If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Both a Plotter and a Pantser Be

For many years I considered myself a Plotter. Writing mysteries requires victims, suspects, secrets and alibis. Red herrings, motives, opportunities and lies—a whole slew of elements that need to be shaped and developed into a readable, logical story. And so I wrote my outline. I included—as best I could—the basic events and turning points, all the way to the conclusion where the murderer is revealed and loose ends are tied up.

Of course I found myself changing the story line as I wrote. Besides that, a buildup to each incident was necessary. I had to weave aspects of my sleuth's life—her friends, family, lover, enemies, and work colleagues—into the plot. All this required on-the-spot writing. Pantser-writing, if you will.

Now that I'm writing under contract, I've discovered that I give a much freer rein to my Pantser side. Of course I work from an outline that includes the theme and subplots of each novel. I know the victim or victims, the suspects and the killer.

In my attempt to keep the story line as vital as possible, I add details and events as I move along, elements I don't anticipate when writing the outline. Recently, I realized that I wanted Carrie, my sleuth, to view a character I had introduced earlier in the book as a possible suspect. To do this, I needed to create a scene that included Carrie, this character and an incident that would make him look suspicious.
"Hurry up and write it!" I told myself.
Nothing came to me.
Fortunately, I decided not to force the issue. I told myself the solution would come to me when it was ready.

And it did! An hour or two later I knew how I was going to reintroduce my suspect. What's more, I had already set the stage for his reentry into the story earlier in the book. I realized that my creative process had been kind enough to do this many, many times in the service of writing many books. I was proud of myself! I didn't panic. I didn't worry that the answer wouldn't come. I trusted myself, the process, and the book I was writing.

I think it comes down to the fact that I've learned to trust my Pantser side while still putting my Plotter side to work. In my opinion, both  are needed. What do you think?


Jim Jackson said...

Since I’m a Pantser, I have no problem with you allowing freedom to write outside your plots!

Kait said...

Reformed from pantser to plotster. Pantsing was taking me down two many rabbit holes, many of which I enjoyed, but that needed to be cut. It was a gradual evolution, but now short global outline where I tell myself the story, determine the characters, what happened when and where and sometimes - when I am very lucky - who did it. Then I bullet point outline each chapter before I write it- just enough to keep my chapter goal and any necessary bits in the forefront of my mind.

carla said...

Pantser with reluctant plotter traits here. I like the joy of discovery in writing, it's what keeps me going. But sometimes one must rein it in ...

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

After wallowing in the joy of pantsing, I discovered I had to revise multiple drafts to come up with a coherent narrative. This time around, I made a "top ten" list of plot points, added Tina's plot circle, and wrote a day-by-day calendar on a huge pad of graph paper.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

I still love pantsing .. and do it in my short stories, but have come to realize a modified form of plotter enables me to complete a book in a shorter period of time. the book still needs significant revision, but the line it follows tends to make more sense because there are fewer offshoots.

KM Rockwood said...

I tend to write the first chapter and the last one, then make an outline of what needs to happen. Sometimes the entire structure of the book changes, and the ending I had envisioned has to change, too, but having an end in mind provides me with some structure.

One mystery I wrote (which will quite deservedly remain a manuscript in my files, never to see the light of day) surprised me by letting me know, very near the end, that I had been wrong the entire time about who the killer was.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I think we all agree—we need both elements when we're writing fiction.
Jim, I don't find myself writing outside my plots as I "pants" along—I'm working out my plots. Just had a Eureka pants moment yesterday. (Thank God!)

Marilyn Levinson said...

Interesting way of outlining. I suppose you keep the first chapter and have to change the last one at times. I just changed my murderer, too, in the book I'm currently writing. I wonder how often that happens to other writers.

Grace Topping said...

Excellent points, Marilyn. My first book I created an outline, so when I sat down to write, I knew basically what should be in each chapter. This book, I've written a more detailed synopsis, adding notes and ideas, and lots of question marks, as I go. I haven't sat down to do the actual writing, but I've fleshed out the plot pretty thoroughly. I'm sure lots of stuff will change as I really get into it, but at least I have a good start.

Shari Randall said...

It's great when your subconscious leads you in the right direction. Oh, to be a pure plotter! I pants between plot points - I generally have an end in mind and write high-point scenes, then stitch them together (and pray that it works the whole time). I've read that there is a third kind of writer - a Puzzler - who writes puzzle pieces and puts them together. I think that's closest to my process.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Grace and Shari,

It's very interesting to read how you plot out your books. Mysteries include so many elements, don't they? I'm glad that I'm now able to trust my unconscious to come up with plot directions and solutions. Besides—just think! If we only plotted, writing a ms would be so boring. Leaving room for surprises is more fun and makes for a more exciting read.

Kaye George said...

I agree, Marilyn, with the mixture. I don't think any writer is all one or all the other, we just fall on a spectrum somewhere in between. Besides, it's not really POSSIBLE to plot the whole novel beforehand. I think some people do think that's what being a plotter means. Far from it! And if you're a pantser, you don't really start writing with absolutely no idea what you're going to write--no characters, no setting, not a scrap of plot in your brain anywhere. Yeah, we all do both. Some more than others.