Monday, March 30, 2020

Plotter, Pantser or …?

Congratulations to "Bn100", the winner in Joanne's giveaway. Please contact JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE to claim your prize!

Hundreds of books and articles have been written about the writing process. While it is worthwhile to read some of this literature, it’s important not to become overwhelmed by all the information and advice.

When I first started my writing practice, I assumed I would be a plotter. After all, I was a left-brainer who had spent thirty-one years teaching mathematics and business education courses to adolescents. I focused on the articles devoted to plotting and attended workshops that featured authors who extolled that method.

The most memorable workshop was conducted by best-selling Canadian author Terry Fallis (The Best Laid Plans). An outliner (what he likes to call himself), Terry spends two to three months preparing a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. On a PowerPoint screen, he shared a 64-page outline consisting of three pages of bullet points for each chapter. As soon as the outline is complete, he then devotes three months to writing the novel.

Glancing around the room, I could feel the awe and intimidation. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “It would take me years—maybe even decades—to write the outline and by then I would have lost interest in the project.” I could easily imagine that scenario.

I decided to examine the other end of the continuum: pantsers (people who write organically or by the seat of their pants). Once they have a premise, they start writing and figure out the storyline along the way. They also allow their characters to misbehave. 

Sylvester Stallone is an example of a pantser. When he arrived in Hollywood, he struggled to find acting jobs. At one point, he had only $106 in the bank, his wife was pregnant, and he couldn’t pay the rent. Frustrated, he sat down and wrote the screenplay for Rocky in 3½ days. It is important to note that only 10% of that original draft remained in the final version of the film that would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

After much experimentation, I found a process that works for me: linear pantser. Once I have a premise, I start imaging the characters and write brief sketches. Then, I plan the first three chapters and the last chapter. Once this is in place, I begin writing. Partway through the manuscript, I often hit the murky middle and need to reboot the process. At that point, I will briefly outline the remaining chapters.

Any plotter or pantser experiences to share?

About the Gilda Greco Mystery Series
A cross between Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Cher (Moonstruck), protagonist Gilda Greco brings a unique perspective to the amateur female sleuth.
The teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself embroiled in a series of murder investigations. Before you start imaging thrillers with high stakes and police chases, pause and take a yoga breath. The three novels in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion—are cozy mysteries, written in the Agatha Christie tradition. All the crimes take place “off stage” with very few graphic details provided.
While the pace may be more relaxed than that of thrillers and police procedurals, there are no steaming cups of herbal teas, overstuffed chairs, or purring cats in these contemporary cozies. Prepare yourself for interfering relatives who don’t always respect boundaries, adult mean girls, deserving and undeserving men, multiple suspects, and lots of Italian food.

A member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime, Joanne Guidoccio writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romances, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Joanne is giving away a Kindle edition of Too Many Women in the Room to one lucky reader posting a comment.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST March 31st. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 


  1. Thanks for the insight into your writing process. It is always interesting to read how different authors approach their craft. It must be difficult for you when your vision for the story works and turns out well for you, but the editors want something changed which really changes the feel or something basic to your story. I hope you are staying safe and well.

    1. Hi Patricia, Fortunately, my editors haven't asked me to make any major changes to plot and character development. Altering the "feel" of the story would not sit too well with me.

      Stay safe and stay healthy.



Sign up to receive our newsletter