Blood, Sweat and Tears

Why doesn't life cooperate? We make our plans then have to change them. Set our dates and erase to set again. Plot our course and watch the map disappear. Make our lists only to re-run them the next day.

Time flies, is stolen or heads to higher ground. I don’t know. This world is just weird sometimes. 

When you read this I will be at camp. We are heading out with nine teenagers in tow. Getting there with all nine is iffy. J

I love being there, but the process can be a pain. I drive the church’s fifteen-passenger van. It’s not pretty, but it does run. As of last Thursday night (I leave on Monday) that’s about all it does. The cruise, speedometer and gas gauge all went kaput at once. Friday night the AC fan was rattling its death wish and the windshield cracked down the middle of the driver’s side. My pastor is sweating bullets because his car guy doesn't work weekends.

I wanted to say, “Oh, yea of little faith.” For some peculiar reason, I also want to live. 

Now imagine. Eleven people and a week’s worth of luggage crammed into one van for seven hours. No way to obey the speed limit. No clue as to how much gas it’s guzzled. No cruise control. AACCKK! No cruise! And if life continues on this lovely path, the AC will die about twenty minutes outside of town with ninety-degree temps. Can we say, Murphy’s Law?

Good thing I don’t believe in old Murphy. If I did, I would have opted for an early grave. Or put him in one. Maybe I’m getting nutty in my old age, umm, middle age, but I see this as an adventure.  Will we make it? Will we make it alive? Will we make it with all body parts intact?

Which kid will push my last button and have to thumb it home? How many pounds can you sweat off in seven hours of sweltering heat? How many potty stops will all that sweating eliminate? How wet will we get with the windows down if it rains? Will rain wash the sweaty stench away so the van doesn't smell like a boy’s locker room for eternity????

Will crying really get me out of a ticket? (At that point crying should be easy. Not wailing like a banshee and begging the cop to haul me off will be the hard part.) Will the nice policeman have compassion and let us go without one? Doubtful, I am no longer young and gorgeous. Maybe he’ll be an old fat lech who can’t see so great? Will I end up in the hoosegow for throttling someone before the day is out? If it comes to that, a ticket is the least of my worries.

Think of this blog as a soap opera. All the burning questions get answered in the next episode. Or next. Maybe. 

 I wonder if they’ll give me a computer in that county jail out there in the boonies?

Plotter? Pantser? How about an 80/20 hybrid? (Melissa Robbins)

I HAVE to know point A and where point B ends up so I can leave a trail of bread crumbs (clues) along the way.  I’ve read that some mystery writers can pen a story without knowing who the killer is until the end.  Nope.  Not me. 

Besides using the great plotting method by Alexandra Sokoloff (her Elements of Acts are awesome), a simple spreadsheet helps me plot out a mystery.  I list each character’s name at the top and below that, I type in his or her agenda, secrets, etc.  My first person heroine may not know what’s going on, but I have to know. 

But like the title suggests, I’m a hybrid and only too happy to follow a character who leads me in another direction.  He or she may reveal a secret I didn’t even know about!  I just have to be careful my characters don't leave me astray.

The key with writing, whether you're a plotter or a pantser, is use what works for you.  

Plot? Pants? Both? Oh My! (Penny Rader)

This month our topic is "Are you a Plotter (outliner) or a Panster (seat-of-the-pants) writer?  Why?" 

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Plotting doesn't come easily to me, so I went trolling online for some help.  Below are snippets from articles that intrigued me.  I urge you to click on the hyperlinks and read the articles.  They are chock full of great ideas.

 Also, if any of these are helpful to you, print them or save them.  You never know when something will disappear online.  An article I planned to use for this post was available two days ago, but not today.

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Worksheets (Lara Willard)

  • Captivation
  • Change
  • Complication
  • Confrontation
  • Collapse
  • Comprehension
  • Curve ball
  • Culmination

A Date with Kate – Plotting (Kate Walker)
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Training Yourself as a Plotter

  • Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed.
  • Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself: Where is it going? Who will end up with whom? 
  • Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality.
  • How could you rework a fairy story?
  • With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happened - and consider what will happen next. 

The Great Debate: Plotting Versus Pantsing (DB Jackson)

First, let me say this:  Each writer has to find his or her own way.  Between the extremes of no advanced plotting whatsoever and outlining down to the most minute detail, lies a broad spectrum of possible approaches….

Second, that spectrum I mentioned really does provide a myriad of possible approaches.  I think there are few writers out there who are pure pantsers or pure plotters.

