Wednesday, January 30, 2013


One of the big questions that invariably comes up if you get a bunch of writers together is “Pantser or Plotter?” I have always been a plotter. Always. I put a ton of forethought into each book, chapter outlines, character sketches, plot points and themes…blahblahblah.

Until my current WIP, Moonwitched. I took off work between Christmas and New Year’s so I could FINISH the book. I only have four chapters left. And yes, as of today I still have the same four chapters left as back then. *sigh* I can make all the everyday-life excuses—overtime at work, getting the paperwork started for going back to college in July, becoming deathly ill with the flu, changing critique partners and webmistresses. That’s definitely cutting into writing time.

But that’s not it.

It should have been simple and straightforward—it’s all mapped out, chapter by chapter and scene by scene. I know where I’m going. I know who does what and where they all end up. I should have just been able to tear through the darn thing and had it on my editor’s desk just after New Year’s. I’m STILL on Chapter Twelve.

Because a weird thing happened. I started out rereading it from the start, just to vet it. And my evil muse whispers, “Valkyn’s a father separated from his sons—he’d miss them. He needs to think about them more…how about here…and here? Mari needs to cast another spell of protection for the children…here would be good. Matteo’s sick of Imani’s manipulation and needs to have it out with her…right about here—no, here’s better.”

And on and on it goes. It’s growing from the inside out. Getting fleshed out and longer—more character depth, stronger motivation—but no closer to the end. GRRR!

The book’s getting better, no question. But where the heck is THE END?

I’ve NEVER been a backloader before. I’ve always been a frontloader. My only rewrites usually come from critique partners’ comments (tweaking, never rewriting) and during edits. Until now. I feel like a cyberneticist, turning a human into a cyborg one bionic part at a time. Insert here, beef up there, clarify this, move that. Gene-splicing—to get a “new and improved” baby. My hardcore notes feel more like guidelines. Thank you, Captain Barbosa. What the heck happened to the diehard plotter? It feels like dithering. But this book won’t be rushed.

Is it some subconscious maneuver to stall b/c this is the LAST book in the Guardians of Light series and I don’t want to let go? Braeca’s story in the Daughters of the Guardians series is all ready to go—and I can’t get Moonwitched off the stage for the second act to start. (My friends will tell you I overthink everything—right, Adam? Chris?) I know I will finish this book, like all the others. And it’ll be great. Chapter Twelve can’t last forever.

It’s just weird. I am one cranky leopard…<LOL>


Tina Donahue said...

I believe you're onto something with the 'you don't want to let it go' thinking. Could be you're sabotaging yourself. I'm amazed anyone can write a novel without an outline, even a basic, simple one. For me, if I don't know what the beginning, middle and especially the end will be, it's like driving without directions - I may never get to my destination.

A major NYT bestselling writer often boasts about not plotting, just sitting down and writing. I've noticed this individual's books are getting longer and longer and longer. It's like the writer is trying to find the way, but doesn't have a clue where to go. It shows in the writing, which is frankly becoming boring. I think having a plot before putting word one on the page might help.

Renee Wildes said...

You got it - now that I'm feeling better, I've decided it's gonna be full steam ahead. Need to finish Moonwitched b/c Noble Publishing's also gotme working on Marek's New World - I want to finish both before school starts in July.

Yes, I'm going back to college - refresh my (graduated in 1996 but out of the field for 15 years) vet tech degree... I MUST be out of my mind!

Kimberley Troutte said...

Or, get ready for this, you shouldn't go on yet. I know, it's crazy talk, but maybe, just maybe, your muse is onto something. One of my characters pulled that same trick on me once. I was at the climax with just about four chapters to go and she dug her heels in. She wouldn't budge no matter how hard I tried to force her. Finally, I realized she had a secret she hadn't told anyone. A secret that changed EVERYTHING. Maybe your muse is telling you the same thing. Or maybe that's just crazy talk. Best of luck!

jean hart stewart said...

Can't comment much because I'm half panster, half plotter. I do think your characters are talking to you and it might pay to listen.

Fiona McGier said...

I agree with the advice to not try to force the ending. I often dream up new chapters or scenes. Maybe your muse is not done telling the story yet? It will happen. I've also put some books aside and later re-written them in a huge way, and the final draft was way better than the original.

I usually start with characters and the barest idea of a story arc, and let the rest come as I write.

Renee Wildes said...

I'm going to kinda play it by ear - keep writing Ch 12 (13/14/15/16...) but if something else strikes my fancy somewhere in the middle, I'll add. Linda will get it eventually...

Selena Robins said...

Great post, Renee. I'm a big time plotter, outlining everything. I tried just winging it once, but it doesn't work for me.

I think each writer finds his/her groove and goes with it.

I also believe that even pansters outline to some degree, they do know the story and how they want it to unfold, and the conflicts, goal, motivation, they may not write an outline but they do have it somewhere and they follow that, so it's not all together just pansting.

A. Catherine Noon said...

I jump around and write out of order.

But I have to say, I got a charge out of reading, "I've always been a backloader." ~giggle~ (Yes, I'm thinking naughty.)