Loree Lough

At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 75 books, 63 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed by reviewers “the writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives”, she has earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards. This summer, Beautiful Bandit (#1 in “Lone Star Legends” series from Whitaker) joins Loree’s 2009-10 releases, Love Finds You in Paradise, PA and Love Finds You in North Pole (Summerside), Tales of the Heart and Prevailing Love (Whitaker), and Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry (Summerside). Maverick Heart (Lone Star Legends #2) comes out in January, 2011, while the release of From Ashes to Honor, #1 in her “First Responders” series (Abingdon), will coordinate with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Accidental Family, #3 in the “Accidental Blessings” series (Love Inspired) and Love Finds You in Folly Beach, SC are slated to hit bookstore shelves May and June, 2011, respectively. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

One “Write” Way? Nah.

Recently, a hearty “plotter v. pantser” writing styles debate left me wondering which club boasted the most members . . . and prompted a two-question impromptu poll: “Are you a plotter, or pantser?” and “What’s your writing system?” As you’ll see, there isn’t a “write” speed or method that guarantees the successful completion of a salable novel.

“I’m driven by organization and detail. Now that I’m multipublished, I sell by proposal, leaving my ‘winging it’ closet somewhat bare! My writing system these days consists of grabbing a few minutes when my toddler is occupied. I write during her naps (while consuming large amounts of caffeine so I won’t be tempted to join her).” (Betsy St. Amant, The Gingerbread Season)

“I am somewhere between a pantser and a plotter, but tend to lean more toward pantser. My system consists of a word-count goal that I try to reach every day. I plow through the rough draft, then go back and edit.” (Margaret Daley, Heart of a Cowboy)

“I am a plotter. My writing system is to follow my outline and write a scene at a time, editing as I go. The next day I read what I wrote the day before, and keep going.” (Gail Sattler, Head Over Heels)

“I start with character interviews and build a plot around their conflict, then adjust according to where they take me. I try to write 2,000 to 3,000 words a day (more if the words are flowing). Next day, I read what I wrote the day before and make changes as needed. I work with a self-imposed deadline about a month before the editor wants it; time away from the project allows me to read it more objectively.” (Debby Mayne, Sweet Baklava)

“I’m trying to be more of a plotter, but so far, I’m a pantser. The characters deepen and their conflicts become more nuanced and layered as I write. As a pantser, I look forward to the discovery and insight I gain from allowing my characters to speak.” (Trish Perry, Tea for Two)

“I’m mostly a plotter, but not retentively so. (There’s a slight sheen on the seat of my pants.) I find it helps to plot the big stuff, and the first several chapters, then write those first few chapters and plot some more. At some point, the remainder of the plot just falls into place. I work much more smoothly once that happens. When I start, I need to know where the scene is going—or at least what needs to happen. Then I let the characters take over and take me where they will, and often it’s not where I planned, but that’s okay. I just need a ‘map’ to get me started. I need to work more on getting the basic story down, allow it to be horrible, then go back and edit.” (Ane Mulligan, Chapel Springs Revival)

“Definitely a plotter. I write better with structure and a plan, though I’m always open to changing that plan if needed. I set a daily word count, then edit and revise.” (Cerella Sechrist, Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania)

“I’m a whole lot pantser, a little bit plotter. Most important, I must know my characters. I use a notebook to track details (secondary characters, street names, etc.). Not knowing what’s going to happen from page to page can be scary, but it’s also fun. I read my novel on the screen, wondering what’s around the next corner! Pantsers tend to be a little scatterbrained and distracted. That said, my system is to set weekly writing goals and stick to them. If I fall behind, I’ll pay the price when the deadline looms.” (Sharlene MacLaren, The Daughters of Jacob Kane series)

