Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Plotting & Pantsering Affects Everything You Write Part 1 with Guest Vince Mooney



Author Instructors Include:

Virginia Carmichael, Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Clari Dees, Debby Giusti, Audra Harders, Ruth Logan Herne, Myra Johnson, Julie Lessman, Tina Radcliffe, and co-authors, Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp.


Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? This workshop will show that being a Pantser or a Plotter can affect every level of your writing. Knowing how it does this may change how you approach your writing.

When I started writing this post last month I thought that plotting and pantsering only affected the general direction of the narrative. This post was originally intended to be short and humorous.

Everything Changed with One Question!

Before I began writing this post I asked Tina to send a question to all the Seekers. The answers that came back were a real eye-opener. I saw for the first time how pantsering and plotting were affecting the very nuts and bolts of everyday writing.

This was serious business.

The comments I received from my question were unique to each author. Everyone seemed to care deeply about this subject.  I soon had over 6,800 words of comments and examples that came from twelve different authors. At this point I knew I had something big. This was information that was important and that needed to be told. I asked Tina for a Part II of this post to run in the future like Julie Lessman’s Kissology posts. Tina gave the go ahead for two posts but she chose to have one appear after the other. This resulted in a Two-Day Workshop.

Here is the Question that Authors were asked:

Can you point to any passages in your books which would not have been written if you had not been plotting or pantsering at the time?


This may seem like a simple enough question. You might even think the answers would be much the same. They were not.  Each author’s answer was unique. I soon discovered that pantsering and plotting are much more complex than I imagined.

Here’s an analogy which I found helpful.

Pantsering and plotting are similar to being left or right handed. Each person tends to favor a dominate hand and yet each individual also tends to make ample use of both hands.  So too it is with pantsers and plotters. Authors often have to both pantser and plot on a given book.

A Plotter cannot plot a plot. The plot needs to be pantsered because there is no plot to follow when you’re creating a plot. Moreover, if every element of a story were plotted ahead of time, the plot outline would become a fully pantsered book. There are situations when what a writer is doing might be described as either plotting or pantsering or both. This should tell us in pantsering and plotting we are dealing with something quite complicated.

Pantsers Have Plots – They Just Get to them Differently

Pantsers always have plots even when this means adjusting their plotlines after the fact. As two Seekers will show in this workshop, pantsers usually must prepare a detailed synopsis (sometimes fourteen plus pages) for publishers once they sell their first book.

It’s just a fact of writing that at times plotters have to pantser and pantsers have to plot. 

Two devoted pantsers, Audra Harders and Myra Johnson, have learned how to use the writing program Scrivener to give them the freedom to pantser while still enjoying many of the advantages of being a plotter. Scrivener allows freestyle plotting for pantsers while also giving plotters the opportunity to pantser more often than they might otherwise do. 

Just as there is every shade of left handed and right handedness -- even including the truly ambidextrous – there is also every shade of pantsers and plotters. While most writers favor pantsering or plotting, each can benefit from knowing more about the opposite approach.

Types of Pantsers and Plotters

Type I Plotter: this is a writer who was born a plotter. This writer may even think plotting is the only way to write.  I’m a type I plotter. I wrote a seventy-eight page outline for my “Stranded in a Cabin” WIP before I ever wrote the first word of text. I’ve always been this way both in school and in business. I always plotted my advertising copy to insure getting the most selling points in the copy while using the fewest words.

Type II Adult-onset Plotter: this I believe is the most common type of plotter. Most Type II’s have tried pantsering and can’t make it work. It may be possible that when you have all the time in the world, pantsering will  work.  However, after your first book is published deadlines may make pantsering too time consuming or ‘hit and miss’.

One team of workshop authors were pantsers until they became coauthors. Afterwards they had to plot their stories to avoid going off in different directions.

TYPE I Pantser: I think almost all pantsers are lifelong type I’s. I have yet to meet a pantser who was once a plotter but had to give it up. (Debby Giusti is a strong plotter who has to remind herself to pantser more often. Myra Johnson once tried plotting but it didn’t work for her.) I don’t think there are any TYPE II Adult onset pantsers. If you are one, please leave a comment.

The Plotting Pantser: this is a pantser who may be ‘passing as a plotter’. She keeps changing the plot as new ideas arise with almost every chapter. Is she really a plotter if she keeps changing the plot by ‘the seat of her pants’? I think some authors, who don’t like to plot, use this technique on their editors. While they do submit a synopsis, they also feel free to change anything they want to before the story is finished.

The Pantsering Plotter: this is a plotter who may be passing as a pantser. She starts writing without a plot in true pantsering fashion but then keeps building a plot on the back end of whatever she has written. With each new page the plot outline also increases. Within a few chapters a complete plot has materialized. This person is probably a stealth plotter.


 Mary Connealy Takes the Bull by the Horns and Reveals ‘How Pantsers Operate’.



“In the following example from my September release of, Fired Up , (Trouble in Texas Book #2),  I needed a moment of drama to pick up the pace of my book. Simple as that.

“Originally in the scene, ‘Dare and Vince’ are eating breakfast. (Yes, I've got a hero coming named Vince!). I thought this was boring. Sitting down is boring. I needed them to move. They're bickering because Dare wants to quit being a doctor. He's never been to any school. He's only learned by being a medic in a prison camp so he feels like a fraud. That gets worked into this scene but it didn't start out with that.  I just needed action. So I metaphorically shot someone.


“I came up with a family racing into town with a sick child. Only trouble? It’s a tiny town in Indian Territory. No families, no children. Yet I decided I wanted this scene so I had to figure out who these people were.

“Since Luke is in  Swept Away, (Trouble in Texas book #1) and since he had taken back his land, others may well have come back to reclaim their land. Since I was still working on book I, I was able to give Luke the backstory I needed for book II.

“Luke was given a black friend named Gil, who was the reason Luke, a Texan, fought for the north. Suddenly Gil's got a bigger role than just a scared dad with a sick child who is going to need the services of a doctor. He's now got a wife who needs a name. He also has three children who need names.

“Here you can see how pantsering in book II leads to changes in book I which was still being written. I essentially pantser more than one book at a time.”

Here's the scene: (remember it started out generic. No names, no connections. This family wasn't black and there was no covered wagon. They were just random people with a sick child.)

Set-up: Dare is the hero. His house burned down last night. He's decided to quit doctoring and become a rancher.
***

“I’m through being a doctor. That house burning down was a message straight from God.”

A loud clatter of fast moving wheels sounded outside and a man shouted, “Whoa!”
Dare turned to watch a covered wagon skidding to a stop right outside the diner window. A cloud of dust swallowed the man sitting high on the wagon seat.

“I need a doctor!” The man, who had ebony skin, leapt to the ground from the dangerously high seat. “Somebody help me! My son, Elias, I think he’s dying!”

Dare was outside in the blustery November wind before he gave serious thought to moving. He sprinted for the back of the wagon, following the man who turned, holding a young boy in his arms. “He’s running a high fever.”

“I’m a doctor.” Dare took the child, burning hot. Vince was at Dare’s side. “Bring him to the law office.”

Dare saw a woman and two more boys, younger than this one, climbing out of the wagon.

“We have to get him out of the cold. Follow me.” Dare hurried after Vince, who had his desk cleared by the time Dare got inside. The only flat surface in the room. Stretching the child out, Dare looked up at Vince. “Get me cold water. We’ve got to get this fever down.”

“I’m on it, Doc.”

Dare thought he heard sarcasm in Vince’s voice and undue emphasis on the word ‘doc’ but he was too busy to pay it any attention.”

***
The above is a good example of advanced pantsering. Mary can pantser more than one book at a time. This allows Mary to have events that would be great in book II  be setup in the backstory of book I. Ordinarily you might think that only plotters would be able to do this. However, because Mary can write more than one book at a time, she enjoys much of the advantages of being a plotter without an apparent loss of creative freedom. 

A Question of Experience

A beginning writer should consider how many years of writing experience it will take to be able to pantser across a two or three book series. Perhaps an aspiring writer might benefit more by learning to plot early in her career?  Also if book II is changing book I to fit it’s needs, then isn’t that like having book II plotting book I? Sometimes plotting and pantsering can look a lot alike.

How Audra Harders Uses Scrivener to Enjoy the Benefits of Plotting While Being a
Pantser

“I’m a tried and true pantser. My sense of sequencing (or lack of, in my case) is enough to frighten even the hardiest of editors. With Scrivener, it doesn’t matter if I write scenes out of order. It doesn’t matter if I suddenly realize an elusive motivation or if I figure out that I’ve built a scene on a misguided conflict. I’m able to write all my ‘brain-busts’ out of order and keep them on separate ‘cards’ until I figure out if I can use them.

“For me, this is huge. It also keeps all the clips of my scenes on the main page or dashboard, so I don’t have to wonder where I put the brainstorm I’d had days or weeks ago. The side bar, in Scrivener’s,  allows me to use keywords to help locate ideas, scribbles and scenes. The corkboard pulls up the index cards for the chapter with a brief overview of the scene.

“It’s easy to take a scene that is out of place and move it where it belongs. I can click and move an idea onto the corkboard of a different chapter in order to fix my sequencing mishaps. (Scrivener even allows moving a scene to another book in the a series I’m working on.)

“Scrivener allows me to write the way I think now and later shuffle it into some semblance of
order.  Don’t mess with my Scrivener or you’ll be barred from winning chocolate from me for life!!!”

If you have not used Scrivener, please note that all the ‘cards’, as well as the corkboard and scribbles, are virtual. There is no mess building up around your computer. No cards will get lost. Scrivener has four different search engines (not just one) so that you can find almost anything given any attribute of the item. You almost need a search engine to find all the other search engines.

Audra uses Scrivener in much the same way that Mary does things in her head. I call it ‘back-end plotting’.  



 Tina Would Rather Pantser than Plot


 “I am a pantser at heart.  But in order to sell on a partial I must turn in a proposal that
consists of three chapters and a 10-14-page (or longer) synopsis detailing each turning point in the book utilizing Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plotting Structure.

“However there is still the magic of pantsering as the story fills out and your characters talk to you – especially when an ‘Aha! Moment’ appears.

“In  Oklahoma Reunion one ‘Aha! Moment’  in particular was the sugar maple tree in the heroine’s front yard. That tree is mentioned again as the arc of the hero and heroine’s relationship develops. The maple tree arc is an example of pantsering that I never planned.

“The huge sugar maple near the street was barren of leaves, the naked branches dead and the bark peeling. It would have to be cut down which meant one more problem to solve, one more thing to do and much too much to think about.”  Page 36

***
 “The pruning is pretty much done. I just have to rent a chainsaw and cut down that dead sugar maple by the curb.”

 Kait turned, her alarmed gaze meeting his.

