Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Plotting for Pantsers

by Mindy Obenhaus

Plotting. Some writers are meticulous about it, while others get heart palpitations at the mere thought. I’m a pantser at heart, however I’ve learned that I’m more productive if I have a good chunk of the story plotted prior to writing my proposal.

Most pantsers think of plotting as rigid and constraining. So the first thing we need to do is change our perception of plotting. Instead of approaching it as a hard-and-fast outline that you cannot deviate from, what if it’s simply a guideline to help keep us on task? That was key to turning this pantser into a plantser.

What does plantsing look like?

You have your story idea with your main characters. Perhaps you know how the story is going to end or you have a few scene ideas. Great! Write those down. I’m a visual person, so I use a very simplistic Word .doc with a chart that is broken down into the number of chapters with two boxes (scenes) per chapter. If I have an idea for the ending, I fill that in. I also add any other scenes I have in mind wherever I think they might occur in the story. Since it’s on the computer, whatever I write is easily moved to another chapter/scene later on.

With those things out of my head and on the page, I ask myself where the story begins. Every story starts with an inciting incident. That event that upends life as your h/h knows it and sets them on their journey. Like when a single mother runs into the father of her child. A child he knows nothing about. Or when a woman offers to help her neighbor who’s been thrust into the role of guardian for his five-year-old niece.

Great, we have an opening. Now what?
What’s at stake?

When the story opens, even before the inciting incident, your character has a goal (what they want), a motivation (why they want it) and a conflict (what keeps them from their goal). But what will happen if they don’t achieve their goal? That’s what’s at stake. Example: My heroine who learns her rancher neighbor is now guardian of his niece owns the local hardware store. Her goal is to expand her store before a regional building supply company moves into the area so she can establish her store as the go-to place for home improvement supplies (motivation). But her store is landlocked, so the only way to increase the footprint of her business is to purchase the building next door, but the owner has no interest in selling (conflict).  Her business is what’s at stake. If she can’t expand her store, she’ll lose business to the big box store.

Stakes are important and sometimes overlooked in the pantsing process. But if the stakes aren’t clear, an editor will likely pass on your story. I speak from experience. 😉

What happens next?

That single question is key to my plotting process. From one scene to the next I ask myself, “What happens next?” Then I write down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s dialog, other times it’s just a matter-of-fact statement to prompt me later. However, there are those times when I have no idea what comes next. And the best way I’ve found to overcome that is with another question.
What’s the worst thing?

In his book Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says to think of the worst thing that could happen to your character in that particular moment and then find a way to make it happen. I blew that question off for years. Until I realized that it really works. It creates automatic conflict and ups the stakes. The downside is that it’s not always easy. Sometimes the worst thing takes us down a road we don’t want to travel. Been there, done that. I’ve ignored those nudges God kept giving me. It resulted in multiple rewrites. When I finally relented and gave in to God’s prompting, my editor loved the story.

Working backwards.

If going forward becomes a struggle, try working backwards. If you know how the story is going to end, work backwards from that point. Ask yourself what happened leading up to the ending.

By taking the time to think through my story, I’m able to fill in most of the blanks on my chart with at least some basic information (like scene goals, motivation and conflict and what’s at stake). Then that aids me in writing the synopsis and allows me to write the story faster because I know what’s going to happen.

Of course, the pantser in me cannot be ignored, so I usually write my first three chapters before I start plotting. And, when working on my chart, I always allow myself the freedom to write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll write entire scenes or big chunks of dialog. Then all I have to do is cut and paste. And yes, sometimes things change as I’m writing and that’s okay. Because plantsers don’t like rigid.

Are you a pantser who would like to be more productive? Consider trying something different. Even one thing that makes you more productive is worth a shot. Plotters, do you have any tips for pantsers that will still allow them the freedom they love so much?

I’m giving away another copy of my July release, A Father’s Promise, to one lucky commenter (U.S. mailing addresses only, please).

Is he ready for fatherhood?
He doesn’t think he deserves a family… But now he has a daughter.
Stunned to discover he has a child, Wes Bishop isn’t sure he’s father material. But his adorable daughter needs him, and he can’t help feeling drawn to her mother, Laurel Donovan—a woman he’s finally getting to know. But can this sudden dad overcome a past tragedy that has him convinced he’s not meant to be a husband or a father…and make a promise of forever?

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at  

Monday, August 3, 2020

Growing on Revision

I'm in revisions right now. 

To help you realize just how FAR AHEAD traditional publishing works, I'm just now revising the finished manuscript...of book #3 of the NEXT series.

Not the current series, The Brides of Hope Mountain.

The NEXT series, Brothers in Arms.
Braced for Love
Here is Braced for Love, coming in March 2021--Click to preorder
The book I am currently revising is releasing (I'd estimate) in November 2021.

Anyway, that's not my point.

