Guest Author - Kristie Cook

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:


Kristie was the first to volunteer to be a guest on my blog! I won't take up space here with a long, rambling introduction. Kristie has some great advice and thoughts here about plotters vs pansters so I hope you enjoy! I'll have another vlog up for you tomorrow!

Pantsing Through a Series – Is It Possible?

Plotter or pantser? What are you? I consider myself a pantser, although possibly I’m more of a hybrid. I know, from past experience, that I Can. Not. Outline. If I do, I know what happens. If I already know what happens, I lose interest, explaining all the incomplete manuscripts sitting in the attic from my early years.

On the other hand, I do have a climactic scene in mind when I start and a couple plot turns and twists for how to get there. And as I go, I jot down notes for more plot elements and scenes.

For the most part, though, my characters drove Promise and Purpose. What I originally had in mind changed drastically. Those key scenes I imagined in the beginning are still there, but very different now. And a lot of the fun of writing these stories was when something came together without planning it. When something seemingly random would flow out of my fingers and I really didn’t understand its purpose until 150 pages later, when it suddenly showed its meaning. Just like when reading a good story!

For example (not a great one, but the first to come to mind), in one of the last revisions of Promise, a character showed up in a scene that he had never been in before. I thought, “Okay, dude, why’d you decide to show up now? I mean, I’m about to wrap this up and you suddenly want to jump in?” But by the time I finished revising that scene, I realized he needed to be there for the new ending. None of the other characters would have worked. I couldn’t have planned it any better.

So I’m really hesitant about plotting and outlining. In fact, I’m actually scared of it. After all, pantsing has worked so well for me, when outlining has not. But I have a whole series to write and I don’t know if I can do it right without some extensive planning.

When you look at really good series – ones with planned endings – there are elements from earlier books that all come together in the end. Take Harry Potter. Each book brings in characters, objects, experiences, etc., from earlier books and they all accumulate, twist and turn together for the last book. You can’t carry that off so brilliantly without a plan. What if Neville had been killed in Goblet of Fire instead of Cedric? What would have happened in Deathly Hallows, then? If Rowling had been pantsing and that had happened, she’d probably be kicking herself as she’s writing the last book. But there’s nothing she could have done about it, but find someone else – someone less perfect – to pull the sword out in the end.

Writing a fantasy creates even more hazards. When you’re creating a world, you have to mind your own rules. So you can’t say in book two that Elmo can’t fly more than 50 miles at a time, and then in book five have him fly from New York to Moscow. If that lengthy flight becomes absolutely necessary for the plot’s progression, then it would have been nice to know while writing book two, right?

So the pantser faces quite a dilemma when writing a series. The answer seems to be clear: Plot. Outline. Plan ahead. Sacrifice the thrill of learning the story as it progresses to ensure it’s as good as it can be. It sounds so easy. It probably is easy.

But it frightens the comfy pantsing-pants right off me. What will I do if I lose interest? Will I be able to finish what I’ve started? Will I still love it or will I hate every minute of it? I suppose it’s like following the advice of an editor who wants you to cut a scene you love. You do it because you know it’s in the best interest of the story. As writers, that’s what we have to do – whatever is best for the story.

So what are you? Plotter or pantser? Are you writing a series? Have you had to change your methods? And any tips for this pantser who needs to plan?

Kristie is the author of Promise, released in July 2010, and Purpose, releasing in December 2010. She can be found at www.KristieCook.com and www.a-musedwriter.blogspot.com.

6 Responses to "Guest Author - Kristie Cook"

Ebyss Says :
November 8, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Wow, Kristie.

Good thing she didn't really have any other questions. :)

JK HUGS!!

I'm right there with you.

I'm a pantser.

I have an idea, then I build my story and world around it, starting with beginning and the end. The middle is a mystery to me.

I do keep notes though. I have detailed notes of all my character's physical attributes and mental and emotional quirks. And I keep notes on a timeline.

For the most part, this is how I've been writing so far. I have the beginning and how I want it to end...maybe some stuff here and there for the middle, but for the most part, stuff that happens in the middle surprises me.

Also, as I write, my characters develop. They start to do stuff or they develop personality or something happens to them, then I have to make a note.

When the story is finished and before revisions, I add in all my notes of things I need to explain and/or add in.

Then I go through and try my best to clean it up before I send it off to my wonderful betas. :)

The end. :)

Emailman Says :
November 8, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Hi Kristie :)

I'm a total pantser just like you! I start with a great hook opening scene, a rough middle story with a few twist ideas, and the closing scene, then off I go!

I wrote a whole series this way, Truth Teller, and although I do have one plot issue in the third book that I know needs dealing with, it's really no big deal.

I see nothing wrong with pantsing even with a series. My advice would be, just go for it. You're a pantser, it's what you do :) If I can do it, anyone can! Have faith in your own abilities.

Dawn Embers Says :
November 8, 2010 at 11:48 PM

I am not only a pantser but have no real experience world building even though I've written two books (different series technically but close together). World building seems so daunting, which I'm trying to learn through first doing one world in a standalone novel.

My mutant series is one where I have some general ideas for the series overall but I don't know every big plot in the individual books. I think that helps with the worry over losing the appeal when writing a series. It helps overall if the books can stand at least a little bit on their own. So, I have a general idea to outline for the series overall but there is still magic in discovery when writing because I can't pay that much attention to outlines ever anyways.

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
November 8, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Kristie, thanks so much for blogging here today! You had a great topic, especially with NaNo going on this month.

Ebyss, thanks for stopping by and becoming a follower!

Kurt and Dawn, always nice to see you here.

I'm a semi-plotter. I do plot to a certain extent, at least with character sketches, world building worksheets. I make a very general plot outline. After that, I just go with it. The story usually ends up completely different than the plot outline. In fact, the plot outline doesn't have any plot points that make it to the story! But, it works for me. It at least gives me a place to start.

chrissi Says :
November 9, 2010 at 8:01 AM

I have the privilege and unique experience of being Kristie's Alpha. That means that not only do I get to read her stories as their being developed, but I also get to be the person to question the pantsing as it's flowing off her keyboard (wish I could say pen, it would sound more literary...but we're way beyond the pen!).

I've saved all of the early editions of her stories, and look forward to re-reading them someday when the Soul Savers Series is complete, just to marvel on how the story has morphed through the creative process.

So what I can share from my perspective is that I think it's important for you authors to find someone who loves your story enough to question every part of it. Not to make you insecure about what you've written, but to help you work through where you're going...even if you end up going somewhere else!

You're all going to Love PURPOSE! It's even better than PROMISE. I Promise :)

chrissi Says :
November 9, 2010 at 8:03 AM

Jeez...personal pet peeve is the their, they're, there thing. Please forgive my typo in my note above. Thanx!

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