And third, the term “organic” means different things to different people.  I believe that on some level ALL writing is organic.

Finally, allow me to say this:  I think that for aspiring writers especially, some level of plot outlining makes sense.

How Plotting & Pantsering Affects Everything You Write, Pt 1 (Vince Moore)

Pantsering and plotting are similar to being left or right handed. Each person tends to favor a dominate hand and yet each individual also tends to make ample use of both hands.

Types of Pantsers and Plotters:

  • Type I Plotter: this is a writer who was born a plotter. This writer may even think plotting is the only way to write. 
  • Type II Adult-onset Plotter: this I believe is the most common type of plotter. Most Type II’s have tried pantsering and can’t make it work. 
  • Type I Pantser: I think almost all pantsers are lifelong type I’s. I have yet to meet a pantser who was once a plotter but had to give it up
  • The Plotting Pantser: this is a pantser who may be ‘passing as a plotter’. She keeps changing the plot as new ideas arise with almost every chapter.
  • The Pantsering Plotter: this is a plotter who may be passing as a pantser. She starts writing without a plot in true pantsering fashion but then keeps building a plot on the back end of whatever she has written.

How to Write a Book ( OJ Omololu)

9 Steps for Plotting Fiction (Taken from the Verla Kay Message Boards)

  1. Triggering event
  2. Characterization
  3. First major turning point
  4. Exposition
  5. Connect the dots
  6. Negative turning point
  7. Antagonist wins
  8. Revelation
  9. Protagonist wins

Nanowrimo Prep: The Index Card Method and Story Structure Grid (Alexandra Sokoloff)
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Make two blank structure grids, one for the movie you have chosen from your master list to analyze, and one for your WIP (Work In Progress). You can just do a structure grid on a piece of paper for the movie you’ve chosen to analyze, but also do a large corkboard or cardboard structure grid for your WIP. You can fill out one structure grid while you watch the movie you’ve chosen.

Get a pack of index cards or Post Its and write down all the scenes you know about your story, and where possible, pin them onto your WIP structure grid in approximately the place they will occur.

The Outline Dilemma—Plotting vs. Pantsing (Beth Hill)


  • Plotters can write character-driven or plot-driven stories.
  • It’s quite likely that plotters know the story’s ending.
  • A lot of plotting is imagining what if.


  • The pantsers often just begin writing with the smallest kernel of a plot or with only the shadow of a character that snares their interest.
  • If you’ve got sticky notes posted as reminders on every surface of your office, you’re probably a pantser.
  • Pantsers may actually have more notes in the margins of their manuscripts than plotters will (since plotters keep their notes in the outline)...
  • Pantsers...may face plot tangles after writing the first draft that the plotter doesn’t face 
  • Pantsers also enjoy the excitement and enthusiasm of putting story to paper without first hashing through the story.

...there is no right method.

You’re the writer. Use your tools in ways that make you succeed.

Planners Versus Pantsers (Suzanne Church)
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I've tried both techniques. I tend to write short fiction as a pantser and novels as a planner.

In my opinion, two books on planning and analyzing plot and structure are particularly helpful for Planners. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

… my favorite planning tool…Excel to create a multi-worksheet planning file.  … Essentially my spreadsheet is my bible (or codex if you prefer) and can be especially helpful if I need to set the novel aside for a while.

Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds (Cindi Myers)

By now you’ve probably identified yourself as either a plotter or a pantser. Whichever approach works for you, I’m convinced you can learn from writers who take a different approach.

If you’re a plotter, try flying by the seat of your pants. Maybe not for a whole book. But every once in a while... Ask your characters to tell you what they’re going to do next.

If you’re a pantser, try plotting out a chapter, then writing it. See if it helps you write more quickly or more easily. Experiment. See if thinking about your book as a whole at the beginning of the process helps shorten the rewriting phase.

There’s no one way that’s right or wrong. The important thing is to write the book. It doesn’t really matter how you get there. But don’t be afraid to experiment with writing methods as a way to challenge yourself and keep your creativity fresh.

Plotters, Pantser,and Percolators (Karyn Henley)

I've discovered that I’m more of a Percolator. Percolating is a mixture of pantsing and a plotting. Here’s how it works for me: I dedicate a composition book to the project I’m starting. Then I go through Donald Maass’s Writing 21st Century Fiction or his Breakout Novel Workbook, both of which ask thought-stimulating questions that I apply to my specific story. I let my story idea percolate through each question, and I jot answers in my comp book. Without fail, I discover characters and motivation, see possible scenes, hear dialogue, and so on.

