Not long ago, I read a comment by John Grisham in that he writes an outline for his novels and by following it, the novel is easy to write. So, I decided to follow his advice and wrote a detailed outline for my latest work in progress (WIP), The Groundhog Lounge. And, it was the easiest novel that I have written so far. I finished the rough draft in two months. Of course, I still have a lot of editing, rewrites and polishing to do but the story itself is finished. I have done this before with my novel The Pool Lizards, which took me about two years to finish. I hope this time I can complete the current WIP in much less time.
However, for Death by Salsa, I wrote a brief summary of what I wanted my two male protagonists to achieve. But as soon as I started writing it, they took off on a journey that was as much a surprise to me as it was to them. Every time they arrived at a small town or bump in the road, the people they met were not only strangers to my protagonists but to me also. I knew what their destination was but had no idea how they were going to get there. This novel was one of the most enjoyable that I have written.
For romance, although one knows the outcome, the journey is the adventure or the mystery. With my romances, I usually start with a setting such as the Island of Palmaltas for A Caribbean Summer or Texas and Connecticut for Amorous Ambush and Colorado for A Colorado Destiny. For one of my WIPs, I have in mind an A-frame house set in the woods of Vermont and for another a cabin on a lake inspired by my walks around Lake Texoma. Two of my completed manuscripts (not yet submitted) resulted from dreams I had. But although I have a setting in mind for my romances, I also have a theme or plot in mind, which, as I go along, I tend to change. Many things happen along the way that I had not anticipated. This happened, especially, in A Colorado Destiny where towards the end, the hero behaved in a quite unexpected manner, to say the least. And, it’s my favorite part of the book. The first complete manuscript I ever wrote was the result of a dream but the novel itself has nothing to do with dreams. Another novel came from my own repeating dreams and I used those dreams throughout the novel. For that one, I wrote the ending first. I knew exactly how I wanted it to end. One might say authors and readers know exactly how a romance is going to end but this one, I hope, will be a pleasant surprise.
So, am I a plotter or a pantser? I’m both, of course. I plotted (outlined) The Pool Lizards and The Groundhog Lounge. For my romances and at least one mystery, I wrote “by the seat of my pants”, never knowing exactly how the protagonists would arrive at their destination. And many times I combine the two techniques.
Whichever way I go, I have fun writing and my wish is that my books will be entertaining for my readers.