Pantser Vs. Plotter: A Guide for New Writers

Last week, we covered the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing a novel. And I’ll be honest, it hurt a little to be so negative about my own writing method. But this is going to make up for it.

This week, I get to sing the praises of writing like a pantser (aka a discovery writer).

So, let’s dive in.

1. The story progresses at the exact pace it needs to.

If you write an outline and then start writing, strictly adhering to the outline, things may not happen when the characters and plot would actually get to them.

You may have a moment where a character figures something out that’s meant to be a eureka moment, but your reader figured it out seven chapters ago and has been wondering why the MC is so blind. Or you might have your character piece things together too quickly, completely blindsiding your reader.

As a pantser, revelations and developments come about naturally, thus evolving at the exact moment the story needs them to happen.

2. Characters can develop at the exact pace they need to.

Following an outline too closely can rush or drag out character development, just as much as it can hinder or expedite plot lines, leaving readers wondering why a character changed so quickly or why they seemed to stagnate for half the book.

As a pantser, the characters grow and change naturally, coping with the events of the story as they happen or driving the plot forward with their developments.

3. Authentic, realistic characters

Now, this is not to say that plotters can’t write realistic characters. They 100% can. It just takes more work ahead of time. By this, I mean character bibles or personality tests taken as the character or extensive mood boards or notes galore.

But when writing, it isn’t uncommon for pantsers to let the characters take the reins.

Which means those characters have to be whole people in the author’s mind in order to make these decisions and act/react in ways that line up with their personalities. They’re just there, like old friends whispering secrets and showing us the way.

4. The story can be changed as it needs to.

Sometimes, as you write, you realize that something just doesn’t work. Maybe you learn something new that reveals a piece of your book to be incorrect or implausible to such a degree that it might ruin the immersion.

Pantsers are accustomed to changing the story as is necessary to ensure plausibility, continuity, and entertainment.

In a situation like this, plotters who choose to stick too closely to their outline could endanger the viability of their story by refusing to change things.

5. Exploration

Pantsers get to experience the story for the first time as they write it, providing a sensation akin to reading. Writing this way means that you still get all the excitement and mystery of creation as the scenes unfold on the page. The writing process is punctuated with epiphany moments where things just fall into place.

Plotters can do that during the outline process, sure.

But epiphanies mid-writing session can really spur you on, and if they happen while away from writing, they can get you genuinely hyped up to get back to writing.

Now, I am biased toward the panster/discovery writer end of the spectrum, as I’ve mentioned that this is my preferred method. But that does not, in any way, mean it’s the only way.

For those of you just coming into this, last week’s blog was dedicated to the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing.

Check that out here for more information.

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn about the writing method that most writers flourish with.

They’re the Plantsers.

And don’t forget to subscribe for a free short story, as well as exclusive content, sneak peeks at covers, and all the details on my upcoming book releases and giveaways.

Most importantly…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Tropes: 4 tips to help you do it well

Hi, guys!

So, there are these things in literature called tropes. Basically, tropes are themes or character types that pop up over and over in a lot of books. The hero’s journey or forbidden love, the jock or the hardass or the air headed pretty girl.

Or the smart pretty girl that doesn’t realize she’s pretty even though literally every one she meets falls in love with her and wants to get into her pants. That one seems to be increasingly popular, of late.

Tropes are everywhere, and they’re pretty hard to avoid.

And tropes aren’t bad, in and of themselves. If you’re not sure where to begin, they can provide a jumping off point.

But relying on them to heavily can prove disastrous for a book.

It breeds boring, two-dimensional characters and insanely predictable books.

If every character is a well-known stereotype and the story itself is a formula story, then there’s no real depth to draw a reader in and make them wonder what might happen.

Because they already know.

Because they’ve read that exact story with those exact characters a million different times.

Or worse, the cheesiness of all the over-the-top tropes could just become too much, ruining what might otherwise be a real edge-of-your-seat page turner.

You might think, “Well, I’ll just be completely original and not use a single trope.”

To which, I say…good luck. There’s bound to be some sort of trope in there somewhere.

There are literal tons of them.

Orphan finds out they’re magical, marriage of convenience, whirlwind billionaire romance, elderly mentor, secret heir, magical object to save the world, love triangle, the list goes on.