Story Planning Worksheets (Jami Gold)

Jami has lots of great worksheets.  You’ll have to go to her page to access these:

  • Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat Beat Sheet (plot arc oriented)
  • Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering Beat Sheet (plot arc oriented)
  • Master Beat Sheet Combining Save the Cat and Story Engineering (plot arc oriented)
  • Jami Gold’s Basic Beat Sheet (plot arc oriented and stripped down to basics)
  • Jami Gold’s Scrivener Template for the Basic Beat Sheet
  • Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure Beat Sheet (character arc oriented)
  • Jami Gold’s Romance Beat Sheet (romance arc oriented)
  • Jami Gold’s Elements of a Good Scene Checklist
  • Jami Gold’s Elements of a Good Scene Worksheet

To Plot Or Not To Plot…That Is The Question (Destiny)

Are You A Pantser?

  1. Do you commence a new novel based solely on an idea, character or sentence?
  2. Do you often say, “I let the book tell me where it’s going.”?
  3. Do you view writing as taking a road trip with only a vague destination in mind?

Are You a Plotter?

  1. Do you get inspired and then write an outline?
  2. Do you get giddy doing chapter summaries?
  3. Does the thought of not knowing whether your character is a mustard or mayo person make you anxious?

…there is no wrong or right way to write you novel. The bottom line is you have to write it! Whatever methods you take to get to that finish line is the right way for you.

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The Ultimate Plotting Tool for Pantsers: Your Novel in 9 Sentences (Joel D Canfield)

A tool he learned from Larry Brooks…stating each of these in a single sentence will give you a clear easy-to-follow path through your novel.

  1. The Hook
  2. The Setup
  3. The First Plot Point
  4. Response (including First Pinch Point)
  5. The Midpoint
  6. Attack (including Second Pinch Point)
  7. The Second Plot Point (including the “All is Lost” Moment)
  8. Climax
  9. Resolution


Did you find any of these helpful?  Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a combination of both?

The Hardest Part of Being a Writer is…

            I realized I was late with this blog yesterday. But before I could actually do anything about it I had to:
            Start on the problem of my upright freezer. Somehow the door had been left open. Stuff had to be tossed, saved for a friend, and the damage assessed. Then I took to the friend what might be ok. Maybe. She’s has the maturity and experience to know if she opens something up that might be skeevy to NOT EAT IT!  Six huge bags left.  The not possible to save, Alaskan King crab legs (whined over that one), ice cream in every form, multitudes of vegetables, as well as all that had been dripped on. Luckily, the crab was in the bottom. However, our garage smells like a bait shop.
            I took the bags of trash to the dumpster in the closest town at one of our seed cleaning facilities (unmanned at this time, thank goodness). Delivered the possible skeevy stuff to the friend forty-five miles away (yes, a friend I might see weekly on grocery/part runs). And all seemed to be going ok, when I saw a sexy Harley parked alongside the road with the passenger examining a large floppy book. It looked like a map book to me. It is supposed to get to ninety-eight degrees this afternoon and they already looked cooked, so I stopped. Oh, yea, they were in trouble. They'd called the nearest Harley roadside help. I let them know the nearest was two and a half hours away and offered to take them to the nearest town so they could wait in the cool with a water source, food, and…a bathroom. They locked that sucker up so quick and jumped in my little small pickup seat like they were afraid I'd evaporate. We squeezed together but I got a kiss on the cheek when they were delivered for being an angel. Sixteen miles out of my way, but hey, that's nothing out here. After a call to the Sheriff’s department to let them know about the Harley and the whereabouts of the owners, I got to come home and start cooking.
            Harvest starts Monday. Cooking for fifteen this year.
            I still need to fine tune the big game plan, but I needed to pay bills and get this blog out. I put off the bill paying a few minutes more to see if I couldn't get creative. Nothing came to mind except that it is difficult to be a writer, no matter who you are. There are always challenges to be faced in anyone’s life. Time to suck it up and get back to work. Time to save and recharge your batteries before life breaks your legs and makes you rest.
            You see, on the way to deliver the food, I called ahead to ask for coffee. I hadn't had a chance to have any yet. Then, when I arrived and after the food was away, I got to savor the coffee, homemade cookies, and some serious conversation as I whined about the four people who needed some constant help this last week through some serious problems. My friend explained to me that there are people who will use you up and then go on to the next. That to survive sometimes a person must refuse to help with someone else’s needs. Being a reverent sort, I got treated to a bit of Bible wisdom that is seldom said these days because cooperation and teamwork is currently espoused by our society. Help those willing to help themselves. I got to thinking on that drive home that maybe I should also look at the non-human things that also suck me an aphid on a rose bush. 
            Therefore, I helped myself to a Google search. I asked what is the hardest part of being a writer. Oh, my. It turns out I have a lot of the ‘hardest parts’.  Maybe you do too.  Here’s a link to the search.  Have fun.

