Monday, September 16, 2013

Guest Post: 'What Kind of Writer Are You?' by Silver James

What Kind of Writer Are You?

We've all heard, and probably joined in the debate, about pantsers vs. plotters. Do you outline before you sit down to write your novel, or do you sit down at the computer each day, waiting to be surprised, writing your book literally by the seat of your pants? Or are you a combination of the two? Plotser is a term I've heard bandied about to describe that unholy marriage of the two.

I had decided I was sort of, kinda maybe, a plotser. I know my main characters inside and out because I spend a lot of time getting to know them before the plot and setting gel. Usually. Sometimes, I get the idea for a plot and then go in search of characters to make it work. (Why are there a whole bunch of incomplete WIPs that I started that way? *scratches head*) But I digress. So, there I am, with characters in hand, the beginnings of their story, and a vague idea of where it’s going to end up. I sit down at the computer, open a blank document, type Chapter One, and start typing. The story usually unfolds organically, in a systematic way from Point A to Point B to Point C etcetera, etcetera, etcetera until I type The End. Usually is the operative word there.

Sometimes, a scene bursts into my imagination like skyrockets on the 4th of July. The action unfolds like a Technicolor movie or I eavesdrop on a conversation that snaps and sizzles, the character unaware I’m there. Unfortunately, I seldom know where to put this stuff. So I make a note of it, and once upon a time, stuck it on my white board, hoping one, I remembered it was there, and two, I found a place to incorporate it in my story. That was before Scrivener. I’ll do a Scrivener post for B.E. one of these days.

Then came my second National Novel Writing Month. The month started with the death of my mother, the death of my best friend's father (in the same week), and a lightning-fast road trip right after Thanksgiving to California to help my friend close out his father’s house and estate. Have I mentioned that I'm competitive? Like REALLY competitive? I sat down to write the novel with every intention of starting at the beginning and working through to the end. Yeah. Right. What's that saying about best laid plans?

I was bound and determined to get my 50K written so I started jumping scenes. I wrote what seemed promising, what Iffy, my Muse, decided might be intriguing to the story. I left *** notations to mark where I needed research. I finished the month with 50,134 words. And a manuscript that stinks, is a jumbled mess of scenes dumped out helter-skelter like puzzle pieces. I haven't touched it in four years. That's about to change. That manuscript is the second novel in my Penumbra Papers series that just debuted with the novella, THAT OL’ BLACK MAGIC.

What’s changed is that I’ve discovered I’m a Puzzler. For me, writing is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are there—characters, plot, world-building, dialogue, plot, descriptions. It’s up to me to fit them all together until the whole picture emerges.

I used to work puzzles back when I actually had free time. LOL I’d have a row of edge pieces. I’d have a corner section that radiated out part way. But mostly, I had clumps of pieces that fit together and eventually, all those clumps joined together to make the puzzle whole. Writers who “frame” their puzzle/book with all the edge pieces are plotters. Pantsers start with that corner and fans out, following whatever direction the story takes them. And then there’s me. The Puzzler. I somehow manage to take all those clumps/scenes and get them into a cohesive whole by the time I hit The End.

This was definitely true with my latest book. I had more pages in my Unused Scenes folder on Scrivener than I had chapters. Luckily, they all came together and THAT OL’ BLACK MAGIC came to life. The world  and characters of The Penumbra Papers is near and dear to my heart. This is a series I’ve nurtured for almost ten years now, though it didn’t really come together until recently. And now that I know I write “organically” as a puzzler, the process is so much easier.

What about you? What kind of writer are you? Do you piece together the outside edges first? Do you start at one point and work your way out? Or are you like me, a puzzler with clumps of ideas and scenes spread from one end of the computer to the other? ;)

If you’re interested in checking out the new series, you can buy THAT OL’ BLACK MAGIC at

Silver likes to walk on the dark side and coffee. Okay. She loves coffee. LOTS of coffee. Warning: Her Muse, Iffy, runs with scissors and can be quite dangerous. She's the author of the award-winning Moonstruck series and other books, including a new series, The Penumbra Papers, coming Fall 2013. She's been a military officer's wife, mother, state appellate court marshal, airport rescue firefighter and forensic fire photographer, crime analyst, technical crime scene investigator, and writer of magic and mystery. Now retired from the "real world," she lives in Oklahoma and spends her days at the computer with two Newfoundland dogs, the cat who rules them all, and myriad characters all clamoring for attention. She writes dark paranormal thrillers, time travel romance, and light contemporary with a kiss of suspense. Want to know more? Visit her at


  1. I love reading about the processes of others...and I love that you've named yours puzzler!

    I am plotter...once in a while something will really surprise me and change the plot...but then I plot it all again from that point, lol.

    1. We all manage to find our way from Chapter 1 to The End, J.B.! Luckily. LOL

  2. I'm somewhere between puzzler and pantser. I have some ideas going in, but a lot of things still catch me off guard as I get to them (outlines are NOT my thing).

    So a pazzler?

    1. Pazzler! Love it, Kelsey. :) I'm really a combination. I know Point A and I know Point Z (The End). How I get there is always interesting, though. I've been writing along and had a character spring something totally unexpected on me, regarding his backstory, and I'm left sitting there going...Wait?!? What!?!

  3. I'm a pantser, through and through. I tried plotting. Didn't work. Puzzles? Uh, no. I know how I want the story to begin and a vague idea of how it should end. Everything inbetween? I let my characters tell me (it's how I get to know them), but it has to happen linearly (is that a word?). Events that happen early in the story will affect their reactions later on.

    1. I tend to write that way too, Stacy, when I'm lucky. But I've learned that the characters, my Muse, and my subconscious often know things I don't so they toss out these clusters. And darn if they don't fit when it's all said and done. :)

  4. I always enjoy learning of other author's writing process. Never heard of being a puzzler, though it makes sense. Can't believe you wrote so much in November when you were going through so much.


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