Have it Your Way

bk-mealHold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us, all we ask is that you let us… serve it your way.

If you were born much later than, say, 1970, then you may have missed that tasty morsel of a Burger King commercial. But for the rest of us, it lives on in our memories, no matter how desperately we try to excise it. Oh well, today it serves as a delicious metaphor for writers.

I’m sure you’ve read countless books and blog posts on methods of writing your book. Perhaps you’ve been advised to write a sh***y first draft, a la the incomparable Anne Lamott. Alternatively, you may have heard the advice, edit as you go, so that your revisions are not so overwhelming.

Hmm. Which method to choose?

And what about the “plotters vs. pantsers” debate? Some writers prefer to plot out their whole novel and work from an outline. Others call themselves “seat of the pants” writers — they have a rough idea of where the story is going but they don’t really know until it unfolds itself as they write it. (Sounds scary to me, but whatever.)

Is one way better than another?

And if you happen to be a plotter… well, do you use the sticky note method, or the outlining method, or the chapter summary method, or… well, what’s it gonna be?

Perhaps you like to use specific techniques. My friend Randy Ingermanson has developed the Snowflake Method for writing a novel, and even has software available to help. But others have their own methods… there’s the Kiser Method, the Baby Steps Method, the NaNoWriMo method, the 90-Day Novel method, and more.

Which to choose?

And novel writing software! Well, of course there’s the above-mentioned Snowflake software. There’s also Scrivener, the popular software package that many authors absolutely love. There are others (just Google “novel writing software.”) Which is best?

Then there’s the whole “time of day” issue. Some folks swear you’re at your most creative in the early hours, and insist that you should get up before dawn and hit the computer. But others are aware that they’re most creative late at night.

Critique groups, anyone? Many people swear by them. I recommend them all the time. But… critique groups don’t actually work for everyone.

So many choices! Here’s my point:

Don’t let anyone talk you into “one right way” of writing your books.

Ask people for their input and recommendations, try different things, and make up your own mind. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If something’s not working, try something else.

Do what works for you! Don’t apologize for it, don’t feel the need to justify yourself, and don’t feel like you have to try and fit in.

Just like at Burger King… have it your way.

So… what’s your way? 


Comment below!

For those of you who never saw the commercial, or if you just want to take a trip down memory lane…

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Karen on June 26, 2018 at 2:48 PM

    Thanks for this amazing post!
    I have written many a manuscript through NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, I never know what to do with them after that. The excitement and deadline of writing 50,000 words in 30 days gets my butt in the chair like nothing else. I highly recommend it if for no other reason than to meet other local writers.

    • Lois Simenson on June 27, 2018 at 4:31 AM

      I read so many how-to books, blogs, attended tons of conferences and workshops, I became frozen in writing and revising. Confused myself. A trusted author friend advised me to pull back, turn off all the noise and trust myself to make choices, stop doubting my abilities and trust my gut, my heart and common sense. Soon as I did that, my critique group raved how much my writing improved.

  2. Michael Ross on June 26, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    I write from an outline. I start with something fairly general, an overall idea of where the narrative is going, and then plan out chapters. Recently I was influenced by Adriana Mather, author of “How to Hang a Witch”, listening to her speak at a writing conference, which you, Rachel, also attended. Her talk on how to build suspense was excellent. Having now also read her book, I can see how to apply what I learned. I do what works for me, and I don’t 100% stick to the outline – sometimes, characters suggest different avenues or events, or I see ways to advance the story and deepen the character that my original outline did not anticipate. However, I try hard to keep on course, and not allow too many side jaunts to creep in, to keep word count manageable.

