HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It’s like—thick crust or thin? Pie or cake? Letterman or Leno? (Kind of.) Almonds or plain? Everyone has an absolute preference. Plotter or pantser? Every writer has had the conversation a blue million times—and we could all have it another blue million. Because it’s all about how a writer’s brain works. And, as we know, that’s constantly surprising, endlessly changing, and never predictable.
So hurray for the fabulous Judy Penz Sheluk—who pantsed her way to her debut novel!
Brainstorming like a Panster
Do plotters brainstorm? I’m assuming that they do, and during the process, they probably take notes or draw up diagrams—a roadmap, if you will, that takes them from Chapter 1 to the last satisfying sentence.
Life isn’t quite as structured for us pantsers. Oh sure, we brainstorm ideas, but we tend to do it “on the go.” Think of it this way: Your destination is a town called The End. The plotter dutifully checks their roadmap, plugs in all the info into a GPS, just to be on the safe side, and in some cases, even prints off street-by-street instructions before setting off. It’s efficient and they’re bound to get to The End without getting lost.
The pantser, on the other hand, just hops in the car with only a vague idea of where The End is, and they’re not entirely sure how they’re going to get there. That, you see, is half the fun of the journey. True, they might go off course, but sometimes, those detours take them to places they never dreamed possible.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a pantser. It’s not that I don’t admire plotters—I do, and even tried to become one. I went so far as to take an online course on plotting.
Came up with a dandy outline for my latest book, Skeletons in the Attic. There was just one problem. By chapter eight, I really wanted to take a detour. For a while, I ignored that inner voice and kept on plodding along, every paragraph written coated in concrete.
I’m not sure at exactly what point I tossed the outline and went back to pantsing, but I do remember the feeling of liberation that came when I did. I honestly wanted to run out into the street yelling, “I’m free!!!” but of course, I didn’t. My neighbors already view me with a modicum of suspicion. What sort of person writes murder mysteries?
I suspect my dislike of plotting stems from what I view as the confinement of it—although I’m sure even plotters deviate from their outline on occasion. But a lengthy career in the corporate world as a Credit & Collections Manager (among other things) left me craving a life where I didn’t have to work 9 to 5. And an outline, to me, is like being forced to work 9-5 again.
That doesn’t mean I don’t put in the hours, varied as they might be. When I’m working on a book, I aim for a chapter a day, and I always try to leave a hook at the end, so I’ll want to come back and write the next day. Some days, that chapter flows, and some days, every word is hard fought. But then I look around my home office, painted a beautiful Philipsburg Blue (thank you Benjamin Moore), and I know I’m going to get to that town called The End. In my way, on my terms. It doesn’t get any better than that.
HANK: With ya, sister! I love THE END, and you know—I almost love almost being at the end. That excruciatingly great moment when you can feel it coming.
Judy’s book features a psychic—wouldn’t that be nice to know how your book ends? And hey Reds, have you ever been to a psychic? Tell all!
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
Pre-order Skeletons in the Attic: http://www.imajinbooks.com/skeletons-in-the-attic
Judy Penz Sheluk escaped the corporate world in 2003 and settled into her new life as a freelance writer and editor. Her debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, will be published August 21, 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.