Monday, June 6, 2011

Plotter or Pantser?

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.


marja said...

Your books always entertain me, and it's interesting to read about the process you go through. I always enjoy reading about what authors use for a process when writing a book. Good blog!

Palmaltas said...

Thanks, Marja! And I enjoy your books and blogs also.

Patricia said...

Great interview. I've already decided to buy the book from reading about it on another website. Thanks.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I'm glad you enjoyed our interview, and that you've been inspired to buy A Murderer Among Us.