How I Lost My Pants: Plotting Murder, Mayhem, and (sometimes) Magic

Many times over the years I’ve been asked, “How do you write?” I understand because, even after all these years, it’s something I find fascinating about other writers. There are as many writing processes as there are writers. My advice is always, “Find what works for you and do that. It’ll change over the years. Be okay with that, too.” But I’m still happy to share my method with anyone willing to listen. 😉

I used to to be a strict pantser. That is, I sat down and just wrote whatever came out. I only wrote when the creative juices were flowing at just the right speed. I only wrote what I could see in my mind.

I ended up with a hot mess. Seriously, it was like trying to bake a cake without a recipe or most of the ingredients. The result will never see the light of day.

And then I read the story of a very famous writer (I think it was Neil Gaiman, but that could be revisionist history.) who always wrote first drafts in notebooks. Mostly because he traveled a great deal and didn’t always have access to power, nor did he want to lug a laptop on camel back. Understandable. So, he plotted, scribbled, and scratched in a snazzy, leatherbound notebook. He even shared images of his journal pages. LIGHTBULB!

Suddenly I found a method that worked for me. Now, I don’t do first drafts in notebooks, but I do PLOT. Sort of. I do enough that I have lines to color inside. I have a framework that keeps me on point while allowing my creativity free rein.

This is what my first journal looked like (Kissed by Darkness, Sunwalker Saga Book One):

1. I wrote down my overall ideas for the plot. And because I’m a cut and paste kind of girl, I added images that inspired artifacts in the story.

2. I created outlines for my major characters (so I could remember eye color, hair color, etc). I included general bio information as well as images that inspired those characters (As you can see, my main character was originally named Bailey Morgan. I like Morgan Bailey better, don’t you?)

3. I wrote down plot points for each chapter creating a chapter outline. As you can see, I went a bit overboard (Hey, it was my first book!). Now I do a max of four points per chapter. Usually just two or three. If I don’t know what’s going to happen in a particular chapter, I leave it blank and fill it in later when I do know. paris-journal

And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I do some other stuff in the back with rewrites and edits, but that’s another post. Let’s just say, I’ve found that this method not only sped up my writing but improved the quality.
I’ve tried a lot of journals over the years, but my favorites right now are from Compendium. They’re under $7 and they’re nicely divided into sections. PLUS, they’re super fun with great artwork and quotes. Sometimes I pick out one that suits the mood of the book, and sometimes I pick one out that just makes me smile. (With Amazon Prime, shipping for these babies is FREE!)pentel

Of course, one also needs the perfect pen. I like medium ink and a nice, smooth flow. I get that with this gorgeous Pentel. Seriously, it’s the best pen ever. And you can buy refills for it. LOVE that it reduces waste and expense.

I also use a plethora of Post-Its, highlighters, and markers all in various colors. (More on that later.)

So, that’s the basics of how I “plot.” How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or somewhere in between?

3 thoughts on “How I Lost My Pants: Plotting Murder, Mayhem, and (sometimes) Magic

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