Another Step Towards the Future

Two Fridays ago I went to a writers conference hosted by one of my writing groups, MCRW in Nashville, Tennessee. It was on plotting and Cherry Adair was there leading away with her color coding in her writing and plots.  It was very good, however the one thing it reiterated for me -- I am NOT a plotter and will never be one. Plotting a book for me is a huge source of stress. I much prefer to sit down, open a blank document and just start typing. When I sit down, I do have character sketches and a general idea of what needs to happen with my book, but I allow the characters drive the story. To me this is much more enjoyable.

Although I don't plot the story, I have new ideas (with character sketches) planned out for another three books to write.

However, one thing that did become very clear to me. The plan I have set in motion for my future is a good one, financially and career wise. So I look forward to changes coming, excited about a career in which I will be able to write full time, and anticipate an exciting move to a new city, new state and be surrounded with writers that get the craziness of this business. Once I made the decision and put together a plan, the stress I had been feeling just lifted.  Sometimes half the battle is just making a decision.

Adventure Time

As I write this blog on Thursday night, I’m so excited to head out tomorrow for Nashville, TN for a writers conference. This conference will be a bit different than others I have been to. The fabulous Cherry Adair will be there presenting on plotting and I have acquired one of the spots that was available for a one-on-one plot session with her for my next book.  This next book that I will be plotting out is near and dear to my heart. I can’t give out any details of it just yet as it will probably be a book that will be slated for release in early 2016.

Not only am I excited for this conference, but I will be able to catch up with some dear writer friends from the Nashville area.  I look forward to brainstorming new book ideas, marketing ideas and just catching up on life.  These women have become very dear friends of mine since I joined the MCRW group in Fall of 2011. I took my first journey down to their writer’s retreat in February of 2012 and quickly felt like I had found my home among like minds.  Well, that’s kind of a scary thought…

So I am packing, and double checking that everything is done while I am gone on any deadline fronts.  I am always excited to start a new book (even if I have 2 to finish before being able to start this one) and am excited for this leg of this journey I am on.  I will give updates next week on how the conference was.

Old Cemeteries

What a week it has been!  Last weekend I took a drive to Pennsylvania with a friend.  I had the opportunity while I was down there to peruse an old cemetery.  I just love old cemeteries!  I love looking at the old headstones, seeing names that haven’t been used in years and just letting my imagination go wild with thoughts of what their lives were like.  This cemetery had a lot of headstones from the late 1800s.  While I was there, of course, letting my imagination work, I have come up with another plot for another book, not to mention some really cool character names.

After we return from the weekend trip, I sat down to start planning out my writing schedule for the next few months, or what I thought would be the next few months.  Well, as it turns out I have enough writing projects planned to keep me writing until early 2016!  On top of that, I will be shooting for three releases in 2015. This will mean 2015 is going to be incredibly busy as I not only keep my writing on track, but my son will also graduate from high school, I will be putting my house on the market and planning a move. Deep breath…..I can only think about this in small increments or it is extremely overloading.

But for now, I am racing on deadline to finish A Fine Line, hopefully by the end of October.  I have a special conference I’m going to in October where I will have the chance to meet Cherry Adair and have a one-on-one plot session with her for another book.  More details on all my coming projects in an upcoming newsletter.  If you don’t receive my newsletter and would like to, feel free to check my webpage for the opportunity to sign up for it.

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?