Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Type of Writer Are You?

Are you a plotter or do you just write by the seat of your pants?
That’s a question I get asked no matter who’s doing the asking.
Last year I would have told you that I’m a bit of both. I’m more of a plotter when I write mysteries, more of where are the hero and heroine taking me when I sit down to write a romance. But now I’m definitely a plotter. So what changed?

Late last year, I was offered the opportunity to try writing for a new detective series being launched by a book packager. They gave me an in-depth character analysis and a 90 pages detailed synopsis for the plot they had in mind. My job was to write a prologue, first chapter and tell them how I would break the synopsis into subsequent chapters.
While I wasn’t chosen as the writer for this new series, I did learn some valuable tips when it came time to work on my next book.

The first one was the more pre-work you do, the easier the actual writing is.
For example, you jot down what you need and want to include in each chapter. How many characters will you introduce, what scene will the bad guy make his appearance?
Using this method, you’ll be surprised just how fast you can write. And an added plus is you don’t sit there wasting valuable writing time thinking about what comes next. And the dreaded sagging middle becomes a thing of the past.

Another tip I picked up was writing a more detailed outline means inconsistencies jump out at you. Some of them even slap you in the face. You can see what research you need to do, maybe learn about a certain profession, the climate of a particular country. Writing the outline gives you the perfect opportunity to jot down all the questions you’ll need answered.

While I don’t think I could come up with a 90 page synopsis for every manuscript, my days of just sitting down to write without a plan are a thing of the past.

Next time you sit down to write a book, give the detailed outline and synopsis a try. And I’d love to hear if it worked for you too.

Susan Palmquist is the author of A Sterling Affair, Death Likes Me and The One and Only. You can visit her web site at and follow her on Twitter at


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