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