Friday, 10 June 2011


I realised yesterday, after making a difficult mistake, that I haven't discussed my work in process on the blog. The first drafting of my crime novel.

The mistake I made I imagine, is a pretty common one to writers. Especially pantsers. Those writers like me who don't make reams of plot notes before writing and just sit down and write organically letting the story unfold of it's own free will.

The opposite of a pantser would be a plotter. A writer who plots the story as they go. They know what each chapter should look like before they write it and have lots of notes to keep track of where the story is going.

Being a pantser has been going quite well for me, until now. I have a full synopsis written so have general directions but I don't plot each chapter or blocks or chapters. I sit and I write. I know there is no right and wrong way, but as I explain the mistake, it could appear I maybe shouldn't be working this way. Now corrected, I will continue to write as I have been doing, because this is what I'm comfortable with. It's what, most of the time, works for me.

The mistake? - I wrote a couple of short chapters and when finished I realised that the girl I had just had arrive from school at the time of the incident had actually been discussed as a missing child earlier in the work.

I was so frustrated with myself. Things were going well and I was in a flow with my word count and the direction I was heading in. I then felt as though I'd just put a great big flashing STOp sign in the way.

The solution - I had to walk away from the work for an hour and do other things, letting my brain process what had happened and attempt to figure the right direction to go in, for this to be resolved. Eventually I sat back down at my laptop and worked the girl into the right place.

I know I need to write a chapter list of who is doing what and where, for what I have written so far. If I do this then I can keep track of where everyone is and still sit and write freely as I forge ahead.

It was a difficult, but luckily short, learning curve and one I hope to not have to repeat again.

One more thing about this first draft I haven't yet said - I have set myself a target date to complete it of 21st July. Then starts the next stage. Second drafting.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how do you deal with plot errors?


  1. I like the solution you came up with. It's something I may have to steal in my own mystery/crime novels going forward. It definitely sounds easier than scrolling up and looking for what I need to know about a certain character. :)

  2. Glad you smoothed it out. I'm a panster too and so far that hasn't been too bad of a thing. Yeah, I get plot holes or wrinkles but plotting just holds no appeal so I can't make myself try.

  3. Panster, can't say I've heard that term before but it sounds very similar to a 'discovery writer' who learns the story as she goes. Which is something I do a lot. And I really should make notes, like you suggested, on what happens in each chapter. After I write them, of course. Planning everything before I start doesn't work, it's too constricting.

  4. I make continuity mistakes all the time in my fist draft. Sometimes they're just a change of mind. My MC buried his parents in chapter one and by chapter six I wrote his Mother back in again. I just made a note and decided to rewrite after the first draft :)

    Sounds like last weekend's writing blitz went well. I'm glad.

  5. Continuity errors in a first draft are fine. I made loads and now rewriting quite extensively.

  6. i think the sort of error you describe can happen to either sort of writer. Even if you have it all planned out on paper you can still make that sort of mistake. In many ways it can help remind you what's what and why things happen the way they do and make for a stronger story overall (as long as you spoit the mistake of course).

    Moody Writing

  7. I HAVE to plot--no choice! Most of my books are series so if I don't plot I lose important information from the first book that needs to go to the last...

    Besides, I'm horribly anal about organization (at least when it comes to my work). I have great respect for pantsers but run from the idea screaming myself--at least when it comes to books.

    Good for you, Rebecca for figuring it out!

  8. Tom - Feel free to steal :) There are probably other plot holes hiding in there somewhere but that's where the second draft will come in.

    Patricia - I'm glad I smoothed it out. I was so frustrated with myself when I realised. There will be some jiggling about to do when it comes to the second draft but at least I generally know how it happened now.

    Jenny - It definitely sounds like a discovery writer. I think writing a brief chapter breakdown as you go along (after they're written) should help keep track of things.

    Sarah - I'm really starting to learn that the second draft is where thing maybe start to come together. I'm approaching the first draft as a skeleton now and will add the flesh and make sure all the joints are in the right place when it comes to the second draft. I was actually surprised I'd forgotten what I'd originally written. I thought I would be able to easily keep track of my beloved characters.

    Clare - I didn't realise that it would be like this. I now know that the second draft will be bringing it all together.

    Mood - you're probably right. There are a lot of threads in the stories we right, so it's no surprise that these things happen. Spotting them, as you say, is an important factor though!

    Patti - I think generally we are either one of the other aren't we? I have the synopsis written out, so I do generally know what is going to happen, or at least the direction we are going in. I'm not an organised person though. I do try, but I struggle a bit. Your work ethic is amazing!

  9. I'm a pantser, who has aspirations to be a plotser. In other words, something half-way between plotting and pantsing.

    I think pantsing a crime novel has to be one of the most difficult things to achieve, as you have to watch every fact and figure. However, you've got the solution - making chapters notes as you go. Maybe you could set up some kind of chart for key points etc?

    Could be fun!

    Ellie Garratt

  10. Nice post Rebecca, and I totally sympathise.

    I wrote my first (not quite complete) crime novel during NaNoWriMo which meant there was little time for correcting mistakes. It was only at the end of that first month of writing, after 50,000 words, that I realised that there were so many issues with the plot that I really needed to do a total rewrite.

    In the end, I abandoned that story and am using the key characters in another story - one I am plotting incredibly tightly before I begin. It may not work, but I figure you've got to try anything once. I'll let you know how it goes!

    Good luck with your deadline.

  11. Ellie - I am steadily learning that there are a lot of strands I need to hold together, so even though I'm still pantsing, I am doing chapter notes after the facts and am writing character pages for those characters I didn't even think I needed them for. I'm also feeling a lot more settled that I will pick it all up when I do my first read prior to the second draft.

    Rin - Plotting or pantsing isn't for everyone and it's about finding what works for you and as you do, stick with it!