  3. Connie Almony on June 26, 2018 at 7:03 AM

    Amen! Amen! Amen!
    I’ve had to step back from reading a lot of industry blogs over the past couple years due to family care needs so I haven’t read much lately. But today, I am reminded why I’d always loved your blog!!! THIS post is exactly the kind of thing that unleashes a writer to be all he/she can be instead of trapping them in a little box. I too often get frustrated reading blogs and books that swear THEIR way is the best because it is best for them. It was reading about Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method that kicked away my writer’s block and allowed my novels to pour forth and take shape on paper! I don’t plot exactly how his method says to, but knowing the key elements gave me tools I knew how to use. I am forever grateful to him.
    A few years ago, I was part of a Christian Romantic Suspense collection. To launch the collection, we had a Facebook party where readers could ask a question of the collection of authors and we would all give our DIFFERENT answers. It was astounding how different, and yet effective, we all were. I’m now part of a group of ten authors (MaryLu Tyndall, Ane Mulligan, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Hallee Bridgeman, Lynnette Bonner, Louise Gouge, Elisabeth Ludwig, Erica Vetsch) who have put together a writing book which will release this coming fall. Each of us have written chapters on the topics we love (i.e. research, characters, hooking readers, making them cry, POV, editing, etc.) and then we have chapters where all of us give OUR WAY of doing things that work for us (plotting, marketing). The great thing about this collection is that writers can read about many different ways to try out and see which works for them.
    We were all made differently with different skills, gifts and ways of processing (the Body of Christ!). One size does not fit all and God works differently (and personally)in each of us.

  4. Pat Iacuzzi on June 25, 2018 at 11:14 PM

    I follow J. S. Bell’s plot outline. (outlined on my own before I discovered it, but it really helps build the story). Fill in 2 or 3 chapter ideas for each plot point–and boom–done! I DO have to know the characters’ external/internal conflicts (quick outlines–D. Dixon’s GMC style) set ahead of time, and notes on Setting if it plays a strong role.
    Takes about a week, and I can jump right into the story. So I get a fast “order” in with all the trimmings, then sit and enjoy. Grab a cup of coffee (really!), and go back a chapter for a quick edit before going on. Also, definitely gotta write in long-hand first in a beautifully illustrated journal with Bible vs.
    I literally can almost write as fast as the thoughts comes along, as if they’re flowing. For some odd reason, that doesn’t happen when I’m staring at a blank screen.

  5. Tammy Karasek on June 25, 2018 at 2:34 PM

    Thank you for this one, Rachelle! Freedom! And (cough, cough) I was around for that little Burger King ditty!

  6. Allie McCormack on June 25, 2018 at 2:18 PM

    THAN YOU for this! I’m a confirmed pantser, I write scenes as they come to me, totally out of order, and place them on a rough timeline that creates itself as I write more. Then eventually a rough outline begins to unfold and I start “connecting the dots” between scenes. some small scenes may be “floaters” … I call these bit scenes, and I put them at the end of the timeline until I can figure out where they fit in. This style has worked well for me throughout 7 manuscripts. It does result in a breakdown somewhere between 45-60k (my target word count is usually 90-100k), where I have most of the main plot points written and go into a panic because I have NO idea how the pieces I have left to smooth out the plot will make it to 90k. This lasts about a week, suddenly I get on fire and the next thing you know I’m struggling to keep it under 100k! LOL. But it works for me!

    And OMG of course I remember that commercial! How fun of you to find it and post it for a trip down memory lane! I’d never have thought of looking for it LOL.

  7. Sherrey Meyer on June 25, 2018 at 2:00 PM

    I’ve always believed in listening to the advice of others, but then choosing my own path. So, thanks for using a familiar commercial to remind me I can do it “my way.”

  8. Robin Patchen on June 25, 2018 at 1:57 PM

    Great points, Rachelle. My way is to fumble my way through the first draft, first writing and then completely ignoring the outline, while constantly repeating the mantra, “You can’t edit a bank page, you can’t edit a blank page…” 😂

    You’re right on target with this post. I work with lots of authors, and they all have their own processes. None are right, none are wrong, and my authors write great books. My advice is always this: figure out what works for you and then trust your own process.

  9. Julie Weathers on June 25, 2018 at 1:16 PM

    I’m a chunk writer. I know it sounds really messy and confusing, but apparently, the boys in the back know what they’re doing. I’ll see a scene and write it not knowing where it’s going to fit in, but it’s so crystal clear I know it has a place so I write it. Somewhere down the road, the place opens up where it fits right in just like it was intended. I’ve learned not to question the boys when they hand me a scene.

    Since I’m also writing a carefully researched Civil War historical, I also have a timeline where characters and events have to kind of do what they’re supposed to do at a certain time. My female spy has to deliver the message to Bonham on July 16 because his troops are retreating from Fairfax the next morning. She can’t ride up on the 18th or she’d be delivering it to the Federal army. Facts are facts.

