As a pantser (someone who writes without an outline, outside of a rough idea of where the story might be going), I've always envied plotters (someone who actually knows where the story is going before they begin to write it).
To put it in real-world terms, the pantser is the equivalent of someone who gets in the car and drives, looking for signs along the way to get to their ultimate destination. It can be a lot of fun, because you’re open to discovering all sorts of unexpected people and places along the way. But you can also get stuck in a town you don’t want to visit (sometimes called Writer’s Block) or get completely off track with nothing much to show for the experience (also known as the blank page).
The plotter, on the other hand, is armed with a GPS (and probably a paper road map as a backup). Maybe a little less adventurous than the pantser, but far more likely to reach their destination without incident—though I expect that even the most diligent plotters make the occasional U-turn as their story unfolds.
Even pantsers, though, have to start with a premise. When I started writing The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin mystery series, I had a single idea: What if a big city developer came to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street? I’d seen firsthand how big box development could hurt small independent shops, but would someone be willing to kill over it? In real life, I certainly hope not, but in my fictional town of Lount’s Landing, you betcha.
The idea for Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville mystery series, came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer’s office. In fact, the opening scenes of the book are culled directly from that experience. [Let that be your takeaway from this: everything that happens in a writer's life may end up in one of their stories.]
As for the premise, I started thinking: What if I was there to inherit something? A house? A house I didn’t know existed? What would the catch be (there’s always a catch)? By the time our lawyer arrived, late from court, I knew I had my story. Or at least, the beginning of a story.
My most recent novel, A Hole in One, book two in the Glass Dolphin mystery series, is scheduled for release Spring 2018. While I’m not going to spoil “the launch” with a lot of details, suffice it to say that I’m a golfer with a wicked imagination.
Will I ever become I plotter instead of a pantser? Maybe one day. For now, I’m happy to take a premise and see where it leads me. After all, enjoying the journey is the greatest part of being a writer, no matter how you get there.