My point is, when I'm writing a book my goal for a 75,000 to 80,000 word book, which is what I'm contracted for, is for the ending to kick off, (and by KICK OFF I mean the usual mayhem, chasing, shooting, screaming, black moment, all is lost, victory, true love wins over all!!!!) 
You know, THAT ending...starts around 60,000 words. 

Yes, it takes me about 15,000 words to drag every reader through the're welcome!

So the trouble with that is, often, I get to the beginning of the end...too soon.
Do you ever do that? Are you writing along and realize the story is coming to an end but your book isn't long enough?

Or, conversely, you're writing along and realize your word count is done NOW but the story continues on.

I've done both, but what I've found is, my books grow on revision. When I'm done...and I'm revising as I go...but when I'm all the way done, that's when I can go through it and yes, look for typos and substantive edits...oops, I gave him blue eyes until chapter five, at which point they became hazel!!??...I am also looking for things that can add a lot of words to a story.

Things like:
Scene setting.
Humor and sarcasm.
Emotional reaction beats tacked onto dialogue.
Developing backstory.
Wrapping up the ending.

Mostly for me though it's scene setting...which seems to be a weakness of mine. Not that I don't think I do it okay, but it's not natural to me. I rarely describe what my characters are wearing or what their hair looks like. 

It's not a Regency Romance you know. Most of my characters have ONE OUTFIT. Okay, maybe two. But why describe over and over the clothes when they're the same, especially the guys, but the women almost as much. Calico Dress? Hello? Stetson, black pants, six gun...everyone's got it pictured, don't they?

And sarcasm. Humor. I just keep adding and adding, sass, the reaction to the sass, sarcasm. I'm not sure why but the more times I go over it, the funnier it gets. So a lot of passes helps.

I've also read in reviews on Amazon and such places, a few times, that my books tend to end abruptly. It's one of those cases where an Amazon review, read without panic and grief!!! can actually help an author. 

I tend to try harder now to give the characters a nice, real, moment at the end of my books. Show them living their happily ever after. And this current book, more than most, the end of a three book series, can use that, and that's not in there. So as I work through the book finding (over and over and OVER!!) places I wrote 'I'd' when I meant 'I've' or 'it's' when I meant 'it'd', stuff like that, (I do that so much!) And as many as I catch I let far too many of them through.
So that's the basic revisions. 

But I'm also growing my book and hopefully making it richer, more visually colorful, setting the scenes better and making you all laugh a little more.

So this is a tiny lesson today. Not so much how to write anything. Just how I write things. How I've learned not to panic if the book starts ending on me too soon. It'll grow. Remain calm.

How about you? Do you write long or short? Do you like revisions or loathe them?
Do your books grow or do you find yourself cutting cutting cutting?

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an Amazon gift card for $20.20.

And now I'm going to read through the blog post and revise it...and maybe it'll be 1000 words long when I'm done.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Giovanni Lanfranco, 1620-1623,
National Gallery of Ireland. [PS-US] 

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
Matthew 13:14-21

The Seekerville bloggers are praying for YOU and for our entire blog community. If you have any special intentions that need additional prayer coverage, leave a request for prayer in the comment section below. 

Please join us in praying for the United States--and the world--during this coronavirus outbreak. Also please pray for calm to be restored to our country and for peace to reign.

We are so grateful for all of you—for your friendship and your support! 
May the Lord bless you and your families and keep you safe.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to

Monday: Erica Vetsch offered valuable insights on Press Kits.

Wednesday: Guest Lynne Gentry gave us the inside scoop on her co-writing relationship with Lisa Harris. 

Friday: Missy entertained us with a blast from the past: Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.) The winner of the cosmetics bag is Karen Jennings!

Monday:  Mary Connealy invites you to join us today!

Wednesday: Mindy Obenhaus will be taking us back to basics with Plotting for Pantsers. 
Friday: We're not sure what's happening today. Stop by and be surprised!

Mindy Obenhaus's Reunited in the Rockies won the Faith, Hope & Love Reader's Choice Award in the Short Contemporary category!

More Amish Suspense
From USA TODAY bestselling author

Amish Christmas Search
Oct 2020
An Amish girl’s disappearance is a mystery…
and the clues lead straight into danger at Christmas.
Convinced her friend didn’t run away as the police
believe, Lizzie Kauffman searches for the truth—but
someone will kill to keep it hidden. Now the Amish
housekeeper and her friend Caleb Zook are on the
run for their lives. And if they want to find their
missing friend, Lizzie and Caleb must figure out
a way to survive the holiday.

Pre-order HERE!

