Plotter: Knows the beginning, middle, and
end of the story before writing it
Pantser: Hopes the beginning, middle, and
end of the story are in there somewhere
I am a pantser, not a plotter,
though I wish I weren’t. I would love to have the story of every book figured
out, chapter by chapter, before I sit down and start typing. I have this
(probably misguided) belief that if only I had an outline, I would never get
writers block. I’d be able to fly through the entire process like one of the
great eagles in the Lord of the Rings ☺. However, the skill continues to elude
The best I’ve been able to do in
terms of plotting for my current series is to write a prologue – usually a short
scene from part-way through the book where my characters are in a dangerous
situation. Once I have this scene, it gives me something to aim for and some
structure to the arc of the story. Where are they? How did they get there? Will
Then I write in a linear way, one
chapter at a time. Some days it’s easy, other days it’s impossible. I have next
to no idea of what I’ll write until I actually start typing.
Here is the prologue from Controlling
Magic as an example. When I started writing this book, I had nothing to go on
except these 256 words. It was a lot of fun figuring out the story, but I wish
I’d been able to do some of that figuring out in advance!
surrounding walls of water shivered slightly, as if the spell holding them back
were weakening. The air was thick with moisture, and with every breath, Shannon
was struggling a little more. The boy looked at her with a cold detachment that
was much more terrifying than his previous cruelty.
won’t do it,” Shannon said through gritted teeth. She breathed faster, feeling
as if her lungs were slowly filling up with water. The spell was taking all her
strength, and her fear was making it more difficult. “Do
what?” he asked, sounding bored. “Open
the portal, of course!” she snapped. He
looked at her with an amused expression. “Weren’t you paying attention earlier?
He will do whatever I tell him to.” Jax
was on his knees in the magically created underwater cave, and Shannon was hopeful
for a second that the shock of the cold water had changed him back. “He would
never harm Androva,” she told the boy, trying to sound confident. The
boy arched one white eyebrow. “Won’t he?” he asked. Jax
raised his hand, and, to Shannon’s horror, started to create the required
symbols. They glittered silver against the water, the magical energy sharp and
precise. Speechless with shock, she watched Jax prepare to open the doorway
that would submerge Androva and everyone on it beneath a mile of seawater. “Jax!”
she said desperately. Jax turned. His green eyes were totally and utterly
blank, as if he were in a trance. They looked straight through her. Shannon
opened her mouth and screamed.
I take comfort from this quote,
which describes my writing style pretty well:
a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your
headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E. L. Doctorow.
How would you write, if you could
choose? Would you be a plotter, or a pantser, or something in between? Thank
you for reading!