    Diana Gabaldon talks about a panel she was on where they discussed how they write. One author said you can’t be successful if you don’t outline and plan everything out. Diana listened patiently and then said she disagreed. She’s a chunk writer. When she starts a book, she has a vague idea of what might happen, but it never turns out the way she thinks it will.

    The outline author was aghast. “You can’t build a house unless you lay the foundation first. You have to plan!”

    “Why can’t I? This is fiction. It’s all in my head. If I see the roof first, I write the roof. The rest will fill in when it comes to me. There are no rules in writing. If it works it works.”

    The only rule I follow is, make it interesting.

    • Connie Almony on June 26, 2018 at 6:36 AM

      Oh my! Love this! It’s what I do (to some degree) but never had a name for it. I tend to write global to specific (sort of Snowflakey), but sometimes scenes fall out of the sky and need to be written down before the others. People can use the house foundation analogy, but I say you need to know where you’re going before you plot out your course. I have a STRONG idea of where I want the characters to go–the scenes that will have the most impact. I write them. Then I write the scenes that will get me there.

  10. Ian S Bott on June 24, 2018 at 9:49 AM

    Brilliant post, and it resonates so strongly. This is the message I’ve been putting out there to anyone who’ll listen for the past few years, but I’m only one small voice in a noisy world.

    When it comes to writing advice, all too often I see big name authors and industry professionals say “this is how it should be done” and “this is the best way to proceed”. The moment I see “must” or “should” or “best” or “don’t” or “never” in a piece of advice I grind my teeth because the unspoken corollary (at least to a nervous new writer hesitantly approaching the keyboard like it’s dusted with depleted uranium) is that “if you don’t use my method you will never be a good writer“.

    Which, of course, is pure snake oil, and extremely damaging. The only thing that matters is words on the page of publishable quality. How you get there is up to you and is nobody elses business. I love hearing advice and reading about how other writers approach their craft, but it’s all about trying things out and cherry-picking things that actually work for me. IMHO the only piece of advice that I ever espouse as actual advice is “do what works”.

  11. […] took time to find an approach that worked. Experiment to find what works for you and then modify it to align with your approach to storybuilding. But have a map — even at […]

  12. Need To Write Your Way? | allbettsareoff on September 26, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    […] If you were born much later than, say, 1970, then you may have missed that tasty morsel of a Burger King commercial. But for the rest of us, it lives on in our memories, no matter how desperately we try to excise it. Oh well, today it serves as a delicious metaphor for writers. Click here to read the rest of this helpful article. […]

  13. Managing Writing Advice on September 16, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    […] shared links to two others – Is Advice a Vice? published by Jael McHenry on September 2, and Have it Your Way, published on August 30 by Rachelle […]

  14. rebecca lacy on September 13, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    All of the above. It depends on what I’m writing and my mood.

  15. Damon Ferrell Marbut on September 12, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    I think this will help many nervous authors when it comes to process. Worrying that there’s a universal way to produce creative work chokes it, I think. I’ve been publishing my work now for ten years, and I just don’t subscribe to panic about something I’m going to continue doing, so I write when I’ve had time to consider where to go from a finished section. I think it out instead of sit in front of the screen and type curse words until some workable idea is born. And because I write in different genres (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), I have different processes for each type of project. A writer I know in Florida flipped out on me when I told him I didn’t sweat the process. “You have to write every day! You should be prolific! Write a series because you’ll sell more books!” His actual words. Sometimes people just yell in the mirror. Anyway, really solid post.

    Damon Ferrell Marbut

  16. Sharing the Wealth 09/06/2013 | Story Arcs on September 6, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    […] Gardner discusses doing it your way. Very true. There is no way to write, you pick up what works for you and drop what doesn’t. […]

  17. Friday Favorites | Stanalei Fletcher on September 6, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    […] Have It Your Way. From Rachelle Gardner: Read more… […]

  18. […] This is the literary agent Rachelle Gardner, in Have It Your Way. […]

  19. Michael Seese on September 4, 2013 at 4:29 AM

    Pantser. Definitely a pantser.

