Tag Archives: writing process

Plotting vs. “Pantsing”

I’m not sure where the term “Pantser” was started, but it’s one that I learned through my Virginia Romance Writers’ group. For those who don’t know what it means, it refers to a writer who creates a story “by the seat of their pants,” without knowing the final outcome ahead of time.

I’ll admit that I’m a Pantser. I love to write off the top of my head, not sure of the outcome. Sometimes magical things happen while pantsing. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion, after many instances of writing myself into a blind alley, or worse, a dead end, that there is something to be said for being a Plotter.

Rebecca York, the February speaker at my VRW meeting, an author of many books, and a voracious reader herself, finally cinched my decision to switch camps. She revealed that she generally finds the Plotter’s stories more satisfying. She respects those authors who swear by pantsing, even likes many of their books, but their stories never quite hold up in comparisons to the Plotters’ stories. The Pantsers’ books tend to have loose ends, and never wrap up quite as neatly.

And something else, this coming from me, an up ‘til now die-hard Pantser: pantsing creates a lot more work for writers. If I’d been a good Plotter all this time, I know I wouldn’t have had to go through so many edits of my first published novel, Love Trumps Logic. And I know for a fact that I would have finished my young adult novel by now. It’s because I ran into a blind alley—killing off someone on a whim that I later regretted losing—that I have not yet finished it.

So I set a task for myself. I would plot the young adult book, not allowing myself to write one more word of the book’s text until I had a complete synopsis. I didn’t go so far as to make myself outline each chapter, but I had to get the gist of the story down on paper. The whole story. It was one of the hardest tasks I’ve set myself as a writer, but I’m proud to say that I finally accomplished it last week.

And guess what I’ve discovered, now that I’m back to actually writing the book? Plotting out the story, having buoys along the way to guide me, actually has made the writing process more fun. There’s no worrisome fear about winding up in a dead end, and no doubts about who will live or die. I know where I want to go and the getting there—the completion of those details—is now where I get to pants all I want. It’s a satisfying compromise.

As a Pantser, accomplishing a plotting goal was quite a feat, and I wanted to share my experience of it. I recommend that all Pantsers out there try it just once. You might be glad you did. I was.


Lucy Balch, author of

Love Trumps Logic

Available on Amazon (Kindle and print), and through Second Wind Publishing’s website

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A Little Advice – by Deborah J Ledford

I’m getting ready to submit my next thriller novel to my publisher Second Wind Publishing and find myself in a bit of a quandary. In the first book of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series, Staccato, Hawk is the deputy of a sleepy county in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. ICE ON FIRE is the title of the next book and as the novel is now written, Hawk is the Sheriff. My agent wanted me to essentially promote Hawk to a higher level, but I’m thinking perhaps I should wait to elevate his position until the final book in the series: REDEMPTION.

Since I already have a publisher I am honored to be aligned with, I no longer have the need for an agent and I can do whatever I want with my words. But of course I wish what is best for the novel and certainly don’t want to risk what I already have written any harm. Changes can be dicey—there’s always the fear of missing something (even if merely a name change). And although the manuscript will be re-read and revised until my mind is numb, there’s a chance that some elements may be overlooked.

What do you think? And have you ever been faced with a similar situation?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle and independent book stores.


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Finding Time for Writing

Sia McKye

“If we make it through December
Everything’s gonna be all right I know
It’s the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the fallin’ snow
If we make it through December, we’ll be fine…”

Merle Haggard sang that song way back when. For a country song, I always liked it. I liked the message behind it. Tough times. Taking it a day at a time. The feeling of hope.

We’ve all made it through December. We’re renewed with the New Year. Many of us are trying to get back on track, after the busy holidays, with our writing. Now we need to make it through January. How are you getting back on track with your writing schedule? Do you have a schedule? A schedule is a must for me. Everyone’s different. There’s no right or wrong way.

For me, it’s discipline. I have to organize my time to allow for my writing time. Those days I’m not working, I write a couple of intensive hours in the morning. I treat it like a job. I have to stay focused or I lose it. If I lose it, I feel guilty because I frittered my time away. What that means is, I can’t surf the net, or take part in my on line discussions.

