Plotting by the Seat of my Pants

This is my first post on the Mystery Writer Blog Tours Ink.

Today’s subject: Method of Plotting

When it comes to plotting, writers usually fall into two camps: outliners and non-outliner, which some people call pantsters because they are “writing by the seat of their pants.” And that would be me.

I start of with an idea or a vague kind of shape I want to create with the story. For example, my first novel, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS (Kensington, 2012),  I wanted my readers to get to know a dead woman. I wanted to make her “real” through the use of scrapbooks, letters, photos and memories from other people. And so I plotted the rest of the story around that idea.

The pantster can get into trouble about half way through the book, especially if it’s a mystery. And sometimes the trouble comes further along. There are certain plot elements every mystery must have. Clues. Red Herrings. Murderers. And so on. So I get about half way through and ask myself if I have all or the plot elements I need. Up until this point, I am just painting the scenes and creating my characters, hopefully moving them along, but now I stop and assess. I rewrite to suit where my process has lead the story.

A little past this point, I start to get an idea about the last chapter or scene of the book. For me, it’s about an image or a feeling I want to leave the reader with, along with coming to a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes, I skip ahead and write that last chapter. Inevitably, it gets rewritten, or ends up not really the last chapter. (I think SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS had about five last chapters. The next one in the series has had three, so far.)

I’ve written outlines of my books after I’ve written the book. That works out fine for my editor, who just wants to see what the book is about at that point. I’ve also tried to outline my novels before I write them. It falls flat. For me, one of the joys in writing is the process of discovery. I continue to get into trouble midway through, but I understand the middle give many writers a problem, whether you’re an outliner or not. If you are just starting into fiction, finding your own process into plot is as fascinating as wielding it.

How do you plot?

Here’s how my fellow rolling Mystery Writer Blog Tours Ink writers deal with plot.  Be sure to check them out.

John Hines

Ryder Islington

Kathleen Kaska

Nancy Lauzon

10 thoughts on “Plotting by the Seat of my Pants

  1. Ryder Islington says:

    I have to read that book! You are a true writer, thinking in terms of what you want the reader to take away from your writing, what you want them to feel.
    Great article, and your book just went on my list of To Be Read.

  2. KT Wagner says:

    I start with a fairly good idea of the beginning and the end. Then I rough in a basic path between those two points and I create my main characters. From then on it’s pretty much pure pantstering. I enjoy the recalibratiing and surprises along the way. It’s a journey of discovery, and I love it!

  3. madeline iva says:

    You have to go with what floats your boat.

    I think it’s wonderful that you are so strong at grasping that what we have to do first and foremost is making reader’s feel something.

    • Mollie Cox Bryan says:

      Thanks for commenting, Karen. I love scrapbooking. So it was a natural for me. Women coming together to scrapbook and solve mysteries? Well, it was a lot of fun to write.;-)

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