Confession of a recovering pantser

Once again, I’m joining a blog hop run by Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW). For those new to my blog, yes, I’m a guy, and yes, I write romance. I’ve written for Silhouette, but these days I write science fiction with romance and humor.


This week’s writing prompt is:

Plot Away: My Writing Process

My name is Ed, and I must confess that I’m a recovering pantser, i.e., a writer who flies by the seat of my pants rather than plotting anything out in advance. That’s how I wrote my first four published novels … and an equal number of unpubishable ones. In those years, I dashed down many a rabbit hole, yet never discovered Alice. For me — though maybe not for you — pantsing proved to be inefficient.

Since then I’ve tried various methods to plan my books in advance so I spend less time following uninteresting story lines. I’m probably 67% plotter and 33% pantser. In other words, I’m a plotter who leaves plenty of wiggle room for inspiration.

I don’t follow any approach religiously, but my current favorite is Michael Hauge’s six stage plot structure. Michael is a genius at distilling story to its simplest components. Even pansters can benefit. Comparing a manuscript to his model may point out areas to improve. For example, a lot of times my setups are too long, which delays getting into the meat of the story. Michael’s approach helps me see where I need to edit.

If you aren’t familiar with Michael’s approach, you may want to visit his website for an overview. If you get the chance to hear him, I recommend you seize it.

Click here to check out the writing processes of other fine writers in the blog hop.



  1. Hello Ed, I’m Meka and I’m a pantser. I told myself this year I’m going to attempt to plan out a novel. I want to try NaNo this year and since it’s all about write, write, write, I’m hoping to have the idea properly outlined and planned to make that process easier. We’ll see how it goes.

    1. I find having a story plotted in some detail is super-useful for NaNoWriMo. I tend to plot the first half in detail while keeping the second half more general, because I know darned well some last-minute brainstorms will crop up and affect the story’s outcome.

  2. This method is similar to the one that I use! AHA! You’re also a NANOer? COOL! I can do short stories by pantsing. I did a NANO novel a few years ago, Kiss of the Dragon, a paranormal fantasy by pantsing. I ended up with 125K words in the end. When I pants, I go through the rabbit holes. Plottting helps to keep me on track, moving in the direction of the story goal.
    That novel is still sitting in my files waiting for revisions, which will be divided into two novels in the series. But, I find it discouraging to have to gut them during revisions as I am doing with my current WIP Roxy Sings the Blues.

    1. NaNoWriMo has given me three novels and one dead-on-arrival MS that, like you, I’m still trying to mend. Sigh.

  3. It’s wonderful when you find a plotting method that resonates with your approach. I’ve heard Michael Hauge speak and he’s good!

    1. I know myself well enough to realize that two books from now, my process will probably have changed. Sigh.

  4. I’m a plotster. I put down a rough plot and then pants the rest. So far, it’s working, but I’m only working on book #3, so who am I to say, lol? Thanks for the graphic from Michael Hague – I follow a similar (loosely plotted) structure, as well.

    1. I should have emphasized that what I like about Hauge’s approach is that the turning points are so prominent. If I plot those out ahead of time, I can sorta pants my way from one turning point to the next.

    2. LOL….I love ‘plotster’…..I call myself a ‘plantser’, since I’ve written both by rough outline (and had it hijacked by my characters!) and by total pantser, where the characters are in full control and I’m hanging on for dear life. I DO know that the best books I’ve written (imho) are the ones where I’ve got a vague idea of some sort of plot.

      1. I’m with you, Kenzie. Even the books I wrote by the seat of my pants, I had an idea how the story was going to end — beyond “they lived happily ever after”, I mean.

  5. Plan or no plan I usually end up with Hauge’s turning points anyway…or the one’s I first learned from Central Ohio Fiction Writers, which more or less line up.

    1. Yeah, that’s the thing with these general outlines of turning points; they’re based not on theory but on analyses of actual stories. Thus they have many similarities.

  6. Great post. I’m a pantser, but I don’t completely write by the seat of my pants and I’m not sure I ever have. But I don’t plot either. I do figure out my beginning, back story, ending, and important turning points in my head before I ever start to write. I don’t however figure out how I’m going to get from turning point to turning point until I sit down and start writing. That’s the fun part for me. Going on the journey with my characters. This process has worked for the 13 published novels I’ve written and the 40+ Star Wars fan fiction stories I’ve wrote before writing my first published book.

    1. It sounds as though our writing processes are pretty similar, Sara.

  7. Thinking about writing a book without a roadmap makes me twitchy. I admire you and others who don’t can fly freely by the seat of your pants. And I usually follow my own combination of the three act structure and the hero’s journey.

    1. When I plan a novel, I’m concerned primarily with the story’s turning points. I don’t worry about all the little details. I know they’ll come.

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