“Oh, not the maple.”

“No?” he asked.

“You said it just needed a good pruning and some TLC and it would  be fine.” Her lower lip trembled as she spoke.” Page 166

***

 “What? You mean the sugar maple? Yeah, I noticed. Won’t know for sure until spring, but it looks like that tree is going to make it.” He smiled.” Page 208 

***
What Tina demonstrates here is that important ongoing elements in a story can be pantsered into the narrative a little at a time as the author thinks of them. 

 

In Praise of Plotters: Debby Gisuti

 

“I spend a great deal of time and effort trying to plot the story before I start writing.  Recently, I've wondered if I spend too much time trying to get everything in place. Often I "see" the ending but don't have all the little points woven in as tightly as I would like. As a result I spend day after day trying to get those small items into place.

“I'm beginning to think I should get the plot in a fairly decent shape and then start writing, even if I'm not satisfied with the ending. What I have found recently is that the ending reveals itself as I'm moving forward in the story.

“Plot points that I didn't give much attention to early in the process take on more weight or new items appear that I never expected. So...I need to learn to allow a bit of "pantser" to meld with my usual plotter technique.

“Once or twice in each story, something new will pop onto the page as I'm typing. I've learned to allow that ‘where-did-that-info-come-from’ to remain, knowing I can always delete it in the final draft. More often than not, that tiny fact or piece of info will turn into a significant item that I'll need later in the story.

“It's as if God is planting that seed because He knows it will be valuable. I'm still amazed when it happens but have come to trust that He will tie it all together in the end.”

***
 


Debby understands the benefit of pantsering when the opportunity arises. And Debby is a consummate plotter. In her Military Investigations series books she manages to weave four separate threads into a seamless whole. There’s the mystery (‘who done it?’), the suspense (will the hero and heroine survive to the end of the story?), the romance (will the hero and heroine overcome their conflicts and fall in love?) and the inspirational element (“will the hero and/or heroine make peace with God and enjoy a full rich life in the Spirit”).

To work all these threads into one plot and give each theme justice is almost impossible. I’ve rarely see this done fully in an inspirational suspense romance. The plotting skill required to do this well needs to be of the greatest precision. Yet, even at this level of skill, Debby feels she needs to spend more time pantsering.



Clari Dees and the Pantser Satori – The Classic Pantser Experience
 


“In a way, my first book, ‘The Marshal Meets His Match’, was a result of both pantsering and plotting. I woke up one morning with such a vivid scenario playing through my head I had to write it down. That ‘seat-of-the-pants’ scene kept me writing for ten pages. When I caught my breath, I had to know more about these characters. Who was this girl and why was she toting a rifle? Who was the man she confronted? How had they ended up in a cemetery? Being shot at?

 “At that point, my pantsering-self had to do a bit of back-tracking and plotting. Ack! But I had a goal to work for, a scene to plot toward, and I managed to construct a skeleton of an outline under the guise of researching (something I love to do) the time period and location.


 "Here’s a portion of the final version of that scene—it actually appears in the last quarter of the book.


    “You!” Meri’s knees suddenly threatened to buckle, and the barrel of her carbine drooped toward the ground.
    “May we put our hands down, or are you going to use that on us?” Wyatt grinned and motioned toward her gun.
    She kept the barrel pointed toward the ground but shifted it toward Wyatt. “That depends on how you answer my question. What are you and Jonah doing in there?” It took some effort, but she kept the tremor out of her voice.
    Then dismayed realization dawned. “How long have you been up there?” She cringed, thinking how she’d blubbered over her mother’s grave.
    “Long enough to realize you wouldn’t appreciate an audience,” Wyatt said softly.
    She almost dropped the carbine. Of all the people to witness her tears… She didn’t know whether to melt in mortification or… She tightened her grip on the gun and took a step toward Wyatt and Jonah. Jonah stepped back.
    Wyatt stood his ground with a crooked grin. “You just figure out if you shoot us there won’t be any witnesses?”
    How does he always know what I’m thinking? “Would you quit changing the subject?” she huffed.

***
In The Marshall Meets His Match,  Clari Dees has painted a heroine so intriguing and unpredictable that I began rapidly turning the pages just to find out what this heroine was going to do next.  Clari is very good at giving readers multiple reason to turn the pages. And while Clari is a pantser she also knows when to plot. An experienced craftsman learns to become proficient with both hands. 

 

And So Ends Day One.  Be Sure to Return Tomorrow for Part Two!  There’s Still Many Authors to Hear From and Much to Learn.

Now…How About You?  Do you have anything to add about how you pantser or plot? Do you have any questions for our panel of experts? 


Please leave a comment for an opportunity to win a copy of any of the books mentioned today as available on Amazon. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.




Vince Mooney is a friend of Seekerville. He’s a retired marketing creative person and college teacher who now runs a real estate school by mail and writes romances and nonfiction books on writing. He was university trained to be a philosopher and runs the Philosophy of Romance web site. It’s been said that sometimes it’s hard to tell when he is being serious. 









 

158 comments:

Helen Gray said...

Hi Vince,

I'm a plotter.

I do some initial brainstorming and research. I create a rough outline. Then I outline each chapter in much more detail as I get to them.

I use a simple Word table.

When I first start brainstorming, I scribble a jumble of notes. Then I type those notes into a table, as sequenced as I can make them at that point.

Then, as I approach each new chapter, I decide exactly which episodes should go in it. I use copy/paste to change the order of anything that doesn't seem to fit where I "threw" it in there.

Got the coffee pot all set.

Helen

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome,Vince!!

This is a pleasure. Helen made coffee and I've got caterers bringing in fruit and veggie trays all day long for two days.

I got to put these posts up so I had an interesting first look at how everyone works. VERY INTERESTING.

Do you think how we plot or pantser also affects how we clean our offices, how we conduct business, how we see the world??

Melissa Jagears said...

Well, of course plotters panster, how else can we make up plots? We just have the advantage of realizing we need a better motivation or a different thread or what have you without having spent tons of time writing 100k and having to scrap huge chunks of it or even start all over!

I started out writing with minimal plot and a lot of pantstering to get to each of my plot points--took too long, so I plotted more and more for each book I wrote.

The book I was writing before I sold, I had a binder filled with spreadsheet plotting, the most I ever plotted, and in the epilogue, the hero does something romantic and yet, I didn't know why it was so romantic, it was mildly romantic in and of itself, but I asked "why did he do that?" and then I realized a missing detail that "he knew" and I didn't, so I had to go write that in. So I'm a lot like Debbie, I'd say. You can plot so much but then you just have to allow your characters to get there naturally, and if they don't quite obey, don't force them or they're not going to ring true.

Vince said...

Hi Helen:

Thanks for your insights on how you work. I think this workshop’s success depends on how many authors can show how they do things. Even one idea can help increase our productivity.

I think that the way you work now would fit very well with Scrivener if you ever wanted to spend the time learning the program. With Scrivener you could work on all three books at one time. If you are going to write 130 books like Betty Neels did, this might be just what you need. : )

Vince

Christina Rich said...

Fantabulous, Vince!

Okay, I'm sort of that ambidextrous type. My stories almost always start out like Clari Dees. I have an imagine of a vivid scene. I write that scene to get a feel for my main characters, and then I loosely plot the first 3-4 chapter. Ex: Levi @ firehouse reading report and looking @ photos. Knows the fire wasn't carelessly started by Casey, but it wasn't a natural cause either. He needs to apologize.

Then I write those chapters, giving myself permission to move things around, and then I plot the next few chapters.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

I have thought about the pantser/plotter division in other areas of life. Like husbands not wanting to stop and ask for directions. They feel they can pantser their way to where thye are going. And people who write lists after lists and those who will not do this. Then there are those who will have all their Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving.

What I don’t know is if there is any consistency. A person could be a pantser when seeking a vacation location and a plotter when planning her career. The same could be said for a savings method or investment strategy.

Everyone will have to think this out for themselves. I’m not sure this is even related to a personality type.

It’s early: perhaps commenter’s can mention if they follow through with being either a pantser or plotter in other areas of their life.

I’m a pantser when it comes to keeping my desk neat and in order. : )

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Melissa:

Your experience reminds me of Tony Hillerman who said he was a total pantser. He said that if he did not know what was going to happen next, then the reader was not going to know either. However, he also said he had a chest full of half finished manuscripts. He had pantsered himself into a corner and there was no way out. Yet Hillerman would not change so his books were spaced apart far more than his fans liked.

Pantsering provides instant gratification. A writer could just sit down and start writing. A plotter might plan for weeks before starting the first chapter. I think plotters ‘pay’ up front with having to delay the actually writing while pantsers pay on the back end when they find out the story isn’t as good as they imagined it would be.

Of course, I'm with you and Debby. : )

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Christina:

Thanks for your nice comment.

We’ll see in these posts here that if you can create a complex emotional opening situation, then that situation can be so ‘plot-rich’ that it allows for many different successful plotlines. This is a great help to a pantser and also for a plotter because such a situation tends to be more interesting to read.

I think that you and Clari have extra-rich opening situations and that helps for the rest of the novel.

Vince

Amber Stokes said...

An interesting topic! :)

I think I'm pretty much a Type I Pantser... Every once in a while I might take the time to write some general ideas down or to think through where I basically want a story to go - so I sometimes (generally?) have a big picture plot in mind. But a lot happens and changes as I go along, and I love that discovery process. :) And I certainly don't write out full outlines with every scene detailed!

Thanks for sharing and compiling this info, Vince! I'd love a chance to win one of the books mentioned today. :)

~Amber

Ruth Logan Herne said...

FIRST!!!! I want to note the amazingly good-looking ball cap Vince Mooney is sporting! Way to go, Vince! Long live the Bronx Bombers!!!!

SECOND... I love that by doing this you have tempted Debby over to the DARK SIDE OF PANTSERING....Bwahahahahahahahahah! :)

THIRD!!!! I love the plotter/pantser types you mentioned, the adult onset (LOL!) and the way you see them. I think you're on to something here.

I loved seeing the varying styles. And how Mary readjusted one book to accommodate another and deepen the thread. That's a plus for working ahead of your "contract curve" right there.

Brain wiring.

It's a funny thing, unique. I have one author-kid who "sees" the work like I do ahead of time and then puts it down on paper... and another one who outlines plots, but my guess is he'll end up being more pantser than he realizes. We'll see. But it's fun to see what gets passed down as inherent tendencies and what gets assimilated as Adult II onsets.

Vince, this is wonderful stuff! I have to admit, I "see" a story mentally and then produce it. Why that happens, I don't know.

