I admit it, my writing process is a bit…odd. That’s as good a word as any.
Actually, that’s probably the best word to describe my process of getting those jumbled thoughts out of my head and onto my laptop. And, eventually, published, so you can enjoy the end result.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the pantser vs. plotter debate. It’s as old as the idea of being a published author. And it’ll probably never go away.
Simply put, it’s someone who plans out their book before they start writing, versus the writer who figures out their plot as they type.
Some people feel very strongly that one way is better than the other.
(I’m not one of those people.)
Others claim you can be a mix of the two. As it turns out, for me, anyway, these ‘others’ may be right.
I’ve always insisted that I am 100% a pantser; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have far too many outlines without actual books taking up space on my hard drive to deny the cold, hard facts: If I outline a book, it will never get written.
Seriously. Here’s an example: There’s this heroine who’s an attorney and hero who’s a mechanic and also a single dad love story that I’ve had in my head for years. It’s probably been least five, maybe more. But when it first hit me (and they do, seriously; these ideas come out of nowhere and rarely at convenient times), I had way too much else going on to drop everything and start typing away. But the basic premise (the heroine is actually his ex-wife’s attorney and his kid gets kidnapped and she helps him find the little boy and of course they fall in love in the process) wouldn’t get out of my head and I really, really wanted to remember to write this damn story.
So I did a quick outline. I had every intention of returning to this book, after I’d cleared everything that was currently on my desk.
And what did I say? It’s been five years? I still think about this book, pretty regularly. And maybe, someday, I actually will finally get around to writing it.
In the meantime, I’m busy writing all those books I’ve not outlined.
But wait, I mentioned above that I may very well be a mix of these two contradictory writing processes, remember? So, after that example I gave above, what the heck am I thinking?
Stay with me, I promise, it makes sense. No, no, I don’t promise that, because honestly, not much of what I do makes sense to anyone but myself.
Okay, let’s get back to why I think plotting actually sometimes helps me, despite all the evidence against this idea.
See, I am a pantser. An idea will pop into my head, maybe an opening line, maybe an opening scene; sometimes even the end of the book. I’ll stew over this idea for a while. Usually a couple of days, until I have a reasonably large block of time with which to sit down at the laptop and start banging on the keys.
And then that’s exactly what I do: I sit and write. The research happens as I go. Names, often I use “X” or “Y” until something strikes me as appropriate. I’ll have six tabs open on my internet browser, as I verify locations and situations and of course spellings of words (I’m a notoriously bad speller) as I’m pouring my heart and soul into this book. I can hammer out 20,000 words in a weekend, if the idea is that insistent and I blessedly don’t have real world expectations of my time.
But sometimes, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, the ideas are there but I can’t seem to type them on the screen. My hands hover over the keyboard, the curser flashing on a blank page. Usually that happens when I’m stressed out. Too many constraints on my time, courtesy of the real world. Or maybe it’s been far too long since my house has had a thorough cleaning and I can’t concentrate for all the dust bunnies collecting in the corners. Or maybe I’ve been under the weather with a cold or everyone’s favorite visitor – Aunt Flo. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of them, and sometimes they really do create writer’s block. Which is frustrating as hell because damn it, the ideas are there!
That’s when my concept of plotting comes in handy.
For example, last spring, I was invited to be part of a boxed set called Dark Moon Falls (wanna read it??? Click HERE.). Twenty-thousand words minimum. All authors must write within the same shared world. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a list of characters who live in the town that can show up in everyone’s books. Pick one of these and give him/her a happily ever after or make up your own. Here are the basic parameters.
Close enough to the concept to call it plotting, as far as I’m concerned.
And guess what happened? I was hit with a story idea so strong, I had no choice but to ignore everything else in my life and furtively pour it from my brain into the computer. And when I got the first round of edits back from my editor, she said it was the best one I’d ever written.
Obviously, there’s something to this pantser/plotter combo mindset.
At least, for me.
Tami Lund writes books, always via pantsing, although sometimes she uses a vague form of plotting that might not be called plotting by anyone else. But hey, whatever works, right? Here’s her website, so you can check out her books: https://tamilund.com/