Word problem!


The more I wrote the previous post on plotting and pantstering, the more confused I became about the spelling. I have checked several sources online, urban dictionary has gone with two T’s, but when others have used it in blog posts etc, it is with one T.

Or, since it is a sort of made up word, is the second one better? The more I say it, the more the second one sounds correct.

Is it PANTSTER as in, writing by the seat of my pants?

Which looks very clunky and clumsy.


It should be the first one surely?

Any opinion?

One T or two T’s?



Plotter, pantster, or something else?

Plotter (2)


If you are a serious writer, which I must be as I bought a pack of coloured biros, and serious writers need them, you will have worked out whether you are a plotter or a pantster.

Actually, you might not have worked it out, but you surely have come across those terms by now. Plotters plot, and pantsters pant. Well no, pantsters just have a germ of an idea, some great characters and then they see what happens when they let them loose.

Plotters spend ages and ages and ages buying lots of pretty stationary, (remember the coloured biros), and little notecards or post-its, or use Scrivener, or print out a beat sheet that works for genre. They spend hours and hours working through their plot, they know their characters inside out, they know what their inciting moment is going to be, they know their lowest point, they know how they are getting from A to B, and then to C, D, E, etc

Pantsters don’t need to do any of that, as long as they know their characters inside out, and the ‘what’ part of their story. Their one line sentence – its about a girl who went in search of her birth mother. Or, its about a man who wanted revenge on an ex-girlfriend. Something. They need to know what their book is about, the setting, the start and the moment it is all going to kick off. Then they can let their characters lead them on the trip of a lifetime.

So long as you know which type of writer you are, all is well with the world. Plotters have confidence in their well thought out plot, and presumably they have read numerous self-help writing books on plotting and beats and the three Act story/film/play.

My favourite book on plotting has to be Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. Once read, never forgotten.

Pantsters have confidence in their ability to let their characters lead them. If the plot gets stuck, don’t panic, ask a few ‘what if’ questions, see what gets your creative juices going, and then set off again.


Neither way is perfect, both ways you still have to edit, and as we all know a first draft is still just a first draft. Just get it done.

And then there’s me. Neither one nor the other.

I must be that breed betwixt and between a plotter and a pantster; something organic. I shall call myself a PLANSTER.  Do you like that? Organic, plants?

I get these great ideas for a story, or maybe just a scene arrives in my head, probably sparked off by something I’ve seen, or read about and I have to get it down.

Which is a bit of a pantster I suppose.

But then I do like to try plotting out where I think I’m going. I like coloured biros, I like coordinated note cards and post-it notes, I like the cork board thingy on Scrivener and I’ve read Save The Cat.


I like to take my idea. Find my characters. Get a notebook and start scrawling everything down, and then I start to plot. Generally with physical bits of paper and card, strewn all over the table. Actually no, laid out in lines across the table, with Act 1, on the first card. Then I move along until I get to the end of the row and I label it ‘inciting moment’. Generally I know what is happening here. The rest of the row is a blank.

Second row is the same. Act 2, all the way across to the last card which is the turning point. Generally I have this scene in my head, and I write it down.The rest of the row might have a few notes, but generally blank.

Third row, exactly the same, blank, blank, blankety blank, all the way across to the last card which is the lowest point. I definitely know what happens here, the scene has rolled out in my brain so many times I could get an Oscar for it.

Last row, I tend to know a lot of what is happening, mostly. I know the last scene, (the opposite of the first scene to keep it balanced), I’ve thought of plenty of plot twists and loose ends and all sorts of things that will have to go into this bit.

But here’s the thing. There’s an awful lot of blanks in this book when I am plotting. A lot.

So I have plotted the basic framework. I know what the book is about. I know my characters, I have  interviewed them, made up a mood board, collected photographs etc for inspiration. I have my setting, and I have my major scenes written, (in my head).  But I just haven’t got completely from A to b to C etc. More like jumping on the tube and going straight to the last station.


My story grows in my head as I think about it. Over the weeks and months it takes to write the book, scenes pop up in my brain, and I write them down. I do not write in a linear fashion, in a straight line. I go where I am led. When I get inspired I write it down quick.  It grows organically.

