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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Plotter or Pantster? by Suzanne Rossi

Hello everybody.

Welcome back to my monthly contribution to Smart Girls Read Romance. I hope you all enjoy reading my entries as much as I love writing them.

When I first began writing I needed the structure of a plotted work. I'd start on the premise that I'd write a novel in twenty chapters. First on my agenda was a full outline of chapters one through three, then I'd mark my turning points. For those of you who don't know, turning points are when something dramatic happens to keep the reader turning those pages. It could be anything--a first kiss, a murder, finding a body, or a full-blown love scene. I tried to arrange them in the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth chapters. I'd then throw in the black moment--when all is lost and the relationship is doomed--somewhere around chapter seventeen. As soon as all these areas were marked, I'd begin writing, filling in the remaining chapters as I went along. 

Sounds reasonable, right?

Well, it was until I signed my first couple of contracts. Then things got complicated. Suddenly, I had obligations to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Time I usually spent writing was cut by the necessity of editing. I actually like the editing process. It allows me to make the book better. But in 2010, I had four books released. By the time New Year's came around, I was exhausted and my creativity plummeted. I began to fudge on that plotting thing.

I started writing the first three chapters cold, no plot, just characters and occurrences. Then I'd stop and make a list of what had to happen along the way. Later I'd assign chapter numbers to that list of events.

That worked well--for a while.

My creativity returned and I found myself embroiled in writing two books at once, The Reunion and Deadly Inheritance. The latter was my first experience at being a pantster--a writer who does little or no plotting, but allows the story to just go where it wants. In other words, writing by the seat of your pants. It was an eye-opening experience. My finished product was a one hundred-ten thousand word monster. It took me four months to edit the silly thing. I had repetitions galore and more useless narrative than you can imagine. I finally got it pared down to a reasonable length. The time spent on plotting was now used on self-editing. It was a push.

I discovered two things with that book. I wasn't a pantster. Nor did I have the luxury of time to plot like before. By necessity, I became a hybrid. Now, I let the characters and plot flow in the first couple of chapters, then stop to make a list of what has to happen in the story. Sometimes, the list has over a hundred items. Some I use. Others, which sounded like good ideas at the time, never see the light of day. I'm sure I'm not alone in this arena.

If you are contemplating becoming a writer, I would suggest trying all three methods. Eventually, you'll find one that works for you.

So far, 2015, has been almost as chaotic as that first year of 2010. My fourth book this year, The Good Twin, was released last Friday by The Wild Rose Press. Here's a little bit about the story and the cover.

A tormented young woman, Amy Wallace, responsible for her twin's death years before, now suspects her supposedly dead sister, Abby, is alive. A neighbor, attorney Jenny Devlin is enlisted by Amy's uncle to investigate if his niece is hallucinating. Jenny, along with another neighbor, author Brad Forrester, soon realize Abby may be very much alive and out for revenge. The more they uncover, the more they put themselves in the sights of a killer. Is Abby alive and seeking to claim her rights to a sizable trust? Can Jenny and Brad's relationship blossom into something permanent? And will Jenny and Brad be able to solve the puzzle before it's too late for them all to survive?

Have a great day and I'll see you all next month.



  1. I like the hybrid method. Seems like it has the best of both worlds--the fun of pantstering plus the structure of plotting. It definitely seems to work for you!

  2. I'm a plotter. Of course, my characters sometimes take detours, but they always come back to the plot. I tried being a pantser and found it disastrous--no middle and the book was way too short. Now I'm happy as a plotter with detours. Your new release sounds intriguing, Suzanne.


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