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Plotters vs. Pantsers

I decided to take a break today on the revisions of my time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, to do some work on my Civil War historical romance, Katie Rose.

I’d worked out a detailed plot and wanted to make some changes after taking a plotting workshop a while back. I think my “Women In the Ranks” blogs kept Katie on my mind. You see, Katie is an Irish immigrant who disguises herself as a man and follows her husband into the Rebel army after Yankees invade and loot their Virginia farm and shoot her father-in-law to death. When her husband is killed in battle, she stays in the army because she has nowhere else to go and her brother-in-law, who serves with her, protects her identity.

The plot for this story has really expanded and I’m trying to work in a subplot. I want to get all this done before I start the first draft.

I wasn’t always a plotter. My first book, Under the Guns, was loosely plotted. I worked on that book in a workshop where I had one instructor helping me work through the plot and opening chapters, while another helped with the revisions once the book was finished.

With Erin’s Rebel, I didn’t really have a plot worked out. I just had a vague idea of where I wanted to go. And boy, did I go wrong! I had to finally work out a detailed plot and then scrap most of the chapters I’d already written.

Well, I learned my lesson. I’ve become a plotter. I’m hoping it will save me a lot of work on this second romance book.

But, I won’t know ’til it’s finished.

How do all of you work out your stories?

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4 Comments

  1. Christine Koehler says:

    Plotting is key. I am now a firm believer of that! Wasn’t always, I usually had a vague idea, went with it, posisbly finished with it, but it seemed to work for a bit.

    My WIP contemporary (Rightful Place) was plotted, but then the ending lacked something. Turns out it lacked a lot. So we re-plotted. Twice. Tossed more than half our chapters, added in a new bad guy and 2 subplots, and are now working towards the new ending. (4 chapters to go!)

    I will never not completely plot out a story again.

  2. Susan Macatee says:

    I’m with you there, Christine.

  3. Denise Eagan says:

    I’ve written 8 or 9 books and I still can’t answer that question. Sometimes I plot, sometimes I just start with a scene that will not get out of my mind, and the book comes from that. One thing I think I’m learning is that I have to write the scenes I like first and fill in everything else later. If I try to write a book start to finish it takes me 3 times as long, and I don’t enjoy it as much.

    I could never build houses 🙂

  4. William says:

    Dear Ladies of Victorian persuasion,

    Delighted to find that women too worry about plotting. At a reading I gave, my friend the novelist, Eileen Ramsay said to me she thinks it’s a boy thing to do all that finicky tweaking with synopses and what have you.

    I wonder if it’s more likely a split between romance and mystery-thriller: that you may pull off a romance with sheer verve and je-ne-sais-quoi, but to tie up your mystery you need painstaking care in developing the story.

    I’m currently struggling with my second novel, trying to write enough to know the characters before the plot’s strong enough to hold up. Endless, isn’t it?

    Best wishes,


    >William Sutton

    Trailer: The Worms of Euston Square
    Audio: Sabotage, Scandal & Stink in Victorian London

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