  20. Dan Erickson on September 3, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    My way is: I guess I’m a seat-of-my-pants kind of guy, kind of. I do my plotting in my head. I write for weeks at a time and then take long breaks, more weeks, and then take things back up. In my first book I edited as I went, but stopped that in my second book. I still have not seen much point in many notes, outlining, or software. Maybe if I were writing nonfiction. I just use Pages and write.

  21. Rammy on September 3, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    I plot how my book begins, the middle and the conclusion. What happens in between is usually up to the hero and his/her supporting cast. I do minor edits the next day and “major” edits when I have a few chapters to work with, sometimes changing things around. I think it’s whatever works for you, we’re all different. Thanks for your posts, love them.

  22. sunday L. Fwa on September 3, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    I am blessed, thank you Rachelle. Now i can depend on what i got inside to work it out.

  23. Neurotic Workaholic on September 2, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    I’d say I’m more of a pantser; I tried plotting and outlining stories before, but it never worked for me. And I like being surprised by lines that I wasn’t thinking of before; it’s also nice when a new character pops up all of a sudden and changes the story.

  24. Arvilla N on September 2, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Make mine a turkey burger and hold the pickles, please. I’ll eat it while i write by the seat of my pants.

  25. Peter DeHaan on September 2, 2013 at 4:33 AM

    I edit as I go. I call myself an “iteration writer.” (I have a blog post in queue about this.) I also work from a plan (Is there any other way?)

    Though it scares me, sometime I’ll do NaNoWriMo but not this year; I have too many other things to write first.

    Thanks for an interesting post. Just as we have different writing styles and voices, we also have different writing processes. Variety is a beautiful thing!

  26. Celia Jolley on September 1, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I don’t know what I think until I write it. I’m imagination led because writing stays fun and full of surprises that way. Off-topic question: we are supposed to build a platform to impress publishers. My daily blog has been receiving international attention, from spiders, those searchers looking for access to information. I would imagine, the bigger the blog, the more spiders are out there crawling or trolling on it, so how do we determine our true readership?

  27. Michelle McGill Vargas on September 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    I loved this post! I thought I was a pantser, but then I heard another writer use the term “binger”, someone who marinates on a story for a long time before writing it down. I like learning how other people write and if it works for me, then I try it. Thank you for this post and for including the Snowflake method. Sounds interesting!

  28. […] Have it Your Way […]

  29. Lize Kreuser on August 31, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    I like Hilary Mantel’s way of writing a novel – when I read her tips on novel writing, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, for that is how I write too: randomly, not structured or chronological at first, but keeping the ‘feel’ of the novel true and open-ended, yet paying close attention to detail in each sentence, each paragraph. Until the time comes to put it all together. Wonderful to feel validated by such a great writer!

  30. Mare Ball on August 31, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    This is interesting. I’ve read things that say ‘unless you do such-and-such’, publishers won’t even look at your work. Then others, like this post, say, ‘there’s no one way.’ It can be confusing. I think the bottom line is writing from the heart – what seems right for YOU is what you have to do. Maybe you’ll never be published, and I think you have to be OK with that.

    • Carol McKenzie on August 31, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      This isn’t about what publishers are looking for, it’s about the method by which you give publishers something to look at. There is a difference. Publishers don’t care if you pants or plot, use Scrivener or the Snowflake Method. Those are all the tricks and tools WE have to produce a salable manuscript for those publishers.

  31. Barbara McDowell Whitt on August 31, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    Rachelle, thank you for the link to Randy Ingermanson’s post, “The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel” on his Advanced Fiction Writing site. So… what’s my way? From now on I will craft my first draft based on Randy’s method.

    Randy Ingermanson: “There is no reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150. Counting the 100 hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time.”

    There is no question or surprise that lines between fiction writing and memoir production are coming together under one umbrella. I plan to use aspects of Randy’s suggestions as I work on my memoir project.

  32. Karen Clayton on August 31, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I write differently for each project. I don’t know why, but I just do. I guess each story wants to come out a little differently than the one before. Usually I am more of a fly by the seat of my pants gal, but not always. With my middle grade novel, Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers, I was more of a plotter. I agree with you – you have to find what method works best for you and sometimes what method works best for your project.