            Warm regards to everyone.  Happy June.

Hi! My Name is Rox, and I'm a Plotter.


Bear with me, here.

There are some things in life that any one of us can easily become OCD about.  Our writing and the way we do it is one of them.  The longer we write, the more particular we become in our ways and habits.

Some people must have a certain type of pen or pencil before starting a writing project.  Some people feel they must be facing a certain direction at their desk that lets creativity flow more easily.  Okay, that's taking it a bit beyond normalcy, but I've been known to move my desk and hope for better mental clarity...and words that come easy.  Yeah, I'm weird.

When I consciously decided to give putting words on paper a try, not long after birth, I think it was, I sat down with an old, third-hand, portable typewriter, a stack of various types of paper (remember onion skin?) and began to create a story.  I had no intention of publishing a book.  I had only the need to create, using the overactive imagination I'd been born with and honed to a fine degree as an only child.  (We onlies have a habit of living in our own little worlds, because, well, when there's no one else around, we get lonely and need company...even if it's the company of fictional beings we create in our own little minds.)

I finished that book, all thousand-plus pages, 3 1/2 inches thick, single-spaced on both sides of the paper, then stuck it away in a drawer.  I have no idea to this day whether there was anything remotely salvageable in it.  I don't even know what happened to it.  Trashed, I surely hope.  And I didn't write again or even have the desire to write.

Fast forward twenty-five years, and my oldest daughter was in middle school reading the Babysitters Club series.  Certain I could do at least as well if not better, I took off like a bullet again.  This time I took a correspondence course in writing for children and teens.  But due to family issues, I quit mid-stream and still knew nothing about how to plot.  I simply sat and wrote, hoping inspiration would lead me from a beginning to an end.

And then along came romance.  The writing bug bit again, and off I went, writing a story, page by page, with no idea where it might be leading.  With that one finished, I started another and also started paying attention to story structure.  No, not the tried and true such as The Hero's Journey, just the basic stuff I noticed in books and somehow internalized.  I joined RWA and WARA.  I went to writers conferences, became close friends with other writers throughout the U.S., and I wrote at least a dozen books from beginning to end without a clue where they or the characters were going.

My critique partners insisted I learn to plot.  Plot?  Me?  You've got to be kidding!  Why would I want to spoil the adventure?  "Because," they told me, "once you sell, you'll start selling on proposal (first 3 chapters and a synopsis), and you won't have the luxury of writing the whole book before submitting it to your editor.  Besides, why write an entire book, only to have it shot down because it doesn't fit the publisher/editor's particular taste?"

It was nice of them to actually believe I would sell a book and become a published author, but, really?  And then I got THE CALL.  The sale of my second book came shortly after the first, thankfully an already completed manuscript.  One of those dozen or more that were never plotted.  Then came my chance at a third, and my editor wanted to see something a little different.  All I needed to do was to send a proposal!  Yea!!  Oh, no!!  Yikes!!

I learned to plot.

It's amazing what we can do when we have to.  Minutes ago, I pulled up my first attempt at plotting on that third book, which is buried in files on my computer, and I chuckled.  Did I really plot this way?  Did I even have a clue what I was doing?  But the book sold, and I went on to sell more.  And I've honed my plotting, making changes as I've gone along, tweaking things here and there, and basically making it more convoluted that anything should ever be, but it works for me.  Most of the time.

The whole point I'm trying to make is that sometimes we have to make changes we never considered considering.  The pantster in me morphed into a plotter.  I've tried to sit down and simply write a story, the way I used to.  I can't do it.  I can't see the road ahead.  I don't know where I'm going.  My heart begins to race, my chest tightens, and my hands get clammy.  My brain freezes.  I can't C R E A T E.