7 Misconceptions About Being a Writer by KM Weiland at Helping Writers Become Authors

How To Weave Setting into Deep Point-Of-View by Bonnie Randall at Fiction University

Organizing A Blog Tour for Your Book Launch by Hannah Bauman at Between The Lines Editorial

Show vs Tell -- HELP! by Tamela Hancock Murray at Steve Laube

Your Characters Live On by Marie Wells Coutu at Learn How To Write A Novel 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

Happy Friday, everyone. I wanted to re-share a post from the original Seekerville blog from August 2017. And yes, I will be doing the giveaway again! 

My name is Missy Tippens, and I am a cosmetics and skincare product addict. I love face creams and foundation. Primer and powder. Cleansers and concealer. I’m a sucker for just about anything that declares itself anti-aging. :) (Please bear with me. I WILL tie this in to writing and books.)

My husband has always called me a marketer’s dream. Sales and advertisements draw me in. I love to discover new products, and once I love something, I’m a loyal user. For the last year, I’ve been a big fan of an up-and-coming cosmetics company. I’ve tried many new-to-me products, but have also experienced the release of new items. I have enjoyed the samples that come with every purchase. Very often, I use those samples and then buy the products, discovering new favorites. When I go to their website to shop, I always read the reviews before I buy. They seem to have a crazily loyal customer base, women who heartily share their love of the products with others. I found myself spoiled by the company’s business model and by those new product releases—the samples, the build-up, the special promotions.

But recently, when it had been a while since a new product, I found myself losing interest a bit. I started looking around, clicking on links in newsletters from other companies, checking out products by other brands. Then,

In that moment, it hit me… Oh, my goodness, what if books are the same? I suspect voracious readers are the same way I am with my cosmetics. If so, we authors need to stay in contact with our readers. We need to give them new products to sample and buy. We need to keep them excited about our product so they stay loyal. :)

How can we give our readers more books and keep them interested when some of us are slow writers? Or when some of us are at a place in our lives where we have family or other commitments taking us away from our writing? What about those authors facing illness or grief? It got me thinking…wondering…feeling a bit overwhelmed…

And then I got a promotional email from Nick Stephenson of the blog
They key thing to remember is that 'overwhelm' isn't an inherent personality flaw. It's not genetic. It's not communicable. It's not a fault with you. Overwhelm is a by-product of 'not having a plan'.”
That was another
No more saying, “When I finish x, I think I’m going to work on y…or maybe z.” No more being anxious or indecisive. I need to fully commit no matter what. I need to make decisions about the order to work on projects and then set deadlines.
I mentioned in the comments section not long back that I have a new Panda Planner. But I haven’t been using it regularly. I’m now reminded of how important it is to have a plan and to stay on track. Organization is key to keep from getting overwhelmed, which is key to producing more books, which keeps our readers faithful and excited about our work!
So, while planners can be fun and even artistic ventures (some use stickers and artwork!), and while I love my planner because it includes space for recording gratitude as well as a place to list successes, the calendar area should be a priority.

Today, I want to share some ideas I’ve had (inspired by my cosmetics addict lightbulb moment) for keeping readers interested and loyal:

--Focus on our newsletter, and try to keep a regular schedule (whatever that frequency is for you).
--Be generous with samples (first chapter or free prequel, etc.) on our website or wherever we connect with readers.
--Don’t let big gaps of time pass without offering a product, even if it’s something short or just a freebie. Work toward being more prolific so readers will remain excited about new releases. I think several of the Seekers have a good handle on this by just sticking to a daily word count goal. Consistently writing 500 or 1000 or 2000 words a day (or whatever number works for you) can make all the difference.
--Get readers involved in our work. I’ve recently read authors who recommend keeping readers engaged on social media. One author asks them questions and lets them give input on his books while writing them. And he always responds to comments. This is something I know I can improve on. I have tended to think I’m boring so haven’t posted much on my Facebook author page. But in the future, I want to reach out more often.
--Don’t overdo the promotion. The last thing we want to do is shout, “Buy my book!!” over and over until our fans get so sick of our pleas they want to run the other direction. We don’t want to shove our books down their throats. We want to keep them excited and looking forward to hearing from us. Finding this ideal frequency may take a little trial and error, but I think we’d be safe looking at how often we like hearing from our favorite authors (or from our favorite products outside of books).
--Finally, I think we should move beyond thinking of ourselves simply as creatives and try thinking of ourselves as a brand. We should be savvy business owners. Consider who our customers are and what they want. Come up with a plan, and schedule those product releases on our calendar. Break down those projects into manageable steps. Plan well ahead, especially for promotion. And always be learning from other authors who are successful.
I hope you found this helpful! I’d love to hear your input, as I’m still in the process of shoring up my plan.
Today, I’ll be doing a fun giveaway! I’m giving away a hanging travel bag that’ll be great for cosmetics (you knew I had to go there :)) or other toiletries or shaving items. It can even be used for packing electronics (for the many chargers you have to haul everywhere). Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to be entered! (Giveaway item will be similar to this photo but may not be exact depending on what’s available when I order it. U.S. entries only this time please.)

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and