From Pantser to Plotter

12:31 PM

 photo NaNoPlanvsPants_zps1b496c8a.jpg
Read about Planners vs. Pansters here.

I use to "pants" all my stories, but I've changed.

After months spent rewriting those same stories from the ground up, I taught myself some methods for plotting that have cut my rewriting significantly. Here is how I write:

Plotting Method

When I begin a story, I start with a 2-3 sentence pitch:
  • Who, Where, What Happened
Crafting a pitch first helps to hone the story idea into something interesting. You focus on the vital parts of the story and skip the rest. When asked "What's it about?", most new writers will drone on for ages telling you every nuance. They can't articulate what the story is about because they don't know. A series of events does not necessarily make a story.

Then I plot out my major milestones:
  • Hook
  • First Plot Point
  • First Pinch Point
  • Mid Point
  • Second Pinch Point
  • Seconding Plot Point
  • Climax

I will fill those out further into a beat sheet. Personally, I prefer a four act structure, like the one used in Larry Brooks's Story Engineering Beat Sheet.

Then, I write! I often use National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or the similar Camp NaNoWriMos to push out that terrible first draft. Then I spend the next year making it something worth reading. However, using this method of plotting, I no longer have to spend months trying to figure out what the book is about.

I obsessively read about writing. There are dozens of fantastic authors spilling the secrets to interesting, bestselling stories. My favorites are below.



  • Story Fix
    • Larry Brooks also offers services as a fiction consultant, but his blog is one of my favorite resources. He even has a whole section of posts devoted to NaNoWriMo. This guide was far more useful to me after I had written my first novel and could reflect back on it. Brooks has completely changed how I write. 
  • Fiction University
    • Janice Hardy's posts are always specific and useful from first idea to final draft. The weekly column "Real Life Diagnostics" accepts your pieces for an honest and thoughtful critique.
  • The Kill Zone 
    • (or anything by James Scott Bell)
    • The blog is focused on thrillers and mysteries, but the content is useful for all writers. There are a number of contributors to The Kill Zone talking about everything from daily writing habits to current events in the publishing industry. 
  • The Creative Penn
    • Johanna Penn is my go to resource for the business of books. She covers a lot of self-publishing, but her blog covers topics for traditionally published writers too.
  • K.M. Weiland
    • If you check out nothing else, read this. Weiland breaks down huge and challenging topics into easily understood posts. Everything she posts is useful. I swear. Everything. Whether you are a newbie or advanced writer, she has you covered. 


  • If You Want to Write - Brenda Ueland
    • An inspirational rather than instructional writing book, Ueland helps new writers to get over the doubt and write something amazing.  
  • Plot Whisperer Workbook - Martha Alderson
    • Alderson helps you to build / revamp your plot by breaking it down into chunks of suspense. She shows you how to build the tension through character driven plot. 
  • Emotion Thesaurus - Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
    • Available in ebook for only 4.99, this book is worth every penny. I often struggle to show my characters feelings rather than telling, and the Emotion Thesaurus is my savior. When reworking my scenes, I'll refer to this book for help describing my characters expressive reactions and emotions to convey their feelings more accurately. 

Twitter Chats 

There are a ton of literary twitter chats that occur each month. Just search for the hashtag at the right time / day and jump in the conversation.
  • #FutureChat - Fridays, 10am CST
    • @PorterAnderson leads a discussion on the current and future publishing industry.
  • #TWDTopic - Tuesdays, 8pm CST
    • @WriterDiaries discusses all sorts of publishing and writing-related topics. 
  • #StoryCraft - 1st Sunday the month, 5pm CST
    • Focuses the craft of fiction writing. Fiction writers of all experience levels and from any medium are always welcome.
  • There are many, many more for your specific genre or category like #YALitChat, #MGLitChat, #K8chat, #NALitChat, #Fantasychat, and #SFFWrtCht.

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