Plotter? Pantser? (Plus, A Cover Reveal!)


I belong to this great online writer’s group which came into being during a Wri-Mo.  Eventually we wound up chatting about our creative processes, and the “Plotter VS. Pantser” mentality.  This was a couple years ago, before I’d released a single book, and I was new to the scene.  Plotter?  Pantser?  I always had a plot in my head, but what the hell was a pantser?

Following the conversation, it quickly dawned on me that they were talking about their personal writing habits. One person said she plotted out the big story points, but never had a definitive idea of how she got from plot-point to plot-point; she just flew by the seat of her pants.

Aha! So that’s what a pantser is!  Come to find out… I’m totally not a pantser. Heh.

I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I let ideas stew before I ever write down a single word.  When I do finally kick off my process, I start by choosing names that have some sort of meaning.  Example: in my upcoming military-themed holiday romance, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, the heroine’s name is Lucy, which means “light”.  I wanted Lucy to be a beacon that holds back the dark, a light that represents home and hearth, love and safety.  Why is this important?  In my mind, Lucy represents all military families everywhere who support their soldiers by keeping the home fires burning. I couldn’t name her anything else.

After I choose the names, I do a chapter-by-chapter outline.  This alone will be around five-thousand words, and while that might seem obsessive, I have to do this. If I’ve been thinking about the project for months or years, I need to keep all the details straight in my mind.  For instance, STARTING FROM SCRATCH was a story inspired by a good friend who’d been married only a year before her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq (side note: they just celebrated their tenth anniversary <3 ).  As I got to know my friend’s story, I thought about what that must have been like—to be a young newlywed with bright hopes for the future, only to have the rug pulled out from under her feet.  It took years for me to finally sit down and write the story that my brain had ultimately stitched together, but once I started, it only took 23 days to finish it.

Does this mean that being a plotter is better than being a pantser?  Of course not.  As a writer, all you can do is find what’s right for you.  As long as you’re making words and creating something where there was once nothing, that’s all that matters. :)

By the way… I finally have cover art for STARTING FROM SCRATCH, the 2nd Bitterthorn, Texas book and one half of the GIFTS OF HONOR duology (the amazing Rebecca Crowley’s taking care of the other half with her novella, HERO’S HOMECOMING).  Ain’t it purty? <3

 photo Carina_1113_9781426897474_StartingScratch_zpsc1cd97f1.jpg


Plotter? Pantser? (Plus, A Cover Reveal!) — 6 Comments

  1. I love your cover! And I wish I was a plotter–Lord, do I wish it. But I’m always so anxious to dive in, to get the story started because the people are already right there in the keyboard, that I can never wait for little things like plot. Continuity. Sense. Enough story to get from start to finish.

    Yep, I want to be a plotter. Great post.

  2. Pretty cover! I’m a die-hard plotter. I WISH I could be a pantser, because all the really fast-writing authors I know seem to be pantsers, but nope. I’ve tried it. I freak out — I have to know every little detail before I settle in. My first drafts are more like an extended outline, and even then as I’m writing, all my “sounded great at the time” ideas get tossed, and it starts all over again.

    • Leah, you’re totally reading my mind! I’d love to be a pantser too. To just run with a germ of an idea and have that explosion of creativity… it must be such a rush. :) Ah, well. You and I will do our thing and cross the finish line in our own good time. It’s allllll good as long as words are made, right? 😉

  3. I’m a plotter too. I’m convinced that plotting saves me time in the end because whenever I’ve tried to dive in and write by the seat of my pants, I usually get stuck after the third chapter or so. That’s not to say I never get stuck if I do some pre-planning, but the odds are better. Like you said, it just works for me.

    Love your cover. Beautiful!

    • Thanks, Jana! Yeah, I get twitchy if I don’t know what’s going to happen. Of course, I’m sure we plotters are always surprised by the turns our stories take (I know I am 😛 ), but for the most part I’ve got a pretty solid map of where everything goes.

      Hmm. I wonder if plotters have a tendency to be a little OCD? *ponders*

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