Plotting for Pantsers - Meggan Connors

Welcome this morning Meggan Connors.  Please make her feel welcome!

I admit: I am a pantser.

My first novel—you know, the one hidden under the bed, or on the computer drive—was written entirely out of order. I wrote the beginning. Then I wrote a prologue. Then I wrote the end. In between, I was struggling to put together the middle. I didn't have to worry so much about the sagging middle, so much as simply having one.

My second book was written in much the same way. The plotting improved, but I wouldn't say it was perfect. I still had to go back and rewrite the whole book. At the time, I told myself it was because I write organically, and I do. But by the time I got to my third book, The Marker, I'd decided I needed to plot.

So I tried. I had character descriptions, motivations and back story all mapped out before I wrote a single word. I knew all the secondary characters, their motivations and their back stories. I had the entire story planned, complete with the conflict, the resolution, and everything that happened in between. Pages and pages of data, all of it compiled into neat little binders, every chapter carefully plotted before I'd written a single word of the actual book.

And then I got to work. I watched a blinking cursor for a long time. A long, long time.

What I realized about pantsers is that we have to allow the story to tell itself. Too much plotting ruined my story, because, in my head, the story had already been told. But just because I realized that plotting wasn't my thing doesn't mean that it isn't necessary. Plotting is good. It keeps us from derailing our story. Plotting keeps us from having to delete perfectly good chapters because now they don't fit.

So, here's what I've learned to do. I write, because I just write. Because I'm a pantser and I like to be surprised. But I also need to plot.

After I scrapped most of what I'd written about The Marker, I tried again. I kept the setting, I kept the characters, and I amended the plot. I wrote the first two chapters. Then I came up with a loose outline. A very loose outline.

It was nice. I had some elements that had to happen. That was it. How my characters got to these events was up to them. I had the organic feeling that I needed to get into a story, that feeling of excitement of not knowing. But I also felt like I had a vision for my story, that the words I was using weren't wasted. I knew I wouldn't have to go back and delete and rewrite 30,000 words of my 87,000-word document (which I've done before).

So there you have it. Writing can still be an organic process, even if you're a pantser attempting to plot. The loose outline works for me. I love having realized characters who can still surprise me, and I love having the flexibility to change them. I love seeing how they get over the hurdles I put in front of them.

At the same time, I like knowing in advance what those hurdles will be.

Sure, the loose outline thing may not work for everyone. It still means that, once I've finished the story, I will have to go back and look over the first half of the book and make sure that the beginning has characters and a setting that are as fully realized as the ending does.

But it also means that my characters have boundaries, and I, as their creator, do too. It helps maintain focus while keeping the story organic.

Because what's important is the story, not the process.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, and why? If you're a pantser, do you have any tricks to keep your characters in line? If a plotter, why and how do you plot?

Meggan Connors' debut novel, The Marker, was released in December of 2011 from Soul Mate Publishing. She would love to hear from readers, and can be found on Facebook and at

Here's the blurb from my novel, The Marker. I hope you enjoy it!

When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, the marker he won at the card table, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long–not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk… and gamble on love?