Author Q’s: Plotter or Pantser?

Interviewed by Donna Campbell Smith for the Grey Area News, here is a Q and A. This marks the first in a series of blog posts of interview questions I have enjoyed.


Q) What is your writing process? Do you outline, just start writing and let the story flow or do you have another method?

A) I start with a seed BIG IDEA. Usually the epic final battle or key plot point the story leads to. “I want to have my hero fight a fleet by himself, and win.” Then I must figure out how to set up that scene or event by character based actions and decisions. So, first I “Plot” it and then “Pants” as I write, the details and dialogue how we get there.

My first book started out simply, as justification for a cowboy style duel to the death, with laser guns. The entire Act One of the novel leads to that scene.

Then the rest of the novel was inspired as logical extensions of character driven and setting driven answers to the base question: “And then what would (s)he do?” I had a vague idea that I wanted my hero protagonist to do a big dramatic climactic “something” to the antagonist and his group. (most movies insert massive battles and explosions here) When it hit me, it hit them.

I start out with a plot, and form that into an outline. Since I tend to see the story in my head like a movie, I did a huge storyboard on the wall, just like Pixar when creating a movie.

I printed off pictures iconic to a scene and wrote ideas of what’s happening in that chapter below them. I moved them around, got the big plot ironed out, even made a huge cut, realizing some of those were book 2, (which I #amwriting.)

Now that I have a given chapter and the main points to hit in there, I go freeform and “pants” it from there. I really enjoy it when my head is deep in there, knowing everything about my worlds, knowing my characters and his abilities. I write him into a corner. It’s hard, but sometimes I don’t know how he’ll get out of trouble… until I’m mid-sentence and it just comes out of my fingers. Somehow, he tells me, and good ideas “come from space.” That is great fun, and usually turns out to be some of the best scenes, which my readers enjoy the best too. *clue*

Such idea-flow did reroute the outline somewhat as I alluded above. But the best things about my alien inventions from Book 1 came out this way. By the time I got to the end of the book I had learned enough about them that a particular idea popped up to tie it together in a really awesome creative way. I invented something new for #scifi in this way. I love that.


Next time we will look into what makes “Scifi” special?

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