Saturday, November 17, 2012


Some writers are plotters. Some are what we call "Pantsers." They write "by the seat of their pants."
I'm a pantsy-plotter.

I have to allow my brain the freedom to go where it wants to for about 3 chapters. Soon after that, I'll get stuck--like a piece of paper in a whirlpool. My brain whirls round and round looking for a place to go. Hopefully, a somewhat logical and interesting place.

It's at this spot where I usually stop and plot.

Nothing scares me like having a deadline and no plot. Oh, sure. I have a kernel of an idea. I have characters and I can just follow them around taking dictation. But that only goes so far. When I see another two thirds of a book looming empty in front of me, I panic.

Yes, there have been books in which I never, ever came up with a written plot. I wrote Strange Neighbors that way. It was terrifying. But people seemed to love the book. Why? Because it was "character driven."

Romances are known for being character-driven stories. It's important we know what motivates our protagonists and antagonists. After that, we sit down with them--keyboard between us--and ask, "So...what are you up to today?"

Do they always tell us? No. That's when a plot (even a thin one) comes in very handy. If you know your pro/antagonists, you'll instinctively know how they'll feel and react to any situation. Now, all you need is a situation for them to react to! Enter the plot.

A few weeks ago, I was in panic-mode. I took a long car ride to NJ with a fellow writer and we plotted Act II. (I had pantsed Act I. About 6 chapters.) When I got home and made a story board with those plot points on them, I felt oh so much better. Ah... My characters had situations to react to! For a while.

Getting together with my critique partner one day (who is even more of a pantser than I am) we brainstormed Act III of my book, plus Acts I, II, and III of the latest in her series. It can be done! What I think I learned is how vital the brainstorming aspect is. If you're 'missing something' perhaps that idea is in someone else's brain. 

Find writers you trust and ask if they'd mind listening to what you have so far and tossing out ideas to give you some forward momentum. Hopefully, you'll get out of that whirlpool before your brain becomes mushy and disintegrates--or your heart gives out.


Terry Spear said...

Total pantser here, though I tend to sit back and say, wait! Where am I going with this, sometimes. Sometimes the stories just unfold like dream work, like A SEAL Wolf Christmas, or To Tempt the Wolf. I started writing them and couldn't stop. LOL I love it when that happens!!!

Ashlyn Chase said...

I do too, Terry! Unfortunately, that only happens to me with shorter books...and rarely. If it ever happens with a long single title, I'll be dancing the jig. LOL

Grace Burrowes said...

How well I know the old Chapter Four Plotting Cliff. My parents live 2500 miles away. I get in the truck, find an Interstate, and hope for one good idea, which usually shows up somewhere between Amarillo and Flagstaff. It's enough to make me want to move to New Mexico...

Virginia E said...

Hmmm, just try wearing that button through TSA...

You might also talk to your readers. Plot bunnies pop up from the most unlikely sources sometimes.

Maggie Nash said...

Get out of my head Ash! I'm exactly the same...pantster for the beginning, then panic mode until I work out the plot for the rest. Of course, flexible within that plot, but it makes it so much easier in the end. And yes, my writers group meets monthly and we plot storm quite regularly. I couldn't do it without them!

Naima Simone said...

I am such a plotter! Weeell, I'll say 70% plotter, 28% pantser and 2% I-just-want-this-damn-book-to-be-finished-er. Snicker! Before every book my critique partners and I--I have 2 of the very best in the world!!--brainstorm and plot out the book, including back story, motivations and turning points. It's part of my process and being able to go to my plot when I'm stuck and ready to tear my weave out is like Linus' security blanket!

Love your post, Ash!!

Ashlyn Chase said...

LOL. I'm glad so many of you know what I'm talking about and have your own ways of making that darn plotting thing work!

Long car rides, Grace. Excellent idea. Nothing for the mind to do but wander.

A whole plot party, Mags? That sounds awesome!