The idea of Scrivenering anything makes me quake. But I can see how well it's working for Audra and that rocks!

I'd shoot someone and turn up in a Connealy book. In PRISON THIS TIME...

But the important thing is finding your way... and then write, write, write....

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina... Boy, what an interesting question.

I like to think of my life as organized chaos. It drives other people (HSP, especially!!!!) crazy... but it works for me. And I think I've always been that way, but didn't recognize it.

So if pantsering an "envisioned" book is organized chaos, then yes.

But then there's this part of me that is very analytical... that scientific side that needs to understand things beyond my norm...That part leaves little to chance and could become obsessive but the other side of me beats it to death with small children and cookies.

The scientific Ruthy doesn't really stand a chance under the onslaught.

But interesting, right????

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

"Pantsering and plotting are similar to being left or right handed. Each person tends to favor a dominate hand and yet each individual also tends to make ample use of both hands. So too it is with pantsers and plotters. Authors often have to both pantser and plot on a given book."

Ohhhhh. Now you've converted me to plotting. Why? Because I don't like being told I'm not good at something. I can say I'm a pantser because I PREFER it... but if I'm a pantser because it's easier (and because I'm deficient in other areas) then I'm rolling up my sleeves.

Like when I was in 6th grade an I heard that girls had weaker upper body strength than boys so I asked for a chin-up bar for Christmas.

Except I never used it.

The road to hell and all that, eh?

(I pantsered this comment.:)

Mary Preston said...

As a reader, it's fascinating to take note of the different writing styles.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Vince, I have been anticipating this workshop for days now and you delivered, along with your excellent cohorts.

I have Scrivener and will be taking an advanced class in it later this summer. My critique friends know I write scenes out of order and can't see how I do it. They call me a puzzler who fits the scenes together.

But after some recent hospital time, followed by requests at RWA, I realized I need to plot in more detail in order to keep my sanity.

Your analogy of right versus left handed was perfect, especially for someone who discovered she had had a stroke. You have to use what you have, allow your brain to adapt, and move forward.

Thanks for a great start to my morning and giving me motivation to accept my style and also improve my skills.

Peace, Julie

Jackie said...

Hi Vince,

I met three friends to brainstorm last year. One of the ladies had sent us a very detailed synopsis of what she needed help with.

The notes I sent out started out as a synopsis and then I had a list of random ideas. The "plotter" asked me if that was my idea of a synopsis. I had to laugh and told her it would end up a synopsis one day. I was still trying to figure out where my story was going.

I'm glad you realize we can be both pantser and plotter.

I look forward to tomorrow.

Mary Hicks said...

Thanks Vince,

This is a fun post. I've always known I do both. I don't care how a story happens as long as it comes together the way I want it to. I don't see a way around not doing some of both.:-)

I start out panstering with a kernel of an idea and as it grows, I necessarily have to do some plotting.

But once the main idea is pinned down, I can freely panster along for a while. Then again, I stop and plot my panster ideas into solid form. that's the way I go until I reach the end. :-D
It's been fun analyzing it!

Bridgett Henson said...

Vince, I love seeing your thought process. Before reading this post, I'd say I was a plotter.

But now I realize that like Melissa, I panster before and after I plot.

In the beginning stages of writing Book 2 of a series, my character revealed she had a brother. (At the time, I thought, She does?) But as the writing continued, the plot focused and the brother played a huge role in the suspense action. And an even greater roll in book 3.

I haven't taken the time to learn scriverner yet. I have post-its cluttering the desk. Please don't tell me I might have lost one. :)
I use a plot board, to plot and to organize my panstering. Got to keep those subplots straight.

Sherri Shackelford said...

What a great blog! I think I can most relate with Tina--I have an idea, but the characters can pull me in different directions as I get to know them.

Like Clari, often the catalyst for a plot is a scene I see vividly in my head. Then I have to figure how everyone ended up there and where they're going.

A character in my third book started to take over the story and I realized he needed his own book! After that, I was able to keep him check.

It's good to realize there's no 'right' way. Only the way that works for the writer.

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Vince! What interesting insights! I never thought of it this way before, but you're so right--plotters have to "pantser" their outlines or synopses. They start from scratch just like the rest of us.

Fortunately, I guess with time and experience as a pantser, I don't usually find myself scrapping whole chapters or even scenes. My intuition just seems to know where the story is going, and I always have in the back of my mind, "What's the purpose of this scene? What do the characters want?"

And since it's working for me, I'm happy being a pantser.

Looking forward to tomorrow! I hope to check in at some point, but the next few days are crazy-busy for me. Got some special family stuff going on. Y'all have a great week!

kaybee said...

VINCE, this is brilliant. Looking forward to the second day.
I plot. With the limited time available for this, I have to know where I'm going. BUT I also leave room for character development, and especially for my characters to be themselves. Sometimes they do take my PLOT in a direction I hadn't planned, so I guess that's pantsering of a sort.
RUTHY is right, the important thing is write, write, write.
And know what works for you, and don't compare yourself to any other writer. We are like snowflakes.
My crit partner is much more structured than I am and uses more graphs, charts etc., so I guess you could say there are even different levels of plotting. And probably pantsering.
I would love to win Mary's "Swept Away." Or just about anything, it's been a long, wet summer.
Kathy Bailey
Busily plotting in New Hampshire

Audra Harders said...

Vince, what great insight into the minds of writers! Not for the faint of heart by any means.

I loved reading your analysis of the plotter mind vs the pantser, and then the blending of the two. I agree with you. Everyone is a blend to some extent otherwise OY-VAY the mess we'd have!!

This is a great day 1 post. I can't wait for day 2!

Thanks for all your hard work, Vince!

Audra Harders said...

You're comparing me to Mary?? I love it!!

Back end plotting. I'll have to remember that : )

Chill N said...

Vince this is simply awesome! Insightful, thought-provoking, and must have taken quite a bit of time to compile. Thanks for doing that.

I'm a linear panstser who uses a spreadsheet I compile as I write. Works for me :-)

I pantsered the first book in a series and completed it in nine months. I tried plotting and writing out of sequence with the second book, with the promise (from a book) that I'd have a first draft in 30 days. I worked on that book for more than two years. Ack! I pantsered the third book in about a year. Because I'm not published (YET) I've been able to bounce between the three books as I edited--adding, deepening, etc.

Fascinating to find out what works for everyone. And it obviously works because these Seekers have some wonderful books!

Looking forward to tomorrow's post, Vince.

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Great to have you post side, Vince! Love your comparison of right/left handedness to panster/ plotter. Appears most writers feel more comfortable as either pansters or plotters yet during the writing process often mix the two, our version of ambidextrous. :-) I wonder if an equal mix of panster/plotter makes the process feel more muddled?

Janet

Chill N said...

I'm a linear pantser ... pantser ... and usually a decent typist, too :-)

Oh, and the pantser approach does not apply to other aspects of my life.

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Good question, Tina. I love making lists and crossing chores off so I'd say I plot my day. But stuff always comes up that I hadn't planned and I go with it.

Do pansters make To Do lists?? I suspect everyone does.

Janet

Naomi Rawlings said...

Okay, I'm going to go against the clan seekervillagers here and make some comments. My shield is ready in case anyone wants to start hurling some stones--don't feel bad about hurling stones. I'm capable of protecting myself, I think. ;-)

So my first thought is I DON'T CARE. That's right. I don't care one little bit whether someone plots or pantsers.

Did Michelangelo have a true to scale diagram of the Sistine Chapel before he started painting that ceiling? I don't know, and I don't care HOW he went about painting the Sistine Chapel. I care that his method worked.

Did Jane Austin have 78 pages of scene notes before she started Pride and Prejudice? I don't know, and I don't care. I care that the final version of Pride and Prejudice that went to print worked.

What about George Orwell or Victor Hugo or William Shakespeare? I don't care how any of them went about writing, I care that their final works were brilliant and helped contribute to a rich literary culture.

So do I care whether Mary or Julie or Ruthy or Myra or anyone else plots or pantsers or uses some combination? Nope. (No offense to anyone). But I care that they have a method of writing that allows them to create consistently good stories within a reasonable period of time. I care about the final product, not the method used.

As for how I write? Well, my method wasn't mentioned above, so I really can't liken it to any of the examples given. But that's just fine with me. I don't need to have a name for how I write, I need to have a method that allows me to consistently write fresh stories that I can get excited about. That's all I need.

Though on a side note, I do feel that the majority of authors are pantsers to a certain degree, and that there really aren't a whole lot of writers who get extensive with the snowflake method or 80+ page outlines. I feel as though the plotting emphasis is pushed onto authors by agents and editor--but even more so by marketing departments and sales people who want target audiences and sales projections, etc. And I think that writers wouldn't feel such an emphasis on plotting were the book industry not driven so strongly by projected sales.

Okay, well, there I've said it. I don't care whether someone plots or pantsers or uses some combination of the two, as long as the final product is good.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Naomi, I love you!

I don't care for comparison's sake, either. Not a whit.

But I remember being that newbie... who read 14 pages of her very most brilliant amazing first book OUT LOUD to a very patient group...and that stinkin' book went on forever...

With no dialogue.

No hook.

Just internal thought.

(bangs head against table, trying and failing to wipe the slate clean....)

So I love TALKING about this stuff if it will help other writers... Because I'd have given my right arm to have established authors talk to us frankly about this stuff. That didn't happen a lot ten years ago.

Dagnabbit, that means I was 33 when I started!!!!

(laughing.... hush, everyone!!!)
But as for the methodology????

I love that we are so stinkin' different as individuals and our intricately wired brains work the way they do, as you said: To get the job done!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kaybee said (and I quote!!!) "Ruthy is right..."

SQUEEEEE!!!!!!

Leaving some fresh chocolate raspberry to celebrate that statement!!!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks for loving me anyway, Ruthy! You know, I think you and I are different in that when I first entered the whole plot vs. pantser debate, I found it distracting and even a little harmful. Suddenly people were questioning why I wrote a certain way, when I'd never really thought about it. So it proved a really big distraction with a fair amount of worry in there for me since I'd never bothered to label myself before.

So if anyone else is reading these blog comments and you simply like the way you write, you don't have to get sucked into this argument. Just keep doing what you're doing!!!

But I'm also all about helping other writers, and if this discussion is helpful then I hope you'll find the tools you need to write better stories somewhere in this debate. :-)

Jan Drexler said...

First of all, let me go on record by saying Ruthy is always right.

Clari Dees said...

Thank you, Vince, for asking me to be part of this post. It is so much fun to see how writers work. Your left-hand/right-hand analogy nails it. We all have to do a little bit of both pantsering and plotting, but every writer's mix of those two elements is unique to them.