I’m usually up by 6:00 a.m. every morning. My son, Jake, gets up at 6:30. While I have my first cup of coffee, I catch up on my email and what’s been happening.. By the time Jake walks out the door at 7:30 a.m. to catch the school bus, my dogs have done their duties outside. I eat something; grab a second cup of coffee and by 8:00 a.m. I’m ready to write. I close out all but the MS I’m working on. I don’t answer the phone; I let the voice pick it up. I write. There’s no magic to it. It’s a matter of just sitting my butt in the chair and doing it. Just as if I went into the office to work. I take minimal breaks during that time.

Somewhere around 10-10:30, I’ll break. I may walk outside and check on my animals (I raise Great Danes and horses), start a load of clothes, figure out what I want for dinner. If I’m in a good writing groove, I’ll continue writing for another hour. I have chores to do and sometimes errands to run. I work on getting all that done mid-day. I try to nap for an hour, if I can, around 2:30 when I’m home. That way I’m refreshed for when Jake comes home by 4:00 p.m. I tend to wake up a bit out of it, so I need that 30 minutes to get into gear for snacks, homework, chatting, and the evening feedings, starting dinner. My husband is home by 5:30 so we spend time talking about our day while dinner is cooking. After dinner, it’s catching up on secular work issues and I try to get in an hour or two of writing. Depends upon work. I’ve been learning how to juggle editing and new writing. I haven’t won that battle completely, but it is getting easier.

Bottom line for me, if I don’t make the time, then my time gets squandered away and nothing is accomplished. I don’t like that feeling. I also need to be consistent. Most successful writers have to be.

How do you carve out time to write? Some work full time. Some can’t write at home but have a favorite place they can write. Some can only write on weekends, or early morning before the day starts, or late at night when the house is quiet. The point is they have to make the time.

So, what works for you?


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The Art of Fluff

Words, words, words. How much filler does it take to write a novel?


The number one obstacle I have to overcome every time I work on my books is adding content to reach my own preset goal.


Word count holds me in its grip. I am like an athlete, word count is my coach, and he is screaming, “More! Give Me More!” (Okay, I stole that line from Police Academy)


I condense by nature. For a number of years, I have often thought my true calling as a writer was as an editor in the condensed books section of Reader’s Digest.


Is it necessary to describe, in minute detail, the number of leaves on the tree? Is it relevant to the story? Is there a story behind each fallen leaf?


What if my writing is just Fitzgerald filler? Do I need to write fluff just to fill a page with words that have no significance to the story?


Surprisingly, I have mixed feelings about the answer. My strong suit in writing is flash fiction. However, since I began writing full-length novels, I can see first-hand why there is a need for a bit of pouf.


It is probably a good thing I was not around when our long-winded forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. I would have condensed it to something like: We will drive your despotic ass out of our country if you try to take our freedom away and we have the Divine One riding shotgun. Pffft.


I continue to evolve as a novelist and, instead of trimming the fat, I am realizing that a little fat is a good thing. I am learning to embrace a bit of fluff.


J J Dare is the author of “False Positive” and “False World,”

the first two novels in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy



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Long Row to Hoe


At 3:17 AM on Sunday, November 23, 2008, I finished the second novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy.


The last few thousand words of the book were the hardest to write. I knew what I wanted to say and I knew which direction I was taking the story.


However, for some reason, I was having a bout of creative constipation.


For the past few weeks, each time I would sit down at the computer and open up Word, I would simply stare at the last few paragraphs as my mind wandered away from my writing. When I was able to squeeze a few hundred words out, I felt like I had accomplished something.


After writing a few words, I would mentally shrug and move on to something else, all the while telling myself I would get back to writing when I was feeling more inspired.


I felt little pressure to finish. I kept convincing myself that “tomorrow” I would hit the writing hard and make decent progress. I racked up a lot of tomorrows thinking that way.


Suddenly, weeks passed by and I had very little writing to show for my time. I woke up to the fact that I was becoming a major writing slacker and I needed to goose myself in order to finish the book.


I set a deadline and told my proofreader the first draft would be emailed by Sunday. Because of that commitment, I was under the gun to complete the book.


Starting at seven o’clock on Saturday morning, I began to write. Of course, I had the usual distractions – phones ringing, knocks on the door, good television – but I persevered.


I finished the book in the wee hours when the world outside was dark and still. At 3:17 on Sunday morning, I typed the last word and felt such relief. I had done it. I had finished. I emailed the draft to my proofreader and then fell into an exhausted sleep.


I will try to do better next time. I will try not to procrastinate or become distracted by Dr. Who marathons or movies on cable or any other temptations the writer’s devil throws into my path.


J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”

the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy




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