  33. Mark Kennard on August 31, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Outline. Work. Rework. Rework. Rework…etc.

  34. Mandi Barber on August 31, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    I do a lot more planning now than I used to. I was a huge pantser for a long time, who edited as I went.

    Then I realized that all of that was slowing me down. Now I do a lot of planning. I start with characters and world building, then a basic outline – inciting incident, point of no return, climactic confrontation. There are usually a few more outlines after that, getting more and more detailed (this is where I pin down subplots and figure out what supporting characters I’ll need).

    The last step before staring the first draft is a prewrite. It’s no more than a quarter of the length I expect the novel to be, and ends up like a sort of rambling summary. All the plot points are in there, as well as any scenes that are already bugging me (so I don’t lose them). It helps me see major plot holes that need fixing and plot points that need to be set up in advance.

    I also don’t let myself edit as I go anymore (barring typos I catch). I ordinarily don’t let myself reread any more than one page of what I’d previously written, either.

    When it comes to editing, I take it in small chunks. A big problem with my old method was that I would take one chapter and try to fix everything all at once. Now I go straight through the manuscript multiple times. Once to cut out unnecessary scenes and mark (but not fix just yet) scenes that need to be changed or added. Once to address my notes. Once with an eye to character arcs. Once with an eye to imagery. And so on. Small steps let me feel accomplished every time I finish a revision (every week or two). Otherwise it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels.

    • Michelle McGill Vargas on September 1, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      I wrote the same on my first manuscript, pantsing my way through. And it did slow me down, but that was the method I was comfortable with at the time. I do a lot of research because I’m new to writing and I’m trying out different methods. I find myself using bits and pieces of something I learned on a blog or a workshop and apply it that way. I think I’ll try out this Snowflake method. Sounds interesting.

  35. Camille Eide on August 31, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Rachelle, thank you SOOOOO much for getting that jingle stuck in my head. And for making me crave a whopper, since I’m now a vegan. I know where we’re taking you for your birthday dinner. 🙂

    This reminds me that my right way isn’t another’s right way, and to be careful giving writing advice. Those creative types can be easily discouraged, or so I’ve heard. 🙂

  36. Lenore Buth on August 31, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    I write nonfiction, but the same principles apply, at least for me. I’ve tried outlining, but the most I can manage is a few subthemes. Invariably, what I end up with is not quite what I started out to write. Sometimes there’s no resemblance at all. Guess that makes me a pantser. After years of trying to live up to all the “shoulds,” I’m okay with this.

    These days my purpose and my prayer is that what I write will bless at least one reader’s life and/or be useful in some way.

  37. Carradee on August 31, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    This is so true. I’ve seen many writers attempt to apply advice intended for other genres or styles than what they write, and the end result is usually problematic.

    The tricky thing is that “Your way” for one project or narrator might not be “Your way” for another…

  38. Carol McKenzie on August 31, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    I’ve come to a place where my writing is like making a little black dress. I know the basics: fabric, size, cut. Then I go back, add bits here and there, take some away, check for fit once in awhile. Adjust the hem.

    And then, the fun part, I go back through and add the embellishments, the little parts that make it perfect. Pretty buttons, necklace, earrings…lipstick and perfume.

    And then, as with the classic fashion advice given by Coco Chanel: “…stop, look in the mirror, and remove one piece of jewelry.” I go back through and edit, taking out extra words and any meandering sentences.

  39. Jan Cline on August 31, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    I’m still finding my way. After being a panster for a long time I’ve discovered I need to plot at least some of the book. Truthfully, I’m not sure I will ever stick to just one way of novel writing. I’m too fickle and tend to write where, how and when I feel like at the moment. Sounds sort of undisciplined, and maybe it is. I appreciate your encouragement…we can give ourselves permission to do it our way.

  40. Connie Almony on August 31, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    Oh, so true! I LOVE the Snowflake method. I am what Mr. Ingermansen would call a top-down thinker–intuitive. I’d call it global to specific. I don’t even write my scenes in order. I can’t make early scenes work as well sometimes, unitl I have a greater handle on the later ones. I don’t think I could have completed a novel had I not done it this way. However, when I tried to recommend this style to others, they didn’t always get it. I use both The Snowflake software and Scrivener. Both are great but for different reasons. Snowflake helps me dig deeper from my global perch. Scrivener helps me visually map out the order. I love the corkboard!

