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If you’ve been around writing long enough, you know all about the labels of plotters and pansters. Some of you proudly embrace your title. Others refuse to be categorized as either. Some lucky ones have figured out how to be both!

Perhaps you’re all about plotting. You have the major turning points laid out, the chapters titled and organized for maximum impact. You’ve completed character wheels for every character, including the baddie…

control-427512_640Look at that outline, all neat ‘n tidy. If I sound snarky, it’s just because I’m jealous…


Or maybe you’ve accepted that will never be your style. You have to write organically. You need to write the story to know the story. Your characters have to show you the way, so you jump without a parachute…




Okay, so I couldn’t find someone jumping without a parachute. Probably a good thing, anyway…

It’s a no-brainer where I fall. Yup, my brain lives in pantserville.

I’ve fought the pull of plotters. I’ve lived in mad envy of a well-oiled story. I’ve beat myself up for failing to plot one too many times.

So last week while on Sabbatical, I dove into my failed NaNo novel, Drift. I’d finished the first quarter of the book, right up to the first turning point, but was stalled on the mid-section of the book. I have tried everything to plot this story…

1. I outlined.

a. I figured out the major turning points or disasters.

b. I wrote them down.

c. I didn’t know what came next.

2. I created a Excell spreadsheet listing every chapter with summary.

a. Well, every chapter up to the first turning point. Then I got lost because…

b. I didn’t know what came next.

3.  I gave up and pretended not to worry about plot structure at all, believing it will all work out in the end.

a. I wrote some stuff.

b. I still didn’t know what came next.

4. I heaved a BIG SIGH

I’m not sure if it was the Sabbatical (which entailed a break from my computer for writing as well as for social media) or if I stumbled on an unused part of my brain, but for some reason, I finally figured out how to plot!


yeah, me!

Now, to get back to the subject at hand (pun intended). As I said, I was stalled. I knew the major turning points, but what to do with all that stuff that goes in between?! Since I was going old-school, I took a piece of paper, wrote the turning point scene at the top and left it blank. Then it hit me – I knew what should come right before and right after that point. Out came more paper – each noted with basic information on top and left blank.

I continued this way until a full scene materialized. So, seeing as I already had a blank piece of paper and pen in hand, I wrote that scene. This led to the next and the next, and well, within the span of an hour or so, I had the middle and end of Drift plotted.

I’m not sure why this worked for me and why I couldn’t simply draft an outline like most able-bodied writers can. Something about physically seeing the chapters as separate pieces of paper clicked. And, as a side benefit – I was able to insert transitional chapters or move some around…


Just think. All this goodness happened without staring at a computer screen. Lucky me!

And so, for those of you who roll up your pants and wade in, only to find yourself stuck mid-way through, I encourage you to give the Sue-thingy (that’s a real term – you can Google it) a go. You never know. Might work for you, too.

I wish you all the best!







13 thoughts on “A Plot for Panster-Sue…

  1. My method is similar, I think… A coworker suggested I use notecards to keep track of my plot, so I bought a couple packs and organize each note card as a chapter with a one-line description of what’s supposed to happen, then on the opposite side I note bits of information that need to come out during that chapter. Any actual writing is on the computer. This lets me be both organic and a plotter, because I can always shuffle a note card around or just toss it aside if things don’t work out – OR – I insert a note card if I feel like I need to add a chapter somewhere.


    1. I love notecards too. I also put info about who is in the scene, time of day, weather and location. You’d be surprised if how many chapters start at the beginning or end of the day! I’m trying to cut down some computer time (i stare at one all day at my “real” job). Using paper instead of notecards allows me to write a scene if an idea strikes! Either work well though! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it Love it Love it!
    BTW~ I opened this post and thought you must be visiting my son’s fraternity…they do love their socks!
    I’m parading my Nano in a snippet tomorrow. Another little chapter polished up–as compared to how my Pantser self wrote the mess in November
    My “Biggie” is mixing tenses. So I think I’m gonna try the patented Sue-Thingy to shape up the chapters I’m stuck on. I keep writing a few in present while the majority is in past tense. So far the “method” has been “ignore it until I absolutely have to fix it” or the “Kassie-Thingy” as I shall call it.


  3. I’m going without the parachute thing for my first book (woking name “At First Sight”) and I feel lost at times… while I seriously started to doubt myself, one morning in the middle of my jog I got this kick ass idea of a second novel, that speaks volumes of my kinda thing!!! And I have it all planned out… lol! Now I’m scared to work on the fist one so as not to forget the stuff about second but at the same time I wanna complete the first one as I have a basic plot ready (but no solid points.)
    So now I’m taking a break! I’m getting weirdly scared now… What should I do?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems like jotting down all your ideas about the second one is a good idea- then maybe you can do the same with the first. I write down ideas, things to change or add, that way I do t have to keep so much in my head. I usually get through the first half of my story without a plot just fine. It’s when I’m trying to pull it all together for the grand finale that I get frustrated. First books seem like the toughest. We have these expectations that can be hard to manage. I might suggest you write some notes on general scenes and things you know should happen and then let the words flow. When I get scared it’s because I’m freaking myself out, putting too much pressure on my book. Relax, breathe and write. Know your first draft is going to be messy and full of plot holes. That’s what editing is for! I


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