(P.S. Do you know how awe-inspiring it is to me that I'm included in a post with Mary, Audra, Tina, and Debby!?! I'm gonna bask in the glow of that fact all day. ☺☺☺)

Playground Monitor said...

Okay. My brain hurts again. Y'all gotta stop making my brain hurt.

I used to plot more heavily than I do now. For my first book I did a story board on one of those tri-fold school project boards. I used sticky notes -- pink for the heroine, blue for the hero, orange for the secondary characters. I could move things around as needed. It worked for that book. But then I realized if I plotted too much, it was as if I'd written the book and I lost interest in writing more about the story. So now I do a loose outline, concentrating on the main turning points and the black moment. Then I go from there. I have a friend who calls this being a "plotzer."

In my novella, I had plotzed a love scene in chapter 3 or 4, but once I began writing, I realized -- or rather the characters realized -- this just wasn't going to happen. It was too soon. And I couldn't not force these people into a love scene. So they had a near miss that made them both realize the old attraction was still there and it scared the bejeebers out of the heroine.

Where's the coffee??? I need coffee!!!

Marilyn

Clari Dees said...

Ruthy has chocolate raspberries?! Hand 'em over and no one gets shot!

(See, I was paying attention when Mary said to shoot someone. ☺ )

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Vince! Great post, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's installment!

I always thought I was a plotter - after all, I've always planned out schedules, vacations, gardens, moving, etc. etc. to the nth degree. That didn't change when I wrote nonfiction articles - I still can't write nonfiction without a detailed outline.

But fiction? That's a different animal altogether, isn't it? I've found that I plot the first layer. I have the skeleton of the story all worked out before I start writing. But then as I go, other parts of the story start filling out that skeleton so that soon it has muscles, internal organs, skin, hair, eye color.... But then something magic happens. In true panster fashion, the heart of the story makes itself known.

How does that happen? I have no idea. I certainly don't plan it.

So call me a panster who plots.

Sherida Stewart said...

Interesting thoughts, Vince!

Hmmm...I was sure I was a Type 1 Plotter, but I'm really a Plotting Panster. (Don't know if I should be hanging my head or jumping up and down!) My current WIP has changed multiple times, I write scenes out of order and ideas just pop into the story.

And yes, I'm a Plotting Panster in other areas....I have a plan, then change it. FLEXIBILITY!

I'm looking forward to reading your post tomorrow. Thanks!

Vince said...

Amber as Type I Pantser

Hi Amber:

I wonder if Type I’s advance quicker!

I just took a peek at “Bleeding Heart” and I got pulled three chapters into it! Hey, that’s a lot better than a kid your age should be writing. Don’t you know you are supposed to wait ten to twenty years?

Of course, you’ve reviewed more books than most people read in a lifetime. I wonder how you are going to like being reviewed.

BTW: Is Winter better than Spring on a review? I think my wife is a Spring, or is that something else from the ‘70’s?

Thanks for your comments.

Vince

Connie Queen said...

I'm a combination of all the above.

I usually start w/an inciting scene. May or may not write it down.
Then think of an overall plot.
Finally, we I get to writing it paper, things change but I know where I'll end at.

When I trying to complete my wip and must force myself to write, you know, just going for word counts, my scenes will be totally panster. Most are yawn sessions, but occasionally, great ideas are born.

Cindy Regnier said...

Wow Vince - never seen this analyzed so in depth. I am a pantster. Can't do it any other way. But I always have a "basic" plot in mind when I start out. What I like most about your post is you don't advocate one way over another. Whatever works for the individual author is what they should do. I don't like to be told I really should plot more! Thanks a bunch. Eager for tomorrow's post.

Vince said...

Yankee Hat Is Special for Ruth

Hi Ruth:

I knew you’d notice the hat. That picture is just for you. But did you notice the book? That’s special too. : )

About Debby: I think she shows that it is wise to develop your skills on both sides of the Plotter/Pantser issue. Get better at both approaches. It didn’t hurt the ‘Mick’, #7, to hit from both sides of the plate. That way you can use the approach that works best in every given situation. If you are watching for it, reading Debby’s Military books is like seeing one of those CSI show illustrations where the bullet is flying slow motion into an object and you see every little detail. That’s what seeing the four plot threads come together at the end of the book. If you are looking for it, it is a thing of beauty. That’s plotting at the major league level. The Show!

Besides: it’s not the dark side if the bright lights of plotting spotlight your pantsering. : )

THE GOAL OF PLOTTING is to give the writer free reign to pantser safely with full freedom. A plotter is like a pantser with a GPS and knowledge of where she is going. I think plotters may actually like pantsering more than pantsers do. They just do it responsibly. : )

About Scrivener: I think you’d love Scrivener under one condition: you visit Audra and watch her use Scrivener for a week without ever trying to teach you the program. You’d see things that would make you think: “I could use that. Oh, that’s just what I need to do ‘x’ so much faster”. You might want the program to do just a few things and at its low price, you could do just that.

You can’t look at Scrivener as a task that is hard to learn. It needs to be like Tom Sawyer’s fence where kids pay to paint it.

Get ready: you have the top spot tomorrow!

Vince

Kav said...

Interesting post, Vince. I think I'm a panster with delinquent plotter tendencies. Bwahhhahhahhaa! Basically that means I don't know what I'm doing. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Naomi, I can totally see that...

Because when I was new so many people affected me, some because they were being nice and helpful and others because they weren't... the writing world has some interesting types!

So I had to then backtrack and figure out what worked... what clearly didn't.... what was organic to me and what was learned.

I wonder if we all go through that or if some folks are less affected. I have an eager to please personality ... which is funny because I'm a total snark... but I want to MOTHER everyone I see, so I was always solving conflicts too quickly. Tina smacked for that multiple times, and rightly so.

It's a crazy biz, right????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Clari Dees! Here you go, honey.

I will share anything with you!

:)

Vince said...

Virginia’s Chin-up Bar

Hi Virginia:

Are there any courses on how to pantser? I don’t think so. That should tell you something, right?

I love the ‘chin-up’ bar story. It’s like guys and the weights they got for Christmas. Perhaps you can sign up for a plotting course online and then not take it. But you really should take it. I took one a while back and it was fantastic. I have the best plotted book I ever thought of writing. It’s amazing. I did everything the class required. Now if I could only get motivated to actually write the thing.

It’s great but I’d rather write something else. That’s a factor: the desire to write something else gets stronger than the desire to write what you are now writing. The grass is greener. I bet that derails more books than writer’s block or lack of faith in your ability. The idea that there is a better story in you screaming to get out.

You just gave me an interesting insight! And I’m loving “Leaving Liberty”. That heroine makes me think of the one in your first Austen book. “Leaving Liberty” and “Bleeding Heart” are just slugging it out for my attention. I feel so wanted. : ) (Oh, and I’m being serious now.)

It's like one of Julie's books with two sisters fighting it out for the same guy. (Does it get better than that?)


Vince

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, the book is one of those things I glossed because it was a HOW TO...

Although these days the Yankees could use a "How To" book as well! :)

I've learned to embrace the synopsis. Maybe it's experience... maybe it's acceptance.... It might possibly be DRUGS....

:)

But since I have to do them ahead of time, I've developed an plan of sorts to present a planned book with room for unplanned events.

:)

How smart is that, Vince-baby?????

I love this post.

I have shared it on facebook... I will tweet it... And I have my daughter here to help with kids, and my Casey-friend so that I'm not neglecting anyone or anything while I play in Seekerville!!!

Vince said...

Are There Plotter/Pantser Readers?

Hi Mary Preston:

I just wonder if there is a pantsering or plotting reading style? A plotter reader will check the book out. In nonfiction, the plotter reader checks all the illustrations, the chapter heads, the number of pages a chapter, even checks some of the names in the index. I always check how long the book is, how long each chapter is, and I take special notice of the cover art. I want to make sure it is really like what happens in the story. (A Kindle book makes doing this hard, BTW.)

I think I’m a plotter reader. How about you?

And thanks! You just made me think of doing a study on plotter/pantser readers and how best to give them the best reading experience.

Seekerville is just full of idea potential!

Vince

Vince said...

Scrivener Allows a Disorganized Person the Ability to be Disoraganized Beyond Her Wildest Dreams!

Hi Julie Hilton Steele:

Loved your comment on Scrivener. It has so much power it enables you to do even more of what you were doing -- even if that itself was out of control.

But I agree. It is wise to develop both skills. I think plotters are happy to pantser every chance they get – once they get a plot down – even if it is only sketchy. It is easy for a plotter to pantser. I think it is pantsers who must force themselves to plot. I think a pure Type I pantser has to learn, over many years, how to unconsciously plot a good story, and until she does, the WIPs are not ready to be published.

The best pantsers may be having their subconscious plotting their books and they don’t know it. It has been long said that ‘the pantser herself is always the last to know.”

Thanks for your comments. You’ve given me some good ideas for future posts. : )

Vince

CatMom said...

Hi Vince,
WOW! Loved reading these different thoughts on plotting and pantsering. I've always been a pantser, but am finding more and more that I need to do plotting. As in, REALLY need to do some plotting to keep my thoughts from becoming too muddled. (It's amazing how one's brain can get muddled just from a quick break to clean litter boxes *sigh*).

Anyway, thanks SO much for sharing with us (along with all those amazing authors too). Enjoy the pecan pie I just baked (served with homemade vanilla ice cream if you like).
Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

p.s. VIRGINIA! Is that a new photo? (or am I just slow in noticing?!) Love it!!

Vince said...

Hi Jackie:

In the end it is how well the book you wrote is written and how much readers like it.

I think that’s funny that someone did not think much of your synopsis. So what? The biggest pantser of them all may be Myra Johnson and when I read her “Autumn Rains” I thought it was one of the best plotted books I’ve ever read. The climax is fantastic. Only I found out later…the book was pantsered!!!

I may be the only one here who actually did Fly by the Seat of His Pants! I could take off and land my plane without using the instruments. I could feel the speed and when the speed was getting too slow to hold the plane in the air. I just loved flying anywhere I wanted to, going down low to get a good look at things on the ground, and just having fun like an old fashion ‘Sunday driver’. I don’t think there have been any of them in thirty years! However, I always did my preflight checklist. I didn’t want to panter my way out of gas. It’s not fun landing without power.

It’s great to pantser as long as you do it responsibly. : )

Vince

Vince said...

”I start out panstering with a kernel of an idea and as it grows, I necessarily have to do some plotting.”

Hi Mary Hicks:

I think that what you wrote here is what many writers do. Even plotters have to pantser a plot together.

