Plot or Panster, which are you.


June 27, 2012 I began to write a story I had been mulling over. You know the story, it stays with you, it grows, and there doesn’t seem to be anyplace to dump it, except on paper. My goal had been to write it down like I did with many other ideas, and forget it. Except this took several months and filled four composition books. My husband encouraged me to do what I needed to make this book publishable. Not wanting to embarrass myself, it would require many classes in understanding the art of writing fiction to even begin to be that serious about it.

So I began taking classes, as many as four a month and I began to edit my book at while learning. It was like trying to put together a 1000 piece puzzle on the wrong side. Nothing I had written seemed to fit anything I was learning.

January 7, 2015, after all those classes, two different editors, a book cover designer, and a company to professionally format my book, (and a fantastic husband who paid for all this), I rejoiced at seeing Big Sky Siren, the first in The Big Sky Series, in print.

Big Sky Siren was written with no structure at all.  I just wrote as ideas popped in my head. Some were new ideas, other’s had been floating around in my mind for a long time. It was in typing the work onto the computer I discovered the ease I could change an idea, rather than crossing it out on paper and re-writing it. Though I will still write a scene or idea on paper, all my main writing is on the computer now.

By the second book, I had gained the insight to know I needed an outline, a format, something tangible to keep my wild ideas in check.

First things first. I knew I needed a beginning:


A middle:

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And an end:

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I had learned many new techniques for improving the scenes, dialogue, plot and story, so there was more re-writing and editing with all my new tools. Sometimes switching character point of view, sometimes beginning with the end of the scene first. Landscape through a glass

A few places needed to be darker, a few less dark. Some needed throwing out, and others needed to be expanded on. DSC02740 - Copy

It required a bit of work and some re-writing, but I went back to Big Sky Allure, Book 2, and put it into an outline. In the end, it turned into a much better book.

Steve Alcorn’s class on Writing A Mystery helped me understand his structure of  3 Act, 9 checkpoints of a mystery, what parts are plot, what parts are story and what parts are both. Priscilla A. Kissinger’s Writing a Romance showed me the 11 plot points she used in Romance. When I put them together, they fit. For Example, Steve Alcorn’s Act 1: Hook, Backstory, Conflict  also fit the first two parts Priscilla says is part of a Romance, 1. Society Defined and 2. The Meeting.

Now I was armed with actual tools to build my story.  For the third book, I did write an outline, combining the above two, and a third class I took on a specific type of plotting (I forgot the author’s name and though I have the notes, her name is not on anything). With the three combined, I now have my own form of an outline, and beginning the book was less daunting and willy nilly.

I still allow myself to write freely, often going away from my plot, but having a plot gives me something to look at and see if my ‘tangent’ is going to fit in. This way I can concentrate on one scene, and just those pieces, building the details so it all makes sense and creates the picture I want. With this method, the whole book is less daunting and later I can put them all in place where they belong.


People have their own preferences, and mine have changed over time. After trying many different formats, I’ve found a comfortable place in my writing. It is both inspirational and unrestrained, yet offers me a framework to put it all together and know that there is both enjoyable story content and strong plot structure.

What is your favorite way to write?

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