  41. Susan Illene on August 31, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    I have the basic storyline and highlights in my head before I start. Not much is actually written down except character profiles for those I know ahead of time will be in the story. After I’m a few chapters in, I’ll do a rough chapter outline, but allow myself to adjust it as needed during the writing process. I do edit as I go, but I’m one of those people that has a hard time ignoring necessary changes to earlier parts of the novel. It will bug me and make it difficult to keep moving forward until I fix it. I do agree everyone has to do what works best for them. Writing isn’t an exact science!

  42. Caryl on August 31, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    A group of pantser friends and I get together online several times a week to “sprint” — we actually set a timer and write madly for (usually) half an hour, then compare word counts. In between sprints, we hash out plot points and character motivations, encourage each other through despair, and even gossip a bit. At the end of the day, even if the words aren’t all usable, we’ve found that having a short-term goal and someone to cheer us on (and compete with) helps get our brains in gear and pushes us to keep going.

  43. missamya on August 30, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    For me, every project is different, but the more I write, the more firmly I believe that while editing and writing are both fun, they ate best done separately. With my most recent novel, I’ve been using Write or Die and I love it because it lets me disable backspace until I’ve reached my word count goal for the evening. This makes fitting writing into my routine much more do-able and it means I’ll have a draft I can revise that much sooner. I think a lot of us let our perfectionistic tendencies interfere with our writing. Anything that helps put the focus on output during the initial stage gives me a lot of freedom to take risks and let myself go.

  44. Julie Luek on August 30, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Perfect advice. Resonates with me. Sometimes I think if I read one more article listing the three keys…five points…ten rules to remember, I’ll snap all my pencils (gasp). I realize there is some great advice out there (why recreate the wheel if you don’t have to?), but it can get ridiculous. At some point you have to take it in and begin to write the way that suits your heart and style.

  45. Nicola Smith on August 30, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    Well, my way has kind of evolved as I’m going about writing my first novel. I thought I was a pantster, then discovered I’d got a 30-page document of notes I’d written to myself about the book and its sequel. Not sure I’m a true plotter, but I do have a basic plot outline to start with. I think about my story at all times, at odd times, at inappropriate times, and the best time for me to write is whenever I can get a clear hour or two of ‘uninterrupted’ time (time in which I can legitimately tell everyone else to get lost). I do need quiet. No writing with the TV on or people chatting on the phone. I am learning to HATE all those rules you have to follow to be a good writer because I’m always not doing something someone thinks I should be doing.

    • missamya on August 30, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      Rules stink. If we wanted to follow rules, we could just stick with the real world and forget about fiction.

      • Nicola Smith on August 31, 2013 at 7:25 AM

        Exactly! But the trouble is, they often hit you right in the self doubt, particularly if it’s a writer you admire.

  46. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on August 30, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Definitely a Pantster. My stories never go where I originally thought they would – the characters pick up the tale and run, and I just follow along, taking notes.

    I don’t think I could work from an outline – as the characters grow, there are many ways in which they develop that I could never predict.

    One thing I do plot – about 75% of the way through, I write the ending, so the story arc has a definite terminus.

    I usually write at night, listening to Christian thrash metal. It’s my most creative time, and the dogs are asleep. Well, mostly. My ‘office’ is a laptop sitting on a tray table in the living room…and there are eleven dogs (some in crates, some not) in the room with me. (Skype? I think not…)

    And I remember the Burger King ads. All too well.


    • Lynda Lee on September 2, 2013 at 1:09 AM

      Christian thrash metal? Sounds brutal. ;0

  47. josie downey on August 30, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    panster who writes horrible first drafts I edit. I just find plotting too boring.

    • missamya on August 30, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      If only the plot could just add itself in 😉 I can’t stand outlining or pre-writing.

  48. Carla Laureano on August 30, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Love this, Rachelle. For a long time, I tried to shoehorn myself into someone else’s way of writing in the interest of becoming more efficient. I finally just reconciled myself to the fact that I’m a pantser who likes to write in successive drafts. I’ll have as many as eight between the initial idea and submitting to my editor… but I have actually found that it takes me less time to write this way, and the quality of my work is better.