Since I worked on this post I am now much more willing to admit how much I like pantsering – only I do wear a plotting life jacket.

Pure Type I pantsers, I believe, work without a net. It makes life thrilling…if not long. : )

Thanks for your comment. There's more to come tomorrow.

Vince

llmarmalade said...

I really don't know if I'm a plotter or a pantser. I plot in my head, often out loud, but mostly the start and end of my book and key scenes. I plot these scenes over and over until I write them. I guess I'm a pantser because in my current WIP I am over the word limit. I also wrote this book out of an old short story. I expanded it; but out of order. I took a English course this summer and I started doing something called an "Invention". I just scribble on paper any random thing that comes into my head about my book. But I want to plot my next book a lot more to avoid the "sagging middle."
Elizabeth

Vince said...

“In the beginning stages of writing Book 2 of a series, my character revealed she had a brother. (At the time, I thought, She does?)”

Hi Bridgett:

This makes me think of Mark Twain. When he started ,“Tom Sawyer”, Huckleberry Finn was just a bit character. He was not Tom’s best friend. He was an outcast. As the story grew, Huckleberry began to take over the story. It was all Twain could do to keep it Tom’s story.

Twain was very careful with every detail in his books. Even the most dedicated plotter should be free to pantser when it will make for a better book.

You would love Scrivener! Again, I think it is best to just watch someone doing things with Scrivener that you would like to do and then learn how to do them. Each thing you want to do probably only involves two or three key strokes. No one says you have to know how to do everything to use Scriveners. I bet must users don’t even use 10% of what the program will do. And they love it!

If you get a chance to watch a Scrivener user, take it. The program is not expensive. There must be 20 different options for ‘post it’ type cards. : )

Vince

Vince said...

”It's good to realize there's no 'right' way. Only the way that works for the writer.”

Hi Sherri:

I could not agree with you more but after working on the blog I also believe that a writer should strive to develop both skills.

I just love watching a golfer on tv hit a ball left-handed with the club face backwards, because the ball is resting up against a tree on the wrong side. The golfer hits the ball and it squits outward for 100 yards and lands on the green. You know the guy practiced that shot. And you know he would almost never use it but then he is a pro.

Moral: write like a pro – even when you’re not yet one.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

"My intuition just seems to know where the story is going, and I always have in the back of my mind, 'What's the purpose of this scene? What do the characters want?'"

Hi Myra:

I think as I wrote in another comment that you have developed a subconscious inner-plotter.

If you are around any preachers I have an analogy for them: believing that “Autumn Rains” was pantered is like believing that the eye just randomly evolved. Even if it did, there had to be some divine inspiration in there somewhere!!!

BTW: You’re up tomorrow!

Vince

Anna R. Weaver said...

I'm still not sure if I'm a pantser or a plotter... I think I'm a combination of the two.

I start my stories with pages and pages and pages of character notes, scenarios, scene ideas, then I start writing. So I guess that makes me more of a plotter. But if I plot too much, then I get bored with the story and don't want to finish it.

I LOVE Scrivener and am counting the days until it is available for my iPad. (Using Storyist on it right now, similar to Scrivener, but not as good.)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I am a plotting pantser in the rest of my life. I am led by my sparks of pantsering BRILLIANCE and my daily drudge plotting.

Vince said...

“I plot. With the limited time available for this, I have to know where I'm going. BUT I also leave room for character development, and especially for my characters to be themselves.”

Hi Kaybee:

You’re my kind of writer. Pantser all you can within the framework of a great story line. It saves time and you know if you can bring the plot to life, then it will be a great story.

A 100% pantser can never be sure that after years of work, the story will seat of its pants its way into a great story line. Plotting is like buying the insurance for that beach front vacation package.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

P.S. To state that "Ruthy is Right" is redundant but I'm sure it is ♫♫♫♪♪♫♪♪♫ to her ears. : )

Vince said...

“Everyone is a blend to some extent otherwise OY-VAY the mess we'd have!!”

Hi Audra:

Oy-Vay? Has Ruth been teaching you Yiddish? It think it is Oy vey in New York. Now you have to teach her some Scrivener when she comes out west. Show Ruth how well Scrivener can hold her recipes – with pictures even!

BTW: When come your Historicals? You have been very quiet. : )

Vince

Vince said...

“You're comparing me to Mary?? I love it!!”

Hi Audra:

What I had in mind was: Audra + the power of Scriveners = Mary-type possibilities.

I think Mary is most like a female Mark Twain. I wrote a big post about this and gave seven similarities. Mark Twain gave speeches all over the coutry during the years Mary writes about in her books. She just has to put Mark Twain in one of her books. He could be giving a lecture in a small town and the heroine could fall in love with him making life hard for the hero. What a funny scene that would be.

Don’t you just love Seekerville? A new idea every minute.

Vince

Vince said...

“I'm a linear panstser who uses a spreadsheet I compile as I write. Works for me :-)

Hi Chill N:

A linear pantser! Now I’ll have to factor that in to my equation. I’m not sure I can sort this pantser/plotter thing out – even with a philosophy degree!

I wish you well on your three books. I’m sure when you get to the skill level to publish one of them, they will all quickly be published. Look at Mary. It took a long time and then the floodgates opened. And the rest is history!

About the Seekers and all their success and many awards: remember they took the contest route. They got constant feedback from some of the best in the business. That is a lesson both pantsers and plotters need to heed. (I like that ‘need to heed’.)

Be sure to come tomorrow. Love that ‘linear pantser’ idea. I’ll have to decode it like they did Linear A and B. : )

Vince

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, Deb's stories, and how she weaves those threads are wonderful!

Weaving that extra thread is a huge talent/skill/trick. I'm always in awe of folks who do that, and Deb's books grab me every time.

I like the Panstering responsibly line, LOL! I prefer to see it as the Kohler commercial where the woman plunks the faucet on the table and says to the architect, "Build me a house to fit this."

From that one piece, everything else unfolds.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ruth. We need a responsible pantser bumper sticker.

Vince said...

“I wonder if an equal mix of panster/plotter makes the process feel more muddled?”

Hi Janet:

I think the answer to your question is yes. It’s like the minor league ball player who wants to be a switch hitter and because he is dividing his time and attention between the two options, he never gets good enough at either side to make the majors.

Perhaps you are either a pantser or plotter. Do what is natural for you but develop the other skill as much as you reasonably can for those times when the other approach would be more useful.

There are not many Mickey Mantles and his father forced him over many years of practice (500 pitches a day) to become a switch hitter. Besides: Babe Ruth did pretty good just hitting left handed.

Vince

Vince said...

“Do pansters make To Do lists?? I suspect everyone does.”

Hi Janet

I suspect pansters do make To Do lists but do they make them out a week or month in advance?

Maybe this is all a matter of degree. : )

Vince

Courtney Faith said...

I'm a beginning writer, but I'm a pantser. It's so fun to peek into other writers' processes! Please enter me in the contest.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, I added our new bumper stickers to the end of the post.

Vince said...

“I feel as though the plotting emphasis is pushed onto authors by agents and editor--but even more so by marketing departments and sales people who want target audiences and sales projections, etc. And I think that writers wouldn't feel such an emphasis on plotting were the book industry not driven so strongly by projected sales.”

Hi Naomi:

As a long time marketing person, I think your comment is right on target. Maybe that is why I like to plot. If the idea is to sell books, then write them in a way that sells a lot of books.

I think there are two views of writing: 1) write the book of your heart regardless if anyone else would want to read it. 2) write to enrich the reader with stories that will give them a good reading experience and at least be profitable for those who are paying the way.

So I want writers to build ‘marketing vitamins’ into their books. This makes the marketing job so much more easy to do successfully.

As a reader I am very much of your POV. A poet once wrote that a ‘poem should be, not mean’. I was never one for dissecting poems in English class. It just ruins the beauty of the poem. It is like dissecting a beautiful flower in botany class. Why do we do this? Because it is how we learn. Hopefully it will make us better writers.

If a person is trying to pantser a story that needs to be plotted, she should know this. Trying to pantser it may well lead to years of frustration. Knowing the difference between pantsering and plotting can mean a lot to an aspiring writer. But I agree that a reader has no need of this knowledge to enjoy novels.

Thanks for you comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“Do you know how awe-inspiring it is to me that I'm included in a post with Mary, Audra, Tina, and Debby!?! I'm gonna bask in the glow of that fact all day.”

Hi Clari:

I do know because I feel the same way about being able to do this post on Seekerville and even to be given two days!

Here’s the good news: it’s your great work that got you in this crowd. So keep it up. Seekerville will provide the inspiration but you have to provide the pantser/plotter propulsion. : )

Vince

Vince said...

“So now I do a loose outline, concentrating on the main turning points and the black moment. Then I go from there. I have a friend who calls this being a "plotzer."

Hi Playground Monitor:

I love that quote. You just made me think that we have to learn how to walk before we can run.

Why do we think that when we change our ways of writing that the old was was wrong? Perhaps we needed those early days to get where we did not need the story boards.

Of course, we are evolving as writers and at any given time there may well be a best approach for us to use.

Moral: be prepared to try many things and use what works best.

I’d say you are doing the right thing. Thank’s for your insights.

Vince

kristenethridge.com said...

Solid pantser here. I recently plotted out some general details to wrap up the end of a book before a 3-day weekend Writeapalooza spree.

But in this book already, the hero kicked out who I *thought* was going to be the hero--on page 5. He came in and said this was his book and his happily ever after was with this woman. That was it. End of story.

Is that some sort of extreme pantsering? To have your planned hero totally get the boot once you start writing?

I should probably plan on getting pantser therapy. But that would be life plotting, and well...

Vince said...

“(See, I was paying attention when Mary said to shoot someone. ☺ )”

Hi Clari:

Did you notice in Mary’s new book that she does not shoot someone to get things moving? She has someone save another’s life. That is progress!

Vince

Pepper said...

Oh Vince,
This is GREAT! HA! I love it!
I'm pretty sure I'm a Panstering Plotter.
Wow! I have a label

Vince said...

“I still can't write nonfiction without a detailed outline.”

Hi Jan:

Oh my. I spend my first thirty years writing nonfiction! I had to have a plot to be sure and get everything in the story that needed to be there – or the client would not be happy.

This could be why I find fiction so much harder. Maybe I have to pantser more!

Scary.

Vince

Vince said...

“I was sure I was a Type 1 Plotter, but I'm really a Plotting Panster.”

Hi Sherida:

I can just imagine how that statement might drive some readers batty! We are really deep in the woods here. But I get what you are saying. Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Jamie Adams said...

I'm a pantser when I try to plot I get a headache. With that said I can tell when I'm reading a book written by a solid plotter. It's a skill to be admired.

