd only have a couple chapters and the book would be done.

Vicki, good morning, girlfriend. The journey of the story, isn't that the best part. That's where I let my characters take the lead and fly free. (For those wondering about the PP--it stands for plotting princess). :-)

Phyllis, thanks so much for dropping by. Another hybrid. I think there are more of us out there that people suspect.

Marcelle, plotting doesn't work for everybody and that's a good thing, too. As writers, we need to work with what works best for us and is a good fit. Pantsers probably get more accomplished in one session than I do, and I kinda envy that.

Diana, thanks for coming by. I'm starting to feel that way myself about my writing. The more I do it, the plotting seems to decrease and the pantser comes through. But I think I'll always do some plotting and planning. When writing mystery/suspense I need to know where to put those rabbit trails to keep the reader guessing.

Kara Ashley Dey said...

I'm a happy medium--I read my characters' minds. Of course, I don't always do what THEY want so I have outlines. I don't write in order but choose the scenes that jump out at me and 'jigsaw puzzle' pieces as they fall into place. With this half-baked method my characters get their way more often than if I just tell them what to do all the time and in appreciation they give me gifts of intense details and emotionally moving reveals. I love them for that. Great topic! -Kara

Adrienne Giordano said...

I'm half and half. I generally have an idea of what will happen at the major turning points and the end. It's my roadmap and I keep track of those scenes in an Excel spreadsheet. Once I have my major plot points I start writing and fill in as I'm going.

Wynter Daniels said...

I'm mostly a plotter, although I have written a couple manuscripts without an outline. I find I tend to veer off course too easily if I don't have a road map of where I am going!

Elise Warner said...

Pantser for fiction, plotter for non-fiction. Fiction--I'm always being surprised by my characters and they tend to lead the way.

Rae said...

I'm so surprised to see so many pantsers! I'm a plantser, or ploster. Start with pantsing, but eventually get my feet on the ground...

Kathy Ivan said...

Kara--I wish my characters would cooperate enough to let me read their minds!! I think that's why I need that basic outline, to help see into their heads.

Adrienne--Half and half--seems to be the way a lot of us are writing!

Wynter--That's it exactly! I tend to veer off course without my roadmap to keep me in line. Otherwise, rabbit trails, here I come!!!

Elise, it's always nice to let the characters surprise us, but I still need a bit of a roadmap to guide them to finding the necessary clues to solve the mystery. :-)

Rae, having talked to so many writers, I'm not really surprised to see so many pantsers out their. I guess it's half the fun of storytelling, to let the muse take you where it will.

Kaz Augustin said...

I just have to comment because we plotters need to stick together! I break a novel down into Acts (three), then chapters, then scenes. Then I do an outline of every scene. I leave about two blank scenes in every Act to cater for the sparks of inspiration that usually come, or to absorb a scene that has grown bigger than its intended scope.

I find that, by plotting, I completely avoid the Sagging Middle problem. Everything is already there and I don't have any panic attacks or grave doubts (besides the obvious!) about what I'm writing.

Kathy Ivan said...

Wow, Kaz, that's much more detailed that i usually do, although I sounds like it would really be effective. Not having that sagging middle is always important, and I try to avoid that like the plague. :-)

Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I meant to get over here yesterday and didn't make it. But I always have to jump into this topic because I'm on a (failing) mission to get people to stop using the word "pantser." LOL

I don't pull people's pants down. I fly by the seat of my pants when I'm writing. So I'm a flyer. :)

I used to say I'm a hybrid, too, but I only know some very basic stuff when I start, and I plan ahead, but not very far at a time. It's like driving on a really dark, deserted highway. I can see as far as the headlights go, which is always further than where I am, but not much. One of my very favorite aspects of writing is when I get an idea, go back to seed it in what I've written so far, and it's already there!

Julie Moffett said...

I'm like Toni, a plotter. In my personal life, I also make lists. It's all about lists and plots for me!! Ha!! Of course, that doesn't mean the story doesn't often take on a life of its own. But I feel more comfortable knowing where I'm going and what I want to achieve. I think this is also important if you are writing a series. :)

Kathy Ivan said...

Natalie--you don't pull people's pants down? LOL funny. I don't either, but I have been know to freeze a few pair of their underwear when they annoy me.!!! A flier sounds so much better, anyway. :-)

Julie--I am so with you. I am such a list maker. I have lists for everything. I hadn't really thought about making lists apply to series though that's a terrific idea, I may just have to plot out a series now. :-)

Thanks everybody for dropping by and revealing your inner writer's style.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Hi Kathy!
Hi!! I just saw your posting - I've had my head down writing. But hey, congratulations again on your book! You rock.
Sorry to chime in late here, but I just have to say something about this because, as you know, I'm the Queen of Pantsing.
I just finished turning in a series overview. Now, that's a hard task for a Pantser. I didn't want to ruin the fun for my subconscious, but I had to do it so my agent so we can sell the series.
So, what's a "organic" girl to do if she has to write a series pitch? I told myself to put down what I could "see" about each book. I also reminded myself constantly that nothing is written in stone. I could change it later. Also I kept it very brief.
Even still, it made me so nervous I felt like throwing up a couple times. The fun, for me, is not knowing.
it's wonderful you can do a little of both. That's ideal. I get jealous of plotters, but I've tried it and it suffocates me.
C'est la vie.
Big hug!

Clare London said...

Great post! And I'm much encouraged because I realise *I'm* a bit of a hybrid too! I've had to develop some outline skills as time has gone on, mainly because my writing time is so limited I want to make sure I'm on the right track for every precious minute. But my pantser side lets the characters lead me astray many times:).

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