    Scrivener has been a godsend for me. Talk about making the rewriting process less painful!

  49. Peggotty on August 30, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Call me a planter. I gather about forty large index cards that represent chapters. I have a rough idea of what type of action needs to happen when and I begin plugging in scenes I want. I change them as I go, moving them up or back, or removing them. So, a rough and ready outline for me and lots of adventure along the road.

  50. Jodi Milner on August 30, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    The more I write the more my style has changed. I used to think there was a set way to do it, write an outline, flesh it out, rinse and repeat. Now I’ve learned more about how my process works and heaven knows in five years that might change again!

  51. Jessie Mullins on August 30, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    I’m one of those Pansters! I usually start with an idea or feeling or picture and kind of build it with notes in a notebook. From there I use the NaNoWriMo method and just let it all loose as quickly as I can. Next comes the fun and terrifying Slasher Phase. Much like a slasher film, I take everyone and everything and rip it all to shreds! This is where I use sticky notes to bring it all together and go through horrendous revisions. I’m learning Scrivener right now to see how I like that.

    • missamya on August 30, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      Slasher phase! LOL I’m stealing that.

      • Jessie Mullins on August 30, 2013 at 7:59 PM

        Hehe. Go for it!

  52. terryberriest on August 30, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Thanks for giving me permission to avoid critique groups. I’ve been part of them before, and the conflicting comments often just confuse me. Right now, I have one avid reader looking over my manuscript. She and I like similar books, so I think she’ll be a good source of criticism.

    I do remember that Burger King commercial. Years after it first aired, when I was in high school, I took a job at BK and learned a few things about human nature. Writing is so much more fun than dealing with hungry people who want it hot and want it now!

    • josie downey on August 30, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      I agree with you that it’s best to have only a few critique partners. People you know you can trust. I found that my manuscript would get pulled in so many directions. I have also found a paid critique by a professional is well worth it to.

    • missamya on August 30, 2013 at 6:02 PM

      Good readers are often the most helpful; they also seem to be more consistent than critique partners. It seems like critique groups usually provide more moral support than anything else. Workshops can be helpful. That limited time period seems to put people on their best behavior 😉

  53. Cecelia Dowdy on August 30, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I’ve never used writing software. I’m more of a plotter than a pantser.

  54. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on August 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    I’m a “pantster.” I know important plot points my characters really well, but I figure out the rest as I write. At first, I wrote as a hobby in the evenings after my children were asleep. But I’ve adjusted my routine as I’m trying to become a professional writer. Now, I write when I’m inspired–and I’m learning to be inspired 9-3. 😉

  55. LynnRodz on August 30, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    I agree, there is no one way to work on your novel. I knew exactly how my WIP would end, but I had nothing else when I started. I began to work backwards up to a certain point, then I jumped to the beginning and finally wrote the middle. The first draft was done in 6 weeks, no outlines, no planning, no revisions, etc. I just wrote. That was the fun/not so fun, easy/hard part.

    Whereas many writers have to pare down from their first draft, I had at 60,000 words, only the bones with little meat. Almost two years later, and twelve thousand more words, I’m still doing revisions, but I’m beginning to see that light at the end of the tunnel coming into view.

  56. Ty Strange on August 30, 2013 at 12:23 AM

    Very quickly, after only a few articles, it became apparent to me that a writer’s method for getting their story down on paper reflected a unique and personal journey, unlikely to conform to another’s experience. How you plan your day, your vacations, your life in general is probably a better guide in how to write your novel. For me, I like to plan just enough to get things started, say for instance develop the protagonist and antagonist, then pit them against one another, and see where the story goes from there. This allows some structure, a launch pad, to unleash the creative side of the story teller in me. Additionally, I do enjoy performing some editing after I finish a chapter, for it allows me to see themes or hidden ideas I didn’t think about when I initially wrote it, and that often carries into the next chapter, or even a few chapters further along. Oddly enough, this process is similar to the one I use when developing software solutions; again, what you do in your life is probably a good starting point in getting your novel going.