Ideas come to me the more time I spend on the project, and as I get more and more scenes written, more and more naturally lead to the next part. But I have no problem writing the story backwards, forwards, missing bits out and coming back. It works for me.

Its like someone throws a bit more Baby Bio, or organic compost on this tiny little plant, and then it just mushrooms, growing roots, branches, flowers and fruit as it develops.

The plant supports are there, its firm structure is there, it just grows to fill its space.

I know the ‘what’ of the book. But the little bits will arrive, bit by bit.

So, what sort of writer are you?

Plotter, a pantster or … an organic, let it grow as you go, plantser?


The Other Side of the Wall – by Andrea Mara – Book Review

Now, it could be entirely true that I am biased when writing a gushing book review for Andrea Mara’s debut psychological thriller, we are in the same creative writing group; but, I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and believe you will be too.

In her gripping debut, The Other Side of the Wall, Andrea has managed to weave a tale of suburban terror that creeps up on you so slowly, builds, then throws you off in a way you never expected. You hardly know what’s coming next, it’s like taking a roller coaster ride, blindfolded.

The opening pages are about Sylvia, a young working mother, who is up in the night and more than a bit sleep deprived. She thinks she sees the body of a child in the pond next door. But by the time she gets downstairs and outside to investigate, the body, if in fact it was ever there, has vanished. Is she seeing things? Is she stressed from her demanding job and a new baby? Did it actually happen, because if it did, who was the child and who murdered her?

As a reader you make all kind of assumptions about where the story is going to lead you, who is essentially ‘good’, and who is the ‘baddie’, but don’t make assumptions about anything. The twists and turns of this debut novel will have you glued to the book, and if you actually do guess correctly about the why’s and wherefore’s about the child (or not) in the pond, then you are far cleverer than I am.

But stop trying to guess. Just enjoy the book, and let it scare you just a little bit more. And remember to lock your door at night!

Well done Andrea Mara on an amazing debut, and I look forward with interest to her next novel sometime in the future.

Is there a dead body in your novel? – 5 resources to help you to be authentic in your romance writing.


One minute I was writing about a romance, the next a dead body fell out of a wardrobe!

That’s the trouble when you are a pantster, rather than a plotter – the unexpected happens. My characters were misbehaving!

What started out for me as just a romance, was taken over by a mystery – the heroines’ mother had disappeared when she was young. It did not start out as a murder investigation, just a plot hole, and the more back story I wrote, the more things kept happening, and now, unfortunately, a dead body has been found, ten years after the mother disappeared.

But, the crucial thing is, how do I keep it authentic?

detective-152085_640 (1)

And, what resources can I find online, or in a book that will keep the Police investigation accurate? Note I am talking about the UK here.

So here are a few places that I have found useful:

  1. Crimewritingsolutions.wordpress site and blog, written by Kevin. N. Robinson, he has over 30 years experience in the Police. His site has a load of information which you can work through, plus he supports writers to ensure their writing is accurate. He also provides an email if you can’t find the answer you need on the site. Plus he is the author of several  books: The British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers 2016 and 218 Facts a writer need to know about the Police  British Police and Crime Directory-2016-cover-on-amazon218 facts a writer needs to know
  2. Future Learn course Identifying the Dead  ‘The first step in any investigation involving a death is to determine the identity of the deceased. This free online course will take you on a journey through the world of forensic anthropology, unveiling the tools that will allow you to reveal that identity.’ Please note that at present they do not have a date set for the next course, but you can register interest. There is also a twitter hashtag – #FLForensicsID to follow.Other twitter people to follow – @valmcdermaid  @forensicsnews @ForensicHumanID  #forensics  Go and be nosy. Follow their latest tweets, there are loads of links to new reports etc to keep your work authentic, and maybe to inspire a story.
  3. www.coronersociety.org.uk/history   If it is a dead body, it needs to be  identified and you need to know who does that and how.
  4. Stephen Wade – writes about real life crime history, but is a wealth of knowledge, especially if your crime is not set in the present day. I heard him speak at the Romantic Novelists Association – Lancaster 2016
  5. Stuart Gibbon – again an experienced Senior Detective with over 30 years service. Stuart runs a consultancy for Crime writers if they need help with their manuscript, checking facts, etc. I also heard him at the RNA conference 2016.


