Pantser or Plotter … or Somewhere In Between?
I’m often asked whether I’m a pantser or a plotter when it comes to writing. I’m neither … and both.
When I began my writing career, I tried to be a plotter. I’d start my novels with pages and pages of beautifully outlined plot points and scenes. But once I got past the first chapter or so, I’d realize I wasn’t on point with my outline, that I had gone off in a new direction. Instead of continuing to write, I’d stop, revise the outline using the new direction in which my muse or characters had taken me, and then pick up where I left off in my novel. After stopping and rewriting/revising my outlines for several books, I finally just said to “hell with it.” I spent more time revising outlines than writing. What was worse – the outlines stifled my creativity. I had to find another way.
So that made me a pantser, right? Wrong.
Being A-type, I still needed some structure. There had to be a starting and an ending point. And I soon realized I needed certain things to happen along the way. I didn’t need to know every scene that would occur in the book, but did have to assure that my characters wouldn’t end up meandering all over creation and getting stuck in the middle.
My solution to this “not-a-plotter, but not-quite-a-pantser” dilemma came after taking some writing classes. The solution? The plot-point method.
In the plot-point method, all a writer needs to know is where to start (the set up) followed by the first main plot point, the inciting incident, where your main character is forced outside his or her comfort zone and forced on a journey to attain a goal. Then after a series of scenes and complications (the middle), there is the second main plot point, the crisis, where the main character is forced to make a decision in an effort to attain his/her goal and which then leads to the final climactic scenes and, eventually, the end.
That’s two plot points. Very important ones to be sure. The bulk of the novel is then made up of scenes that turn on complications facing the character(s) in attaining his/her goal(s).
This simple method allows you the room to let your novel evolve rather than follow a strict outline. And, if your characters are anything like mine, they are fairly bossy and know what needs to happen next.
Thus, when someone asks me whether I am a pantser or a plotter, I tell them I’m a quasi-pantser. Maybe you can be a quasi-pantser, too.
Join Monette Michaels October 6 – October 19, 2014
for her FF&P Workshop
‘ Plotting is a crucial aspect in every novel. This class uses the three-act model of plotting which is appropriate for the pantser, the plotter, or a combination of both. The approach is plotting major points of the story and will also show the relationship of plotting to characterization through Deb Dixon’s “goals, motivation, and conflict” method. There will also be a short lecture on sagging middles and hitting the wall, what they are and how to avoid them. Classes will be a mixture of lecture and exercises. By the end of the class, a student will have plotted one novel.’
About the Instructor:
My undergraduate majors were English and Mathematics from Purdue University. I then attended IU-Indpls Law School. My first job was in legal editing. Currently, my day job is as an arbitrator in commercial, securities, and employment law.
My creative writing background: I write as Monette Michaels and Rae Morgan. My first-published book was Fatal Vision (as Monette Michaels) in the late 1990s with one of the early e-publishers; it was re-published by LTDBooks, a Canadian indie press, in 2000. I went on to write several other single titles for LTDBooks: Death Benefits (an EPPIE finalist), Green Fire (a Dream Realm finalist), and The Case of the Virtuous Vampire (an EPPIE finalist and a CAPA Finalist) and now re-published as The Virtuous Vampire at Liquid Silver Books. I won an EPPIE in 2005 for Blind-Sided, published at Atlantic Bridge Publishing.
Currently, I write three series as Monette Michaels: the Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery series (The Virtuous Vampire, The Deadly Séance), The Security Specialists International series (Eye of the Storm, an EPPIE Finalist, Stormy Weather Baby, a novella, Cold Day in Hell, Storm Front, a novella, Weather the Storm) and the Prime Chronicles Trilogy (Prime Obsession and Prime Selection) .
As Rae Morgan, I write the Coven of the Wolf Series ( Destiny’s Magick, Moon Magick (Dream Realm finalist), Treading the Labyrinth (EPPIE finalist), and a novella“No Secrets,” in Zodiac Elements: Water). My single titles are Earth Awakened (a Terran Realm book), Enchantress, “Evanescence,” in Edge of Night, and “Once Upon a Princess,” in Ain’t Your Mama’s Bedtime Stories.
For the first years of Liquid Silver Books, I was the Acquisitions Editor and also edited books. I am currently a Senior Editor and do still read, acquire, and edit for the main lines of LSB, as needed.