Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Plotter or Pantser?

Seems there is a hot debate on what is the proper way to go about things. I know plotters who swear they can't write a single word until everything is mapped out. Likewise, pantser could never make it through a story they already knew the details of. 

When I first started writing, I took all sorts of writing classes that said it was imperative you plot everything down to the last detail so you didn't get lost along the way. On my second book attempt, I followed this advice to the letter. I got out my note cards and wrote one scene per card for an entire book. It's a quite good story actually, about a woman whose father was killed and the prime suspect was her fiance. She broke up with him and decided to go on a single's cruise a few months later. Only problem was, her now ex-finance was on the same cruise...and a murder happens on the ship. 

Great story. Only problem is, once I wrote out all the scene plot cards, my muse basically shut down and wanted to move on to the next story. Essentially, I'd already written that book and there were no surprises left to discover. Therefore, my muse couldn't be less interested in actually going ahead with the writing part. 

I realized then and there I was never going to be a plotter if I actually wanted to accomplish anything. I like the freedom of letting the characters tell me where I'm going, what I'm doing. I like discovering the plot alongside them and living the story as I write.  In Always & Forever I basically intended it to be suspenseful and thrilling, but not really a mystery. Everyone said if I wrote a mystery, I had to plot because otherwise too many wrong turns would be taken and I'd have to delete pages and pages of writing. 

Coming in March 2013
Still, I knew my muse best and when I decided to write a real murder mystery, I knew it had to be pantsed all the way. I planned my hero and heroine, planned four suspects, picked the one I thought was the culprit but kept my mind open to other possibilities. What happened while I wrote Crime & Passion was amazing to me! Not only did the book take unexpected twists and turns that I never even thought of as a possibility, I came up with new and more interesting suspects than I even planned. The way everything ended up tying together and who the killer ended up being were complete surprises to me almost until the ending, and it was the most fun I think I've ever had writing. 

Early news from beta readers seems as though there aren't any chapters I'm going to be throwing out, and everything ties together in a satisfying, exciting mystery. I have one revision left to do before publication in March, but it is mostly going to be for sentence structure and all those little things a writer always finds to fix in their work. 

I can only hope my next project goes this smoothly and is this much fun! Can't wait to share this book with all of you. 

As far as I'm concerned, I'm definitely in the camp that being a pantser is better, but each writer has to listen to what their muse insists on. 

Happy writing and reading, my friends! Have a great rest of your week!


  1. Thanks for sharing your plotter/pantser experience, Chantel. I've been pantsing my WIP and find I'm throwing out a lot as I rewrite, but that hasn't really discouraged me. I agree the unexpected happenings along the way are great fun and make the journey worth it all.

    1. I suppose it must work differently for everyone, Carol. I will admit, I did throw out one scene because I found a more exciting twist and decided to run with it. I suppose as long as we are having fun, that's what matters, right? Thanks for the comment!

  2. yay! I definitely enjoyed going through those twists and turns. Since you didn't even know the answer, you didn't give it away early on which made the mystery even more exciting.

    1. Thanks, Rachelle! I definitely couldn't do this without all your help. I'm so grateful to have you as a crit partner, and since I know you love twists and turns in a mystery, you were a great person to have as one of my first readers. Really let me know if the mystery was mysterious or not :-)


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