It's like taking a road trip.  As a child, I sat in the front seat with my parents, boosted by a box with a padded lid that my dad made for me so I could not only see out the windshield, but have somewhere to keep my Little Golden Books and coloring books.  I learned at an early age how to read a map, and I followed the route we took to our numerous destinations.  (My mother had to stop at each waterfall, canyon, cave, big tree, pile of rocks...)  Even still, when I travel, I keep a map at hand, even when I'm perfectly capable of getting from one place to another.  It's a comfort thing, I guess. 

It's the same with plotting.  I feel safer knowing where I'm headed and how I'll reach my destination: that Happily Ever After.

There are as many ways to plot as there are plotters and writers.  We each see our story in a different way.  Even true pansters use a bit of plotting, although it isn't written down, but is more moving forward from one point to the next.  I use a storyboard that's been beaten into what I need to plot.  It's a degree.  I know how long my books usually are, and I know from experience what turning points and pinches are and where they happen to make the reading experience--and the experiences of the characters--a good one.  (I hope!)  But I don't know exactly what is going to happen in each scene.  That's left for my over-active and ever-galloping imagination.  Bits and pieces of scenes play out in my mind over a period of time.  Snippets of dialogue between characters whisper in my head.  I create a file and keep them.  They may or may not be used, but I have a terrible memory, along with being a visual person, so I have to see it to remember.  Yes, I keep notes.  Everywhere.

Basic plotting tips?

  1. Do you know where and how and with which character your story will open?
  2. Do you understand how to use hooks?  Can you keep a reader turning the page at the end of a chapter?  Or even a scene?
  3. Do you understand turning points and how they're used?
  4. Do you know what the Black/Dark Moment is in your story and how you will resolve it to get to that HEA?
  5. Do you have a clue what the terms "story arc" and "pacing" mean?
  6. At the very least, do you have an idea of the beginning, middle, and end of your story?
Are you now overwhelmed and poised to run screaming from the very idea of plotting?  Don't be.  It's simply planning your characters' trip through the story, without taking too many side trips to waterfalls, piles of rocks and the inevitable scenic pull-offs for photo opportunities.  

Know your destination and how you're going to get there, and the trip will be easier and quicker, with less backtracking, rewriting, and second guessing.

Give plotting a try.  I promise it's painless.  Even if you discover it isn't something you're comfortable doing, you'll more than likely discover something helpful that you might someday expand to widen the path and detail that map a little more.  Know where you're going and make your journey safer and and more enjoyable.  Plot it!!

Plotter or Pantser? Why? by J Vincent

Plotting a story, that is outlining it, is one way for a writer to get the tale they want to tell to take shape.  This involves imaging the action from the beginning to end and in some detail.  Not only are chapters sketched out chapter by chapter but at times scene by scene. 

A Pantser, as in “by the seat of your pants,” envisions the whole story in general, or at least the beginning and the end but not very many details. In this method the writer lets the characters tell the story their way with their details.

Both methods work albeit, better for some writers than others.  This week I read an article in which a scientist studied the connections of cells in the brain.  He stated that these connections are the identity of the person.  I believe how your brain is wired will determine how you end up writing.

When I first started writing I outlined in detail.  Chapter and verse, so to speak.  Outline before me, I would start typing (yes, typing not keying) my story.  It would usually go fine for a chapter or two and then one of the major characters would throw a spanner in the works.  (I HAVE been watching and reading too much British writing!) The spanner, that is wrench, became apparent to me when I could not get the story to go forward no matter how hard I tried.  At that point I usually rethought and reworked my outline and then continued until another spanner came along.

This became very tiresome.  I was losing writing time redoing the book outline.  So I became a pantser.  If the characters wanted to tell the story, fine.  I’d envision the beginning, perhaps a few scenes along the way, and that the hero would get the heroine or visa versa at the end.  This done I would write.  I remember The Curious Rogue especially as it wrote itself in six weeks. I was frantically typing away that last week because I was more than curious to learn the ending.  I knew the hero would get the heroine but not how. I also decided I was mildly insane.  How on earth could characters I created with a story I saw in my mind write their own story?  This was before WARA, before I knew any other writers.  You can’t know how relieved I was to learn this was not an isolated event but something that happened with other writers also.  It has happened to me several times.  I wrote the last half of Honour’s Redemption in two weeks.  If something works I tend to stay with it.

So which am I—plotter or pantser?  I’m my own version of a combination of both.  Partially by nature and partially by chance.  It is a lot like asking “Why am I a writer?”  I can give some reasonable explanations for why I became a writer but in the end I think it has more to do with how my brain is wired than anything.  Heredity and environment—that’s why I write the way I do.  How about you?