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Plotting or Pantsing – Viola Carr [Writer’s Corner guest post]

Author: Viola Carr
Also by this author: The Diabolical Miss Hyde, The Devious Dr. Jeckyll

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Plotting or Pantsing?


Viola Carr


I’m a plotter. I love plotting. I find it impossible to start writing Chapter One before I’ve figured out exactly what’s going to happen, right to the end.

Some people think that’s weird. They want the excitement of feeling their way, of having characters do unexpected things.

To me, that sounds like the writing equivalent of wanting to be in a car crash. But – and this is the important thing – that’s just me.

I like using index cards and screenwriting techniques to figure out my scenes. I design the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of my main character’s journey before I start. I carefully plot out their backstory and needs and wants, their problems and desires and conflicts, until I’ve thought about it so much, my brain hurts.

Because, hey, I hate rewriting. And I figure that if I don’t do this work now, I’ll only have to fix it later.

That’s the trade-off for ‘pantsers’ – more revisions on the finished product. We all do the same work in the end – we just do it at different stages in the project’s development. So pantsers are like, ‘let’s get on with it! Those broken plot threads and stuff are a problem for future me. It’ll all be fine in the end.’

And for them, it is. Even if the very idea of using their method makes me whimper and reach for my comfort blankie.

Fact: there’s no One True Way, and anyone who tells you there is selling something.

You have to figure out what works for you. And it won’t be the same as anyone else’s. Your method is unique.

So don’t be afraid to try new ways of thinking, and see if they can improve your method. Broaden your horizons. I will never give up my plotting ways, but the more I learn about ‘organic’ writing, the more elements of those techniques I add to my own method, and the better a writer I get.

Do you like making things up as you go? Try out that craft book about storyboarding, and see where it leads you. Obsessed with index-carding your plot? Try a more organic approach, and see if it helps. And the best thing is: if it doesn’t help, who cares? Writing isn’t a performance art. No one needs to see your not-so-good attempts.

And even if a method doesn’t really work for you, you’ll have learned something. I defy you to work through a writing craft book – any writing craft book – and not take away even one tidbit of goodness. Adopt the bits you like, and ditch the rest. Chalk it up to experience, and move on. Try something else. Hone your method.

Because here’s the thing: readers don’t care how you write your book. How will they even know? All they care about is fun. If they’re not emotionally involved with your story, all your work – be it plotting or pantsing – is wasted.

So do what you have to do, and don’t listen to anyone who insists theirs is the only way. The only ‘wrong’ way is being boring.

Thank you so much, Viola, for sharing your writing advice on Books That Hook! 

Check out Viola Carr’s newest book, The Dastardly Miss Lizzie!

Dr. Eliza Jekyll must turn to her dark side, Miss Lizzie Hyde, to stop a madman who’s targeting London’s most important scientists and sorcerers, terrorizing the city with dark magic, in this third Electric Empire novel—a dazzlingly original steampunk fantasy set in the gritty world of alternate Victorian London, with echoes of H. G. Wells’s classic, The Time Machine.

Being two people in one body isn’t easy. Metropolitan Police crime scene physician Eliza Jekyll is trying to maintain a semblance of control, even as her rebellious second self, Lizzie, grows increasingly wild—threatening the respectable Eliza’s reputation and her marriage to Remy Lafayette, the Royal Society investigator and occasional lycanthrope. With England on the brink of war, Remy’s away in sorcery-riddled Paris on a secretive mission that grows ever more sinister. Has he been an enemy agent all along? Or is coping with her secret divided self finally driving Eliza mad?

Eliza needs her mind clear and sharp if she’s to catch an evil genius who is killing eminent scientists. The chase uncovers a murky world of forbidden books, secret laboratories, and a cabal of fanatical inventors whose work could change the world—or destroy it—and who may hold answers to Eliza’s mysterious past.

As sorcery-wielding terrorists attack London, Eliza discovers her own enemies are closing in, driving her to desperate measures—enlisting the aid of the wily, resourceful, mercurial Lizzie—to thwart the killer. But Lizzie’s got her own life now, and true to her nature, will resort to the devious and diabolical to keep it. Even if it means throwing Eliza to the wolves, and letting the world burn. . . .

About Viola Carr

Viola Carr was born in a strange and distant land, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat.


Jen Schaper
I am a mom of three kids, a wife, and a wannabe author. For Books That Hook, I review books, create features and discussions, design the website, and do all the administrative stuff.

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