“I guess I’m both. I create a synopsis, but not a chapter-by-chapter outline. I use it as a guideline, but allow the story to progress and give the characters some leeway in what happens (in case their ideas are better than mine). It’s a wonderful puzzle my characters help me assemble, and we have a lot of fun in the process. My writing system is basically to write a chapter every day, except Sunday, until a rough draft is complete. When I’m finished with the unedited draft, I usually set aside at least two months to polish it. It’s a simple system, but so far it’s worked well for me.” (Anita Higman, Another Hour to Kill)

“I’m primarily a plotter, but I’m flexible about it. I look at any book, play, or short story I write as a journey, so I need a map to know where I’m going, what ‘sights’ I want to see, which characters to bring in, what points I want to hit. That doesn’t mean I might not discover something wonderful and go off to explore that. If I have my map, I can always get back, and bring the discoveries with me. That’s the adventure of it. Otherwise, I’m bored, and if I’m bored, it’s a sure bet the reader will be. My ‘system’ is one I learned from Hemingway: Stop when you know what comes next. It gives you a springboard into the next day’s work. And I always read what I wrote the day before, and lightly edit. (Chris Dickerson, writer/director To Bury Caesar)

“I’m a combination, so I guess I’m a panplotter! I begin each story without much more than the opening situation/conflict, but start making notes for the plot as I go. I always start a new writing session by editing the last thing I wrote—it gets me back into the story.” (Robin Bayne, The Prodigal)

“I am a pantser. I use character studies, and the basic plot may drive the character, but ultimately, they will decide where they go. My system is to write the character until I know him/her intimately and then go back and fill in the way they would have reacted in all the given situations. So I usually write to the middle, then go back and write it all over again and then finish. I start with a question, and the character answers it from her perspective.” (Kristin Billerbeck, Girly Girl)

“I’m a pantser and write my best stuff when I’m surprised right along with my reader. I start with a general synopsis (one to two pages), and the rest unfolds. The few times I’ve tried to write from an outline, I’ve ended up bored . . . which is really strange, since I’m maniacally organized in the rest of my life! I write in blocks, six or seven hours at a time. Short gaps don’t work for me in the bigger picture. I like to spend time with my story, wiggle my toes it until they’re pruny. Then the next time I find a big block of time, I read what I wrote last time, edit, and pick up where I left off. With a full-time day job, Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for those big time blocks.” (Sandra D. Bricker, Always the Baker, Never the Bride)

“I suppose I’m a bit of both; however, I’m more pantser than plotter. I conceive an idea then think on it for several days before I write. I compose a three to four page summary, divide it into chapter sections, often changing the plot as I write. I’m a morning person, and when I have a work-in-progress, I start writing as soon as I finish my devotions. I work until at least noon, and stop for our evening meal. Life often upsets those plans, but that’s my ideal day. I edit the previous day’s work before I start the next segment of writing, and don’t do heavy edits until the manuscript is finished. This helps me find yesterday’s mistakes and projects me into the next portion of unwritten text.” (Irene Brand, Mountaineer Dreams series)

“I’m a modified pantster. For example, I wrote 60,000 words SOTP on my latest novel, then put together a rough outline to keep it from falling apart. I write in time blocks. I might not write for three or four days, then write for four to five days straight. I don’t go back and edit till I’m finished with the first draft.” (Jim Rubart, Rooms)

“Pantser who aims for plot points. For example, scene one might introduce the main character; scene two, I make his motivation clear; scene three is the inciting incident; four begins the hero’s quest; five changes his direction. Along the way, I let the characters tell me what readers need to hear. When I take a road trip, I don’t map out every gas stop, hotel reservation, and potty break, but I know those things are necessary parts of the journey, so I search for mile markers and add them to the story sequentially. Same goes for the rest of the characters. I write 1000+/- words a day after polishing the previous day’s work.” (Eddie Jones, The Curse of Captain LaFoote)

By my tally, it’s Pantsers: 5, Plotters: 5, In-betweeners: 6. That tells me it isn’t which “club” you belong to that matters…but whether or not you can work within the bylaws.


Maverick Heart