I'm pretty much a pantser in all areas of my life.

Clari Dees said...

"Pure Type I pantsers, I believe, work without a net. It makes life thrilling…if not long. : )"

This one made me laugh out loud, Vince. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Adult Onset Plotter?
LOL

Mary Connealy said...

The thing is, even if I did plot things out thoroughly, when I get a great idea I'd WANT to go back and put it in, so why not just plan on not planning? (or plot on not plotting)

Mary Connealy said...

Vince I call this metaphorically shooting someone.
What 'shoot someone' really means is a explosion. I prefer action. An explosion of trouble. Run for your life. Dangle from a cliff by your fingernails. Crash the covered wagon over a cliff. Fall over the banks of a river with an oncoming flood.
But it can be an emotional explosion, too. Still, I think having something actually blow up is best. :D

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Vince and All

Such a thought provoking post. I've been reading up a storm lately, and I'd say about 75% of the books were written by pansters, but so long as the plotters aren't predicable and the pansters don't meander, I'm satisfied.

just got Bride for All Seasons...thanks Seekerville, and yes, put me in the drawing.

Thanks Vince for letting us see how our favorite authors work. It's another proof my writing isn't crazy...or if it is, I'm in good company.

Mary Connealy said...

I spend some stretches of time with my heroes just talking and I ended up just loving the back and forth between these strong men. Who's in charge? The insults combined with the extreme loyalty of men who have saved each other's lives many times. The bond.
So I do let them spend time just talking. But I don't like that to go on too long.
I read a book-which-shall-not-be-named recently and the ONLY thing in that whole books was the characters sitting, talking to each other. The wildest action was an occasional stroll, like from the church to someone's house, where they sat and talked some more.
I can't stand it.
It's fine maybe for some but NOT FOR ME!!!

Mary Connealy said...

There is nothing I love more than getting as far ahead as possible so I am (hopefully) done with the second book while there is still time for revisions on the first book and then to weave all that into the third book. Even more wonderful is if I can have the third book at least begun before the first book is finalized.
I think being able to weave stories together like that makes them extremely rich.
I think onen of the reasons J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books ended up being so successful was because she was done with three (or four?) of them before she got the first one published. The tiny references in the earlier books to future events is what makes kids read them over and over finding those clues.
I love it when I can get ahead and do that.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jamie Adams. Where HAVE you been. Good to see you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

It's noon. I'm starving.

So a plotter would open the fridge, assess the contents and head to the store with a list or pull out a cookbook.

I am calling Pizza Hut and ordering us pizza.

Sally said...

I have written research papers for college, 4 short stories, and I just started writing a Christian romance. I am a pantser all the way. lol. What exactly does that mean? I had to look it up. That's how new I am to writing. When I wrote the short stories, I had no idea where they were going or what was going to happen. In this new book I've started, I'm on Chapter 3. I had no idea the hero and heroine were going to leave their beach rental to help out some high school kids. That just came out of nowhere. I do remember while being in college (I just graduated so it wasn't that long ago lol) I could not write a paper if I had to do an outline. It seemed all my efforts went into putting together the outline, and there was nothing left to write about for the paper. Do you think it's the same way for writing a book? Or maybe as the book progresses, and the first draft gets done, then the plotting takes over to make it more cohesive? I would think if you are doing a multi-book storyline, plotting would have to be used at least a little bit. Any suggestions in understanding this would be greatly appreciated! Please enter me in the drawing!
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

Jamie Adams said...

Hi Tina! I've mostly been writing. I self published and the book did so well my husband went from 'why are you always on the laptop' to 'keep writing, keep writing' :)

I cut back on internet time when my girls were struggling in math but they've caught up so here I am :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good for you, Jamie!!!!! I'll go check out your book.

Vince said...

“I'm a combination of all the above.”

Hi Connie Queen:

It is beginning to look like being a combination of all the above is a popular way to approach writing.

But I am a lot like you in that when I am after word count, NaNo month, I pantser and I write about 85% dialogue. It gets the word count for me but I know I’ve left out more than I put in. The real work begins after you hit your word count. Still it is a very good experience to discover you can write 50,000 words or more in a month. It puts everything else in perspective. It even lets you know you can pantser a whole book and still come out alive. :)

Thanks for your comments.

Vince

kaybee said...

RUTHY is always right. I thought that was a given.
KB

Vince said...

“What I like most about your post is you don't advocate one way over another. Whatever works for the individual author is what they should do.”

Hi Cindy:

If I thought I could advocate plotting over pantsering, after reading all these pantser contributions (there’s even more tomorrow), the best I could hope to do is point out it would be helpful to learn more about the other way of doing things. I do think that is supportable.

Thanks for your comments.

Vince

Vince said...

“I think I'm a panster with delinquent plotter tendencies. Bwahhhahhahhaa! Basically that means I don't know what I'm doing. :-)”

Hi Kav:
Then being a pantser may well be the best choice. You know what they say: “If you don’t know where you are going, then any direction will do.”

This is why I like the way Ruth does it: create the most plot-rich situation possible to start your novel…not just a hook…but a great situation which can generate many great plots. If you do this, your chance of being a successful pantser is very good.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“But I want to plot my next book a lot more to avoid the "sagging middle."

Hi llmarmalade:

With a plot you can be sure that each chapter opens with a hook and ends with a cliffhanger. But as Debby pointed out, plotting this finely can take a lot of time, days even weeks, it can become something like a ‘plotter’s block’.

I think a pantser would be wise to at least have an idea how to end the chapter on a cliffhanger before writing that chapter. This should not be too much of a concession to plotting. That’s why it is good to know what you can about the other approach to writing.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“I start my stories with pages and pages and pages of character notes, scenarios, scene ideas, then I start writing.”

Hi Anna:

Wow. You could be a plotter or you could be a high research pantser. I think a high research pantser is still a full pantser. She may know her characters and location very well at the start but that does not mean she knows what is going to happen next. Not knowing what is going to happen next is what makes pantserism so powerful when it works. It’s why Tony Hillerman always pantsered even if it was costing him a fortune in extra books he could have sold.

Sometimes it is just hard to determine if what you are doing is plotting or pantsering. And that tells us a lot about the two of them.

Vince

Vince said...

“I am a plotting pantser in the rest of my life. I am led by my sparks of pantsering BRILLIANCE and my daily drudge plotting.”

Tina: that’s philosophy. It reminds me of the Eastern Classic “Light on the Path”.

Excellent.

Vince said...

”Ruth. We need a responsible pantser bumper sticker.” Tina.

Get that PicMonkey ready.

How about:

Practice Safe Pantsering.

Erica Vetsch said...

I really enjoyed this post. I started out as a free-forming pantser because I didn't know any different. Then I sold a book and needed a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the next two in the series...gulp!

I really struggled with plotting out a story in advance, afraid that writing out the entire plot would steal the serendipity and sense of discovery I felt as I pantsed my way through a manuscript.

Then one glorious day I was reading here at Seekerville and learned all about "The Plot Board." (You can find it here: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2008/09/portable-plotting-board.html)

Since then, I've used the plot board or something like it for every novel. I LOVE plotting now.

Vince said...

P L E A S E * N O T E:

I am not writing these comments in real time. I have not seen the posts that come after the one I am responding to. Any similarities to comments already made are simply the result of great minds thinking in the same ways.

Vince said...

“I'm a beginning writer, but I'm a pantser. It's so fun to peek into other writers' processes!”

Hi Courtney:

If you are peeking into Mary and Ruth’s processes please wait awhile before you try those things at home.

Vince

Vince said...

“But in this book already, the hero kicked out who I *thought* was going to be the hero--on page 5. He came in and said this was his book and his happily ever after was with this woman. That was it. End of story.”

Hi kristenethridge:

OMG! “End of story!” See, pantsering didn’t even get you to the sagging middle. I’d watch out for this hero! Some bad boys are too bad. If he would do that to your old hero, what might he do to you? Don't become the 'other author'.

Vince

Vince said...

”The thing is, even if I did plot things out thoroughly, when I get a great idea I'd WANT to go back and put it in, so why not just plan on not planning?”

Hi Mary:

Why? Let me tell you why. I worked on the Space Program. Right in the control center at JPL. And to make a mid course correction, a great idea that will get you where you are going, you NEED a course.

Because you change something does not mean the baby and the bath water all have to be jettisoned. (Do you like my metaphor mix?) Sometimes the great idea makes the first idea even better … by extension. Of course, if the idea moves you from a romantic comedy with cowboys to a 1890’s steampunk paranormal, it might be better to dump the whole first plan. : >

Vince

Vince said...

“I'm pretty sure I'm a Panstering Plotter.”

Hi Pepper:

I’m not sure of labels but I think a lot of us might be ‘finding ourselves’ today and tomorrow. That will probably help both plotters and pantsers.

Vince

Vince said...

“I'm a pantser when I try to plot I get a headache.”

Hi Jamie:

That seems to be a common symptom of plotting. I’m almost afraid to ask what happens when you try to write a synopsis. Maybe they made a special writer’s aspirin.

Vince

Vince said...

“so long as the plotters aren't predicable and the pansters don't meander, I'm satisfied.”

Hi Elaine:

I like this quote. It gets right to the point from a reader’s POV and that really is the POV that counts.

I think what readers enjoy is a book the has the spontaneity of being pantsered and the rich integrity that comes from expert plotting.

Thanks for you comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“It's noon. I'm starving.

So a plotter would open the fridge, assess the contents and head to the store with a list or pull out a cookbook.”


Hi Tina:

I think a plotter would have the meal made up and ready to pop in the microwave so you could dine well while still working on your WIP with the least loss of time.

Vince said...

“I could not write a paper if I had to do an outline. It seemed all my efforts went into putting together the outline, and there was nothing left to write about for the paper. Do you think it's the same way for writing a book?”

Hi Sally:

Yes, I think for a Type I natural pantser this is much the case. I think it is like repeating a joke. The second or third time you hear it, it never seems as funny – if it seems funny at all. These pantsers do well to minimize plotting. To give the editor a generic plot that is easy to alter. Then afterward they can layer in a lot of what would have been already there is they were plotters.

If there is one common theme here today it is for writers to do what works for them and be ready to change their ways as they advance in the craft. Good luck with your writing.

Vince

Vince said...

“I LOVE plotting now.”

Hi Erica:

You’re my heroine! You made me think of the famous comment:

A pantser is just a plotter who has not yet been mugged by an editorial deadline.

Great you love plotting. May all read this.

Vince

Debra E. Marvin said...

The idea that we pantster our way through a plot (as a plotter) is pretty cool.
I have to admit this - I am an obsessive plotter. You just don't want to know how OCD I am about it.
But thank GOD my characters don't let me ruin their stories and continue to surprise me with what's really going on in their lives!

