Can a Panster Become a Plotter — Part Two

By Sherry Harris

Last November I wrote a blog titled “Can a Panster Become a Plotter”. In it I said I’d write an update in August. Well, it’s August and my deadline is only days away. So here’s what happened:

I was struggling with writing the required synopsis last November but two Barbs came to the rescue — Barb Ross and Barb Goffman — read “Can a Panster Become a Plotter” to find out how. I wrote a seven page synopsis for book two — Deal or Die. After I sent it off to my editor I stuck it in the proverbial drawer aka a computer file and forgot about it. I started writing the book. Things were going swimmingly and then I got to the middle. What is it with me and the middle? I really, really hate the middle. (See previous panster blog!)

IMG_3749So I did what I usually do and wrote the end of the book. After I finished that I was at a loss of what to do next. Then I remembered the synopsis. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and read through it. Oh, yes, there in the synopsis was a middle or at least part of the middle. And layers and characters that I’d completely forgotten about. Lest I made this process sound too easy it was more like trying to weave an intricate spider web back together.

When that was finished I had a crisis of confidence. I hated it and thought it had no voice, no humor, no nothing. So once again I turned to the other Wickeds. They encouraged me, told me to tell to the editor in my head to shut up (thank you Edith), and asked what they could do to help. Then Barb Ross said this:

If you either have voice or you don’t, then you DO have it, as Tagged (Tagged For Death) proves.

A couple of suggestions.

Barb with more great advice for me. (Photo by Meg Manion Photography)
Barb with more great advice. (Photo by Meg Manion Photography)

If voice is elusive, go back and read a part of Tagged you feel is strong. It’s like a singer listening to a pitch pipe to find the right key. Do this as many times as you need to. You might even read a part of Tagged that’s similar to what you’re writing now–discovery, action, denouement, etc.

I firmly believe voice = confidence and confidence = voice. Voice is what convinces the reader to give their consciousness over to the storyteller. The reader needs to feel the storyteller is confident in her ability to tell the story in order to be willing to go on the journey. Therefore, problems with voice often mask unresolved issues within the story. If the author has problems with the story she’s telling, that undermines confidence and shuts down voice. Ask yourself if there are any issues you need to address in order to have confidence in the story you’re telling.

BarbGoffmanHeadShotAfter rewriting I  turned the book over to Barb Goffman to edit. She pushed me to make sure the reader knew what Sarah was thinking and seeing. She wanted more reaction to the events going on around Sarah. Barb also pointed out what was well written and amusing.

I’m going through another round of edits — the voice issue wasn’t the mountain I’d made it out to be. I’ve decided I’m a hybrid  writer — part panster and part plotter. In the next few days I’ll be turning in this manuscript. And then it starts all over with writing the synopsis for Murder As Is. Stay tuned…

25 Thoughts

  1. Even if you only write three sentences, I feel you must have some kind of planned plot. Otherwise it’s a journey through the wilderness, with no map. The three sentences could simply be something like “Act one describe the crime and why the heroine is involving herself in it, Act Two follow the trail of clues including characters met along the way, Act Three leads up to and includes the “exciting conclusion.” THE END.

  2. Voice is the person talking in your head (or sometimes out loud), wishing other drivers would get out of the freaking way, the woman thinking “oh, no, you mentioned barbecue; now I want barbecue,” the one silently screaming to your friend “get a move on, already.” You always have voice. It’s the part of you that you learn to temper as a child, the things your mother tells you “you shouldn’t say,” so you learn to think them instead of saying them. Well, now you have to let them out on paper. Just let them out. Let that freak flag fly!

  3. Congrats on finishing book two. I’m glad you were able to work through your problems. Hopefully, that will make book three even stronger.

  4. This is great–so helpful! Right now I’m revising my first contracted book that’s due to my editor October 1. I wrote a synopsis for the proposal, but much of the middle was basically “Max investigates.” LOL. I eventually figured it out. I hope.

    I love the line in your post “voice = confidence and confidence = voice.” That’s a great way to describe it.

  5. “You mentioned barbecue. I want barbecue.” So true!
    Meanwhile, I have always said that if you write down the plot, you don’t have to keep it all in your head. And–I never understood how anyone could write suspense or mystery on the fly.

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