On Writing: Outlining Vs. Pantsing Revisited

This week I will begin writing Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth book in the Thieftaker Chronicles. For those of you who are fans of the series, don’t panic. Book three, A Plunder of Souls, is not yet out and won’t be for close to a year. Authors are almost always at least a full book ahead of the publication schedule. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet read book two, Thieves’ Quarry, all I can say is what the hell are you waiting for…?

I spent part of last week outlining the book, and thought that I would return to the subject of outlines and pantsing, since it is something that still comes up quite a bit on this site and also in panels. I know that we talk about there being no single right way to do any of this, and I still believe that. But in this […]

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Creative Intersections: Pacing and Plotting

This week I return to my series of posts on Creative intersections. Thus far, I have discussed point of view and worldbuilding, plot and character development, and worldbuilding and plot. Today, I am going to address plotting once again, and combine it with a discussion of pacing.

In my opinion, pacing is one of the most difficult elements of storytelling to master. We all have read books that seem to drag at certain times or that become so frenetic that they are almost impossible to read. And yet, I would never suggest that you try to make your pace consistent throughout an entire novel; to my mind, novels, like great pieces of music, have mixed dynamics. There are slower passages and fast ones, periods where everything is loud and exciting, and periods of calm, during which your readers have a chance to catch their collective breath. The key is, how […]

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Back to Basics, part V: Writing to a Certain Length

Baseball season has begun, and, as always happens this time of year, I am reminded of my favorite baseball movies, of which there are many. At or near the top of my list is the somewhat raunchy but hilariously funny Bull Durham. At one point, as the Durham Bulls are in the midst of prolonged slump, their manager gives one of the great speeches in the history of baseball movies. It comes right after he calls his players “lollygaggers.” (“You lollygag the ball around the infield, you lollygag your way down to first, you lollygag inand out of the dugout! You know what that makes you? . . . Lollygaggers!”) He says, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball.”

What I love about this is that anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that the simplicity of the game belies […]

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By Request: A Post About Plotting

The results of our first Magical Words poll indicated that many of you are interested in posts about (among other things) character development and plotting. So I thought that today I would take on plotting, at least in a general way. I have no doubt that my MW colleagues will have much to add, either with comments to this post or with posts of their own, but I’ll take the first whack at it.

Developing the plot for a novel, or even a shorter work, isn’t easy. Nothing else in writing is, so why should this be different, right? In a way, though, developing narrative is harder than most other things. There is a certain uniformity to the essentials of character development (for instance) that makes writing or speaking about it fairly simple. We all know what makes people tick, and so as we develop our characters we have some […]

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plotter or pantser?

A couple weeks ago reader Jim Duncan asked the following in comments:

CE, I’m curious if you are a big plotter or if you are more organic, perhaps know where you are going to end up but having no clue how you’re going to get there?

and then discusses his own approach, which is to use a detailed roadmap, because ‘the thought of rewriting a story six times to get it right makes my head hurt. ACK!’

Believe me, Jim, it made my head hurt too. :p

I write from a synopsis, because I sell from a synopsis, and generally the book I eventually turn in ought to have *some* resemblance to the one I pitched. What this usually means is that I create a synopsis with highlights of action and emotional story arc and an ending, and then–because it’s written down–I think I know how to get to the […]

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