I am not writing a crime, or a thriller (I hope), but a romance with an element, call it a subplot with a mystery in it which needs to be solved. It just needs a light touch to get it right. I hope some of the above will be useful, and do  let me know if there are other resources that you have used.

#1stdraftdiary and #Nanowrimo Week 2

Pants! That is the only way to describe my word count this last week.


Not even small thongs, but huge enormous Bridget Jones type pants. Knickers. Belly warmers. Call them what you will.

My word count was …228 words! 228. Yup, I hang my head in shame. It happens. Or doesn’t happen.

However the things that I did instead were very useful and important, so that’s my excuse.


Last Friday I set off for the RNA’s Conference in Lancaster. I hobnobbed (is that a real word?) with published authors, those that I look up to and aspire to be like, agents and editors too.

I went to multiple sessions on how to improve my writing craft, how to add in authentic crime elements, how to promote my brand across social media etc, I did speed dating for a critique partner and more.

It was an extremely useful weekend, better than getting words on a page.

(And I sat next to Liz Fenwick for dinner. She’s lovely!)

After the weekend I caught up with sleep, children, husband and household chores. I wrote blog posts, and numerous posts on twitter etc.

I polished my submission for Books And The City #Onedayoriginals -one day in the year to submit your book. That took up a lot of time. Fingers crossed it was worth it.

I have also started two books – Iona Grey’s ‘Letters To The Lost’, and Heidi Swain’s ‘Summer at Skylark Farm’, both very good. I also read a short story by Jojo Moyes ‘Paris for One’. Excellent entertaining short read. Everyone needs to write a Paris love story at some point. I wonder what mine will be?


And the wip? Well it is working away in my brain. It is not lost or forgotten, but it is hard to get back into it again. Especially since I needed to focus again on my previous book ‘Something To believe In’. One of the pieces of advice I got at the conference was to go ‘darker’ if you can. And we’re not talking about hair colour either!

Clio Cornish from Harper also said she likes sad endings, so, since I was about 10k short for the #BATC #Onedayoriginals I changed the ending.  In the submission piece, I have allowed my hero to die at the end, so the poor heroine doesn’t get a HEA, but she does move on in her journey  of bereavement and the end is uplifting. She will be able to put her new confidence in herself to good use, and how she overcome her grief the first time, to get on with her life the second time. I know it is sad, but I have come across people in life who do have to work through two bereavements. Life can be pretty crap for some people, they seem to have been dealt a bad set of cards; but yet they are often the kindest, most empathetic people I know. Because they have experienced so many emotions they are a better person for it. I hope I can show this in my heroine. I am having a panic now that this means it’s NOT a romance. Oh dear.

Whilst doing research in how to have him die in the hospital I asked a friend for help. She’s a GP and was able to give me great advice, but I do fear she thinks I’m slightly cracked now. Sure, I’m a writer. What’s new?

Anyhow, here’s hoping next week is better.

Drop me a line to tell me how you’re all getting on.


First Time at an RNA Conference – a post for Newbies


I am just back from my first ever RNA Conference and I can’t believe what an amazing time I had. So, whilst I can still remember it all, I am jotting down a few reminders.

Can you go if you’ve never met anyone before?

Absolutely! The RNA have a First Timers group, organised by Kate Thompson who, prior to the event sends welcome emails and organises a kitchen party on the first night. In other words, they look after you!

Kate will answer any question you can ever think of, sends lists of things to bring, and is a great point of contact if you are feeling lost.

In amongst the information you get on arrival, there is a list of names and rooms, so it is easy to catch up with anyone else you might have had previous contact with. And for the majority of first timers, I would say you will know someone, either online, twitter,fb, etc, or you’ve met them at a Chapter meeting. And if you’ve not made it to a Chapter meeting yet, try and get to one, because its great fun.