Plus, when you’re busy striving for originality, you get stuck thinking of what’s already been done (trying to avoid it) rather than just writing and letting your voice make whatever you write an original.

Which brings me to the first way to avoid over-troping your book.

Find your voice.

Every author has a signature style, a way of writing that is uniquely them.

It’s a mixture of the types of stories they tell, the words they choose, the aesthetic they tend to go for, the level of detail they strive for, the tense and the POV they write in, and many other things.

And if you really develop your voice as an author, you can write the tropiest tropes that ever troped, and still make something original.

Because it’s been spun in your unique voice.

The second way to avoid accidentally trashing your book with tons of blatant tropes is to study psychology.

Getting a better grasp on how people think (and what might have lead them to think that way) will inform your writing and deepen your character development.

You don’t have to get a degree. (I did, but not with the intention of using it for writing. I intended to become a therapist, at the time.)

But do some research into personality development and the effects of trauma or various disorders. Maybe buy a used psychology textbook online or take a class at a community college.

Third, study sociology and history. Again, no degree necessary, but do some research, watch some documentaries, read some books.

Learning how empires rise and fall, seeing how precarious some societies really are, and how small problems can topple mighty countries might show you something that you could use in a rebellion in your book. Or it might show you what it takes to rebuild afterward.

Tropes for the story line (star-crossed lovers, make-over, villain decay, the chosen one, etc.) are usually okay because there’s so much going on within and around them that it mixes it up. Just try not to draw attention to the fact that it’s there (let the readers analyze/enjoy the story without you saying hey look what I did here), and don’t throw too many of them into one story.

And last but not least, ask yourself these simple questions. (And answer honestly. The success of your book depends on you being honest with yourself about what it contains.)

Is there more to this character than the trope they spawned from? If the answer is no, you need to workshop that character and develop their personality.

Are all of my characters directly linked to a trope? If the answer is yes, you might need to mix it up. There should be at least a few characters that don’t spawn from a trope.

Get a second opinion, if you aren’t sure. Ask them to read it with this in mind. If you’ve developed your characters well enough beyond their trope spawn point, you could pull it off beautifully. But there’s the risk of making your book cheesy if all your characters are tropes.

And no one wants that.

Now, go forth and write deeply developed characters and plot lines.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Project Updates

Hi, guys!

I have been super busy, and just now realized that it’s been a few weeks since I gave you any sort of real update on my writing progress, a situation which must be rectified.

Especially since the only project I haven’t worked on in some way, shape, or form here recently, is Where Darkness Leads.

Now, if you’ve been following along on social media, you already know that I set a goal to finish my thriller novella this month, and I definitely accomplished that.

My guesstimate for the word count that I’d need in order to finish it was way off, so I’ll be editing it to finish the word count goal on the nanaowrimo website.

Adjustments have been made for some beta reader feedback within the depths of Allmother Rising. It’s still being perused by several beta readers, so I’ll have more changes to make before jumping into another round of edits.

I’ve finished the reread of The Regonia Chronicles, and all week, I’ve been covering my arm in notes while at work. I shared a video of what my arm looked like after one work day with particularly talkative characters on twitter.

Check it out here: www.twitter.com/bell_elexis

But beware, my handwriting is atrocious. I don’t think you’ll glean much insight into the story from that video. Lol. (I even had to skip a word and figure out what it said by using context clues… And I wrote it. Lol. )

Anyway, this story is fucking ready to be written, and I’m pumped.

All the twists and turns are screaming to be put to paper (or screen).

And I’m fucking here for it.

There are a couple of adjustments that need made to book one to accommodate the timing of a couple things in book two, but I already know what to do with them. And since I have the next two days off work, I intend to make some serious progress.

Now, I’ve also been devouring audiobooks, lately.

And of course, I’ve been hard at work on release prep for A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’ve been designing some book merch. The formatting is done. The cover is set to be revealed THIS FREAKING TUESDAY!

It’ll be featured on a lot of book blogs, so if you’re looking for some new book bloggers to follow, I’ll show you where to look.

I’ll be setting the book up for pre-order this week, so I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s available. Don’t forget to subscribe to make sure you know as soon as it’s up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.