Please welcome guest Joanne Guidoccio, asking the eternal question: plotter or pantser?
Plotter, Pantser or …?
Hundreds of books and articles have been written about the writing process. While it’s worthwhile to read some of this literature, it’s important not to become overwhelmed by all the information and advice.
When I first started my writing practice, I assumed I would be a plotter. After all, I was a left-brainer who had spent thirty-one years teaching mathematics and business education courses to adolescents. I focused on the articles devoted to plotting and attended workshops that featured authors who extolled that particular method.
The most memorable workshop was conducted by best-selling Canadian author Terry Fallis (The Best Laid Plans). An outliner (what he likes to call himself), Terry spends two to three months preparing a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. On a PowerPoint screen, he shared a 64-page outline consisting of three pages of bullet points for each chapter. As soon as the outline is complete, he then devotes three months to writing the novel.
Glancing around the room, I could feel the awe and intimidation. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “It would take me years—maybe even decades—to write the outline and by then I would have lost interest in the project.” I could easily imagine that particular scenario.
I decided to examine the other end of the continuum: the pantsers (people who write organically or by the seat of their pants). Once they have a premise, they start writing and figure out the storyline along the way. They also let their characters misbehave whenever they want.
Sylvester Stallone is an example of a pantser. When he arrived in Hollywood, he struggled to find acting jobs. At one point, he had only $106 in the bank, his wife was pregnant, and he couldn’t pay the rent. Frustrated, he sat down and wrote the screenplay for Rocky in 3½ days. It is important to note that only 10% of that first draft remained in the final version of the film that would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar.
After much experimentation, I found a process that works for me: linear pantser. Once I have a premise, I start imaging the characters and write brief sketches. Then, I plan the first three chapters and the last chapter. Once this is in place, I begin writing. Partway through the manuscript, I often hit the murky middle and need to reboot the process. At that point, I will briefly outline the remaining chapters.
Any plotter or pantser experiences to share?
Blurb – A Different Kind of Reunion
While not usually a big deal, one overlooked email would haunt teacher Gilda Greco. Had she read it, former student Sarah McHenry might still be alive.
Suspecting foul play, Constable Leo Mulligan plays on Gilda’s guilt and persuades her to participate in a séance facilitated by one of Canada’s best-known psychics. Six former students also agree to participate. At first cooperative and willing, their camaraderie is short-lived as old grudges and rivalries emerge. The séance is a bust.
Determined to solve Sarah’s murder, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers shocking revelations that could put several lives—including her own—in danger. Can Gilda and the psychic solve this case before the killer strikes again?
A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne Guidoccio writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.
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