There are two schools of thought for writing a book; plotting and pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants). I’m very much a Type A personality. Hence, lots of plotting. When I go to plot a story, it looks something like this:
That being said, I can plot all I want and the story still doesn’t always go according to plan. Characters show up that I didn’t know existed. In my first manuscript I completed, Books and Dreams, I had a young lady start her own used bookstore (my childhood dream) and everything is going wrong, from the electricity not turned on to a clogged toilet. Dealing with the toilet, water sloshed over her new shoes. A voice calls from the doorway. “Ah, the glamorous life of a business owner. Toilet cleaning is so not in my job description.” Who was this voice? It was the heroine’s cousin who is helping her run the bookstore. Who knew? I didn’t know she had a cousin. And one with a snarky voice as well. The cousin turned out to be a shoulder to cry on, a shove in the right direction when the heroine needed it, and a woman worthy of her own story some day.
As writers write, we discover things about ourselves we never knew. I would have thought I was a planner, a plotter, through and through. When I went to write my first novella, Divorce, Interrupted, I discovered I could pantser with the rest of them. I sat down at the computer and that story wrote itself. Whoosh! 20,000 words in no time at all. From then on, I’ve been pantsing my shorter works and just plotting the full-length novels. It is my system and it seems to be working. Except…
When it does not. For the Summertime on Main Street boxed set I had no idea of who my characters were, the plot of the story, a title, nothing. Then I was lucky enough to go back to my old hometown and see my writing ladies. They let me brainstorm my story over lunch. It reminded me of how much I missed that connection and them. I can’t use all the ideas they had that day, but it was an enormous step in the right direction to get started on Retreat, Interrupted.
Do you plot and plan or go with the flow?
Jill James, plotter and planner…sometimes.