Everyone is so chatty, and ready to talk to brand new people that you won’t feel like a sore thumb. It is great to sit down next to a complete stranger and start chatting. The best introduction I kept hearing, after introducing yourself of course, was, ‘are you published?’ because basically we like to know these things. Writers are an inquisitive bunch!

You get a goodie bag which includes all the information you might need, plus free books! Yay! It also has little goodies like chocolate and sweets (always a good thing) and lovely extras like bookmarks, postcards, and I even got a mirror! So a big thank you to all who donated items.

The kitchen party on the Friday night was a great way to find friends, especially over a bottle of wine. Note I said bottle, believe me, it’s rarely just a glass! But that’s fine, because its so much easier to bond with a glass in your hand. I met most of my flat mates at the kitchen party, and they were busy helping me get my elevator pitch honed before I left.

If you are a member of the RNA New Writers Scheme, this conference is a gift! Well, not actually a gift, you do have to pay, but there is so much there it is like having Christmas in July. You learn so much, you rub shoulders with published authors and you can book one-to-one sessions with agents and editors. Now that is like winning the lottery!

What were the highlights of the weekend for me?

Well, (a little fan-girl moment), sitting next to Liz Fenwick at dinner one night, and then Janet Gover the next night! Basically seeing published authors knowing I’d read their books and they were actually here! Meeting Iona Grey who signed a copy of her book, and making a brand new set of writer friends who I will be able to keep up with on social media until the next meeting.

My Top Three sessions;

  1. Speed dating for a critique partner with Immi Howson, with was great craic. Although, as a suggestion for next year, I think if it was held after dinner with a glass of wine it would be perfect!
  2. Joss Sterling’s session on YA – so informative and creative, coming up with mash-ups of different tropes. Again great fun.
  3. A session on editing with  Helen Bryant from Cornerstones; I learnt more about editing in that one session than I had in a long time.


So all in all, it was a really fun but exhausting weekend, but worth every penny and I would highly recommend it. I feel as a new writer in the New Writers Scheme, actually being there, meeting authors, seeing agents and other professionals and getting such a wealth of information, can only help me move my writing career along immensely. So if you are serious about your writing, and you want to get published, do think about going, and don’t be put off if you don’t know anyone.

I will be there next year, and one day I will be published.

#1stdraftdiary – end of week one


Elizabeth Gilbert is still my hero. You don’t come up with an idea, the idea seeks you out! More ideas have flown into my mind this week than I ever would have thought possible, I am amazed at where they came from. One minute I was just typing away, the next a furious new idea swirled around and just demanded to be let in. As the week went on, more and more things kept happening in the story that were never meant to be there. Imagination is an amazing thing.

The week started out quite slowly as I spent too much time plotting and not enough time writing, but by Days 4 -7 I had finally cracked it and learnt something intrinsic about my writing; it has a life of its own.

After starting on about 10k words originally, I got about the same again written. So total word count after week 1 is now standing at 20,591. Hooray! And now I can really see where it’s heading.

All of last weeks writing was working on back story. It wasn’t supposed to be, but as the back story was flowing I kept at it. the plan just became a rough guideline at this point, but I am not throwing it out because I may need it when I come to the editing later. I think there will be a lot of ‘Copy and Paste’ going on.

The backstory is about the events that happened that summer when the hero/heroine met, and events that had happened even prior to that and continued to spiral out of control.

I never meant the story to be anything other than a light hearted romance, but it now has some darker elements in it, and a mystery that occurred even prior to that summer which has consequences to the heroine.

After returning from the RNA summer conference in Lancaster this weekend, I have decided to go even darker with more sinister events and keep weaving the unsolved mystery into it. Personally I know they are the stories I love reading, the ones with a dual time line that jump back from present to past, plus weave a mystery throughout and keep the reader guessing to the end.

I attended a very helpful workshop on writing crime, particularly a murder investigation, so I shall see how it goes.

I think it’s always a surprise where your story takes you, so it is easy to see now I am a pantster, no matter how good my previous planner was. So while the ideas keep coming I just want to get it all out and type as quick as I can.

So, home again from the weekend, a ‘little’ sleep deprived, but ready for Week 2 of #Nanowrimo #1stdraftdiary .