Plotters can rock a first draft. I know what I need to happen in each chapter and then I let my characters loose.
I absolutely love brainstorming and throwing curve balls, so I like to think that makes up for my affection for extreme plotting.

Lyndee H said...

What an AMAZING tutorial, Vince and all! I'm a pantser, but I really, really do try to plot! I see stories in linear form in my mind as I write. If I get out of order, I struggle. That's only happened once in five manuscripts and it was painful. Ha!

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi Vince! Very thought-provoking post. I have to ask myself where do I fall on the plotter-pantser spectrum?

I'm pretty heavy on plotting. Sitting down and trying to write a scene with no more than two character names does not work for me. However, I've found that if I plot enough to really get to know my characters, then when I write those in-between/special moments I can pantser my way around the scene a bit more.

BTW- great examples.

Tina Radcliffe said...

We had a slight technical error for those of you who caught it.

(Julie and Piper).

We are now back to our scheduled programming.

Vince said...

“Plotters can rock a first draft. I know what I need to happen in each chapter and then I let my characters loose.”

Hi Debra:

I love that ‘plotters can rock a first draft’. It has been a joy today to discover a few more plotters.

I even think characters are happier when their author sets up plot parameters. Isn’t it said that children are happier when their parents care and act like parents (rather than just friends) and set limits on their allowable behavior?

It is said that God has a plan for our lives. Now if that is good enough for God, then it is good enough for me and my characters. I have a plan for their lives (the plot) but if they want to show some freewill and go against my plans, then we will see where that leads. Happiness or central casting. Who knows.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Walt Mussell said...

Alright. You have me wondering, Vince. I consider myself a plotter as I write scenes. However, my scene-by-scene synopsis are shorter than panster Radcliffe's synopses.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Vince. I guess I'm a little of both...my plotting goes on in my head and then when I sit down to write the panster kicks in with many a detour added to my plotting ideas. I tend to find that I am really more of a panster.

Thank you for the very informative and enjoyable post.

I would love to be entered into the giveaway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Tina Radcliffe said...

Debra. You are alive and well. The cockles of my heart are warmed.

Vince said...

“However, I've found that if I plot enough to really get to know my characters, then when I write those in-between/special moments I can pantser my way around the scene a bit more.”

Hi Dianna:

Exactly. Everything makes more sense in context. I believe that when you have a good understanding of the plot, then you can do a better job of pantsering from then on.

To use a musical analogy: when you are a virtuoso in a violin concerto you can enjoy a powerful sense of inspiration from the composer’s showcase efforts when it comes time to do your cadenza.

Played by itself on stage the cadenza probably wouldn’t have the same impact as it has being part of a concerto. Of course, later came the OCD composers who wrote the cadenza themselves. I think that was a sad day.

Music needs some pantsering!

Vince

Vince said...

“I'm a pantser, but I really, really do try to plot! I see stories in linear form in my mind as I write. If I get out of order, I struggle.”

Hi Lyndee H:

That sounds like a plotter. You may be more of a plotter than you think. You might try a plotting online class just to see how you react. I took one a little while ago and now I know what a real professional plotter does. It was nice to know I’m not that extreme and that I have a long way to go to be the ultimate plotter. It was a fun class.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

”my plotting goes on in my head and then when I sit down to write the panster kicks in with many a detour added to my plotting ideas.”

Hi Cindy W:

That seems like an ideal combination. Are you building the plot in your mind for the current chapter or for the whole book?

I think you may be in a transitional stage but we may all be in transitional stages our whole career. I think that makes seeing where other authors are and how they do things so much fun.

Thanks for your comment. There's a lot more to come tomorrow.

Vince

Mary Cline said...

I learned a lot already thanks Vince.

Missy Tippens said...

What a great post, Vince! I'm a type 2 plotter. My first manuscripts (Pantser) required so much editing that I knew I needed to try something else.

But I'm like Debby. I'm now wondering if I need to quit spending so much time plotting. Just go with the flow. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I should add that I'm also very linear. I could never write a scene out of order!

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE!!! This is absolutely MARVELOUS, and truly a workshop that only your very deep brain could plan, plot and perfect!

And, HOLY COW ... you wrote seventy-eight page outline for "Stranded in a Cabin” before you ever wrote the a single word of text??? Have you been in therapy???? ;)

This is SO darn fascinating and something I never really thought about (uh, DUH ... I'm a pantster, so OF COURSE I've never thought about it!!), but I have to admit, the whole right-hand, left-hand analogy makes a lot of sense and helps me to understand this whole convoluted subject SO much better!!

LOVE the various examples! Mary always makes me laugh at how she throws things into a scene on a whim -- that is pantstering at its most awe-inspiring, if you ask me.

And Audra comes VERY close to convincing me to try Scrivner. But, it's going to have to stand in line behind Pinterest and Goodreads.

Absolutely ADORE Tina's progressive pantstering ... that's true genius in my opinion!

And Debby has always boggled my mind with her intricate suspense novels, but her being a plotter certainly explains a lot. I still think suspense writers have to be a little bit smarter than we straight romance writers in order to stump everybody. That leads me to suspect that plotters, too, might have a wee bit more gray matter than pantsters since most of the smart people I've know in school were diehard plotters and planners.

CLARI!!! Soooooo fun to read a clip from your book, girl, and I need to get my mitts on that one as I didn't fully realize it was out already!!

FASCINATING subject, but no surprise there with such a FASCINATING mind parsing through it all.

Hugs,
Julie

Vince said...

"my scene-by-scene synopsis are shorter than panster Radcliffe's synopses.”

Hi Walt:

That seems to make perfect sense.

1) A pantser’s synopses would tend to be longer because pantsers tend to be more wordy. I think men have a much higher percentage of plotter to pantser than women do. It has been reported that women use twice as many words a day than men do. Men were hunters and wanted to say as few words as possible to get the information to the other hunters. Women used language to keep the peace and smooth things over back at the camp. I don’t think this has ever changed. But then this is 1960’s pre PC anthropology 101. I’m sure that today that women speak the same number of words a day as men do. : )

2) Tina just might have longer scenes than you do. That could take more words to synopsize.

3) You just might be exceptionally skilled at saying a lot with just a few words.

4) Parkinson’s Law: A synopsis will expand to the size an editor requires.

I think the answer is in there somewhere.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“But I'm like Debby. I'm now wondering if I need to quit spending so much time plotting. Just go with the flow. :)”

Hi Missy:

I believe that when you feel like you need to spend more time pantsering, then that is a sign to do more pantsering. It’s like being hungry for a nutriment your body needs.

Now, if you could never write a scene out of order, then I think you’ve always been a plotter who just took a little longer to find her way home. You have the joy of learning that you’ve always been a beautiful swan. : )

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Mary Cline:

I’m happy you’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot too. There is a lot a material in all these comments to work up a short nonfiction book. And there is a lot more coming tomorrow.

Thanks for your kind words.

Vince

Wendy Newcomb said...

Very interesting article, I have a hard time reading two books at one time yet alone trying to write even one book, lol, no, I'm not an author, just a reader.

wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

Vince said...

“you wrote seventy-eight page outline for "Stranded in a Cabin” before you ever wrote the a single word of text??? Have you been in therapy???? ;)”

Hi Julie:

Not therapy. I was in Orange Beach on vacation and using my wife’s laptop. I was not real comfortable with the keyboard or the word processor. But the real thing was that the story, “Stranded” is a comedy. I was outlining scene-situations that would be fertile grounds for making jokes. For example, if ‘A’ happens then a lot of ‘A’ jokes will come into play and ‘A’ would easily lead into ‘B’ which means, ‘B’ jokes will kick in and many of the ‘B’ jokes will reflex back to the ‘A’ situation – long after the reader thinks the ‘A’ jokes are over.

What I was doing is outlining a series of very rich situations. The actual jokes would be pantsered in later. That is why there are so many situation comedies on TV. The situation itself lends itself to generating jokes. I think some types of stories do much better with plotting than pantsering and vice versa. I think it really helps to know this and write into your strength.

MARY as a extreme pantser also suggests that she is a ‘metaphorical literalist’. Metaphorically one might suggest having a person hanging off a cliff. Mary will actually have a person hanging or even falling off a cliff. Twice at least. Once when she had that western painter and once in a Christmas novella where someone actually fell off a cliff and hit the heroine in the head. That’s literal. I’ve been waiting for the story black moment to happen when the lights go out. It’s going to happen. You heard it here first.

Oh, I can’t wait to read your cowboy book. I’m ready for a shoot ‘em up. Ha…

That’s for your comment. Your day is tomorrow. Loved your example of pantsering.

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Wendy:

Just a reader!

Everything we are talking about here is being done to make your reading experiences more enjoyable.

Authors will love you for reading one book at a time. Let them know it.

I read several books at a time and see which author can do the best job of holding my attention. That’s the new Kindle world.

You are a prize and very welcome here.

Vince

Amber Stokes said...

Vince!

So appreciate your encouraging words! I'm glad I was able to hook you into the story. ;) Hope you enjoy the rest of it!

I've received a few reviews so far - it's been interesting to be on the receiving end! You can read a few on Amazon and some more on Goodreads. :)

In my rating system, Winter is the lowest with Summer being the highest. (Fall is the transition "down" to Winter; Spring is the transition "up" to Summer. Hope that makes sense!)

I'm afraid the '70s joke went over my head. ;) Although I probably know a lot more about a couple obscure '70s and '80s shows than someone my age ought to know, LOL.

~Amber

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Outstanding!!

Vince, I always, always learn something from you. Thanks to all the Seekers and friends who are making this workshop possible. My mind is firing away!

I'm definitely a pantster but I'm working on being more of a plotter. It just saves so much time on the back end.

And for those who don't know, in May the K9 Spy's 2nd book, I also have a character named Vince.

The real Vince was kind enough to write the back of the book blurb for me. As his credentials we put "...retired Air Force K9 flight leader, handler and trainer of two magnificent German Shepherds featured in NATO Day dog shows."

Now you know! Looking forward to learning more tomorrow.

DebH said...

hi Vince

i'm left-handed, does that make me a panster or plotter? just curious...

actually, i think i'm a panster, except i'm not sure i've written enough to be considered a writer... just a writer wanna-be *sigh*

very informative post though. i chuckled at the adult onset plotter category. gotta love your humor.

Vince said...


"In my rating system, Winter is the lowest with Summer being the highest.”


Hi Amber:

Wow! And all this time I thought it went like the seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter with winter being the highest – or a 4 out of 4. I thought you were a very tough reviewer! Did you ever give a Winter? Ha, ha.

