Good morning, and happy weekend! Happy birthday to William Shakespeare, and a happy St George’s Day to the English! I hope that’s covered all bases…
This week has been one of discoveries. It turns out I can write and read with only one eye, I can still eat peanuts even though I appear to have a bag of marbles stuck in my throat, and I don’t have to create a pretty complex outline to pen a novel. Who knew?
The Faithful Plotter
I’ve always considered myself a plotter. When I was writing There Must Be an Angel, back in the dark ages, I was so terrified of getting anything wrong that I outlined the entire novel in great detail before I started writing it. To be fair, I’d signed up to NaNoWriMo for the first time, so this was not the moment to take chances. I mapped out all my scenes and wrote a paragraph for each one telling me what must happen, and directing me, sentence by sentence, to the end of my story.
I stuck faithfully to that outline, so you would expect that there would be little left for me to do when I’d finally written The End. Oddly enough, my work was just starting. It took me years to get that book how I wanted it, and I had to throw the outline away because the story kept bouncing off in the most unexpected directions.
You’d think, therefore, that after that I’d not bother with plotting again, but you’d be very wrong, my friend. If anything I took it more seriously, certain that if I’d just got the outline right in the first place, all that angst could have been avoided.
Try, Try Again
You know, the thought of discovery writing, or “pantsing” as it’s affectionately known, has always scared the life out of me. My friend is a pantser, and I’ve always been in awe of her. How can someone sit down and write a book without any idea what’s going to happen? Okay, she has an idea where she wants the story to end, and she knows her characters, but that’s it. For me, that was terrifying. I needed a full road map, thank you very much.
Funnily enough, my characters didn’t take much notice of me. In every single book I’ve ever written I’ve had to rewrite the outline because something happened that I wasn’t expecting. Particularly memorable were the plot twists in A Kiss from a Rose and To Catch a Witch. I had no idea that what happened in those novels was going to happen. But my characters just got on with it and I, crossing my fingers, went with them. It all turned out for the best. Yet I still clung to the idea that I was, by nature, a plotter.
Could I Be a Pantser?
So it’s incredible to realise, finally, that I might actually be a pantser after all – or, at the very least, a plantser. When I sat down to write Book 4 in The Witches of Castle Clair series, I had a very vague idea of what was going to happen, but that’s it. Because I’d been busy writing the first Tuppenny Bridge novel, I hadn’t had time to work out the next book. Covid and various other factors had delayed me so much that I wasn’t prepared to take more time out while I worked on an outline. I thought I’d write the first few scenes and then the plot would unfold before me and I’d make a full outline before continuing with the story.
But something quite surprising happened. I found, to my amazement, that the story flowed without any outline at all! The characters just took over and led me where they wanted to go. I had my opening scenes in mind, but nothing written down. I know the direction this book has to go in, as it’s part of an arc in the final three books of the series, but it’s also got its own character and story arcs too. A bit complicated, and normally I’d have been plotting scene after scene to make sure I didn’t go off course. But this time, no. Nothing.
Keeping an Eye on Proceedings
I turn on the computer each day and I start typing, and I find out where we’re heading at the same time as my characters do. It’s extraordinarily liberating, and I’m enjoying writing more than I have in ages. That’s no mean feat, especially since I currently have a throat so sore it’s even kept me awake at night, a headache that’s ruined every evening for the last four evenings, and – to cap it all – conjunctivitis, which meant I woke up the other morning with my left eyelids stuck together.
The Husband thoroughly enjoyed himself making pirate jokes. When I did manage to prise the eye open, after bathing it with cooled, boiled water, it was so sore and itchy that it was better to keep it shut. I was going to post a picture I’d taken of it but I don’t want to get sued for causing any of you trauma so I won’t, so here’s a picture of someone looking way cooler than I ever could in an eye patch.
Typing with the use of only one eye isn’t that much fun, but I didn’t use it as an excuse. I’ve been writing Witches 4 in the morning, and editing Tuppenny Bridge 1 in the afternoons. And I haven’t even resorted to chocolate, although I have developed a worrying passion for peanut butter on toast. While we’re on the subject can I just have a round of applause for the fact that for the first time ever, my grandchildren’s Easter eggs did not have to be replaced, as I didn’t touch a single one of them. Go, me!
Anyway, back to the subject in hand… Does this mean I’m now a pantser? Or to be a bit more posh, a discovery writer? Could I be a plantser? Is this just an aberration, meaning I’ll be back to outlining books within an inch of their lives when I finish this one? I shall wait and see…
Before I go I’ll just share with you the cover for Book 3 of The Witches of Castle Clair, in case you haven’t spotted it on social media, or elsewhere on this website. Here’s Celeste on Christmas Eve, by the waters of the River Hrafn. Those of you who’ve read it will remember just what happens to her that evening!
I’ll be sharing the cover and blurb for Book 4 in the series with my newsletter subscribers on the first Tuesday in May. (How on earth is it nearly May already?) I can share with you now that the book is called Will of the Witch. If you want to be one of the first to see that, sign up here. Subscribers are also able to download a copy of the standalone prequel to the How the Other Half Lives series, The Other Half, absolutely free. Since it’s not available anywhere else you may as well go for it, don’t you think? After all, if I can write a book without an outline, you can click subscribe, right?
I’ll be on my merry little way now as I have work to do and peanut butter on toast to eat.
Have a great week!