BTW: There was a time, I think it was in the ‘70’s when all the women were going to parties to find out what color they were but it was not a color it was a season. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. I think my wife was a Spring which I think was really good.

Perhaps there are some Seekers who remember this and can tell us more.

Hope you book is doing better and better. You have a great career ahead of you.

Vince

Ruth Logan Herne said...

"Glad you love plotting now. May all who read this."

GRINNING!!!!

Vince, you rascally rascal, you won't nab me, my head process is too long established to want to actually P-L-O-T....

I think of storytelling as "unfolding"...

Remember "Contact", that great book by Carl Sagan???? Where the dimensions didn't need time/space continuum, they unfolded alongside each other allowing travel through what we see as space... and time... without spending much of either.

That totally different thought process to see things like String Theory and "folded universes" says I can pantser whatever I want because I'm UNIQUE....

:)

How do you catch a unique rabbit????

You "NEAK" up on him!!!!!

Get it?

Unique up on him????

Sorry, it's late, my brain is fried, and you should rest now and read Try, Try Again.

Just because.

:)

See youse in the morning!

Vince said...

As his credentials we put "...retired Air Force K9 flight leader, handler and trainer of two magnificent German Shepherds featured in NATO Day dog shows."

Hi KC:

Those credentials are dead on target. I should point out however that the ‘flight leader’ applies to a flight of K9 police airmen and not air craft. I didn’t become a pilot until after I got out of the Air Force. Kind of backwards. I did get to fly in airplanes with my dog. I had a parachute and everything. It was too much fun. My second dog, Quador, would jump through a series of fire hoops. The crowd loved it but it was a very easy trick.

I just love how you write in ‘first dog’. The reader really sees Paris from about a foot off the ground. As I read it I kept thinking, “I would have never thought of this. I could almost believe that May did write it.”

I don’t know who will have more fun: the adult or the kid reading it.

Waiting for III.

Vince

Julie Lessman said...

NAOMI SAID: "So my first thought is I DON'T CARE. That's right. I don't care one little bit whether someone plots or pantsers."

LOL ... I'm with you to a degree, Naomi. I don't really care about FB, Pinterest, Twitter, or Google Plus. But I do care that I am a pantster because true pantsters think their way is best. And it is ... for them!! :)

MARILYN SAID: "Okay. My brain hurts again. Y'all gotta stop making my brain hurt."

LOL ... my thoughts exactly. I have a 62-year-old-CDQ brain, so it's had a lot more wear and tear than most people's on this blog today, including Vince!

KAV SAID: "Interesting post, Vince. I think I'm a panster with delinquent plotter tendencies. Bwahhhahhahhaa! Basically that means I don't know what I'm doing." :-)

LOL ... I knew I loved you, Kav because I don't know what I'm doing either and I SO respect someone who can admit that. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE SAID: "t's like one of Julie's books with two sisters fighting it out for the same guy. (Does it get better than that?)"

As a matter of fact, it does. Two sisters fighting over panstering vs. plotting when it comes to trying to win a certain main's heart. :)

JANET SAID: "Do pansters make To Do lists?? I suspect everyone does.”

LOL ... yeah, Janet ... they're called sticky notes ... and anything less than 20 of them posted on a desk, book, computer, or wall ... is an amateur!!

Hugs,
Julie

Piper Huguley said...

Hey Tina,

No problem with the looking out. Just making sure that Vince's excellent workshop ran smoothly over the two days. I've learned a lot lurking today and I look forward to Part 2's posting in a few hours.

Piper

Vince said...

Hi DebH:

I don’t’ know of any relationship between left-handedness and plotting or pantsering. I think plotters are less common in the population and much less common in genre romances so if things were analogous, then you’d be a plotter. But if you feel you are a pantser, it is almost sure that you are one. Time will tell.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Pam Hillman said...

Wow! Great stuff. I've been up 14 hours and just now realized I should have read this 13.5 hours ago! :)

Donna said...

Hi Vince! I've looked forward to this post for weeks. It was worth the wait.

I am so forgetful that I have to write everything down or I'll forget it. So I guess that makes me a plotter by necessity.

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

And if you catch that unique rabbit and he won’t pay you the money he owes you, does that make him a Welch Rarebit?

BTW: If you are going into a world of string theory and 10 or 11 dimensions, don’t you think it would be even more important to plot your course? Can you imagine a husband looking at a road sign with eleven arrows pointing in all directions with the name ‘Cuba’ on them? And he won’t ask for directions!

No, I’ll have to go with more plotting the more dimensions there are. But it is late and now I’m thinking of ‘billions and billions and billions of stars. Now that would be a great review.

I’d love to go read, “Try, Try, again” but I’m watching this fight between “Leaving Liberty” and “Bleeding Heart”. I think it might be a split decision. : )

Vince

P.S. You're up first tomorrow and that's just a few hours away.

Amber Stokes said...

Vince,

Oooh my - oh, dear! I'm not that tough of a reviewer, haha! Don't think I've ever given a Winter actually! I've given some "unrated" reviews because I didn't finish the book or didn't know where it fit, though. :)

Wow...I feel like you're going to see my blog in a whole new light now, LOL!

Oh, and how fun about the "seasons" thing at parties! I'm sure your wife was the life of the party. :)

Thank you for the kind words and support!

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Piper:

I saw your picture all over the place at the RWA. You’re a rising star. I hope you can tell us tomorrow how you approach writing. Every comment helps those who want to know.

Come see Ruth and the rest of the gang in a few hours or wait after a good night sleep. These posts will be here for a long time to come.

Vince

Vince said...

“a plotter by necessity”

Hi Donna:

LOL! That was the funniest comment all day. Are you a lawyer or paralegal? “Plotter by necessity” is like ‘easement by necessity”. It’s a legal term. It is something like an “easement by prescription.” So if we like alliteration we can say you are a ‘Plotter by Prescription”. That’s sounds very clinical. If I had a prize to award, you would win it. Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“Oh, and how fun about the "seasons" thing at parties! I'm sure your wife was the life of the party. :)”

Hi Amber:

What an idea! When I get home I’m going to tell Linda that you thought she was the life of one of those facial cosmetic parties. She may want to adopt you. : )

Vince

Vince said...

“Wow! Great stuff. I've been up 14 hours and just now realized I should have read this 13.5 hours ago! :)”

Hi Pam:

Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure this plotter/pantser info is that time sensitive. But thanks anyway.

I have to get going for a little bit. I have to relieve the current blogger at 11:00 PM Tulsa time. I think that would be me!

Vince

Natalie Monk said...

I'm convinced this title of this post has a gravitational pull. Great topic!

I pantsered my way through a disaster of a first manuscript, then learned Michael Hague's technique and a few tips from Martha Alderson. This time around, I took the same characters, a few situations, and plotted and plotted and still find myself writing in some scenes by the seat of the pants when there seem to be holes. I do force myself to match the scene goal to the story goal, however. So hopefully things will turn out okay. *biting my nails*

Edwina said...

Hi Vince,
Thanks for the 2-day workshop - really good! I am a panster-converted-to-plotter. When I wrote fiction, I was a panster through and through. But when I began to write my story, I realized I needed a plot to keep from omitting things I wanted to include, to keep the story chronological and to make sure I stayed on track. When I start back writing fiction, maybe I'll be a panster-converted-to-plotter-converted-back-to-panster!

Janet Dean said...

Vince, maybe that's why I'm not always sure what my writing process is, but as Naomi said, what matters isn't the process but the result. Still a definite sense of how we put story down would make it easier. IMO.

Janet

Vince said...

“I pantsered my way through a disaster of a first manuscript, then learned Michael Hague's technique and a few tips from Martha Alderson.”

Hi Natalie:

It looks like you are paying your dues, doing the right things, and staying the course. You sound a little like Tina. Please be sure to let us know when you get the call.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Vince said...

“maybe I'll be a panster-converted-to-plotter-converted-back-to-panster!”

Hi Edwina:


That’s a great comment and insight. Perhaps Pantser/Plotter is not something we ‘are’ but something we ‘do’. We are not converting ourselves so much as we are doing something in a different way. And everyone is right when they say do what works for you and what works for you given the novel you are writing and the state of your craftsmanship.

Thanks for your comment. I’ve gained a new insight already and the day is just starting.

Vince

Vince said...

“what matters isn't the process but the result.”

Hi Janet:


Did you see my Edwina comment? Pantser/Plotter is not something we are but something we do. That concept would sure make it easier to change one approach for the other. It could also give us a better understanding of what we are doing.

While it is true the result is what counts, it is the process that gets us that result. So the game is getting the right process to match our talents and skills with the needs of the novel we are working on. And that combination may be different for each writer…it can also change many times over time for the same writer.

I love workshops because it is possible to see your knowledge grow right before your eyes!

Thanks for your comments and your contribution to the event! We need every plotter!

Vince

Sandra Leesmith said...

These are great Vince. Loved the examples. You went to a lot of work. Thanks

Barbara Thompson said...

I'm a reader not a writer, but I enjoyed reading about pantser and plot. I've seen many comments from Vince in the past. I'm glad to finally see a picture of him. Thanks for sharing and please enter me in the giveaway.
Barbara Thompson
barbmaci61(at)yahoo(dot)com

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

"Friends don't let friends pantser
Plot responsibly"
That quote is too funny!!!
Thanks for the laugh!

Lorie Langdon said...

Awesome post, Vince!
I love reading about all the tricks and techniques writers use to plot...or avoid plotting. :) It proves there really is no "right" way to write a novel. ;D
Thanks for including me in this fascinating compilation!

Vince said...

Hi Lorie:

Thanks for taking part. It was interesting to see how a team works together. Yes, I agree, there are many right ways to write a novel. Authors just need to make sure they are using one of them!

Vince

Vince said...

“I've always been a pantser, but am finding more and more that I need to do plotting. As in, REALLY need to do some plotting to keep my thoughts from becoming too muddled.”

Hi Catmom:


I think I missed you yesterday. But this is a very good comment. I think a lot of writers start as pantsers and then as they get better they begin to see the advantages of plotting. So they try a little plotting and advance their skill for the day they may need it for an editor.

Yet, an author can be a very good plotter with great skill and still prefer to write the kind of books that are best approached by pantsering. In any event, I think it is always helpful to know how to pantser or plot even if you don’t use the skills that often.

Thanks for your comment.

Vince

Ginger Solomon said...

*sigh* I'm a pantser at heart, but because of inconsitencies in my plots, I'm going to have to learn to be a plotter. I hope it's possible.

Thanks for all the info, Vince. I'm looking forward to reading tomorrow's...er...today's post.