Tuesday, June 1

Plotters and Pantsers In the Garden


After an arduous two weeks of editing other people’s work, I’m finally able to focus on my own writing again. But not today. Today is the first day I haven’t spent at least five hours in front of my computer working on editing gigs. I’m brain-fried and mentally exhausted. So I’m taking a mental health day and spending the day outdoors in the yard. 

We’re hitting the garden center this morning for mulch, edging bricks, flowers, and seeds. I’m going to fill pots with bright geraniums, plant seeds, weed, lay down edging bricks out back, and spread mulch. Sounds ambitious for someone who’s not a gardener, who doesn’t even like yard work, doesn’t it? But it's therapy and also, it’s a kind of creativity and I’m very into creativity. That said, I confess I’m as much of a “pantser” in the garden as I am at the computer when I’m writing.

Writers fall into two basic categories: plotters, who sit down and map out their stories before they start writing, and pantsers, who just start writing, full of faith that they will figure the story out as they write. (Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants.”) I am a pantser. Mostly. For me, stories begin with the people in my head. Characters show up and suddenly there is a circumstance, a “hey, what if this guy does this and then this woman comes in and does that?” kind of synergy happening.

And I start writing… Sometimes, a whole book develops immediately and the characters take me for a crazy ride that I never expected. Other times, they lose steam by chapter three and the idea gets set aside for another one that’s cooking in the back of my mind. I can’t do that anymore because A) I’m on contract to write two more series for Tule and B) the deadlines in said contracts.

However, Becker and Harley—the characters in book 3 of the new Lange Brothers series for Tule—began shouting at me as I was writing on Max and Lauren’s book. They wanted their story told, dammit, and they weren’t about to shut up and let me finish book 2. But I had to finish book 2, so I’ve learned to make notes to quiet their clamoring. To use the voice recorder app on my phone when I’m riding in the car or cleaning or editing, and ideas suddenly pop into my head. I don’t always use what I’ve recorded or noted, but often, the words become a jumping-off point if I’m having trouble crafting a scene. It’s a good thing.

So series update: Book 1 is in production and we have a cover, which will be revealed soon. Book 2 is in edits—I’m revising this week. In the meantime, Becker and Harley are wildly waving at me, pounding on my brain, needing their story to be told. Okay, okay…I’m coming… Well, tomorrow. Today, I’m gardening…

Stay well, stay safe, and most of all, mes amies, be kind to yourself, If you aren't, why should anyone else be?


  1. Enjoy your mental health day! We can't take care of other things until we take care of ourselves.

    1. That is so true, Liz. I'm glad I have a good friend to remind me of that... I promise, I'm going to listen. ;-)

  2. Mental health is SO important!!! Hope your day is fab, Nan.

  3. Love your description of being a pantsers. So true. Have fun with your landscaping. Putting my hands in dirt is therapeutic for me, as long as there are no snakes, worms, bugs or other creepy things.

  4. Love this, love this, love this. It comforts me to know that I'm not the only one who has attention-craving characters yelling in my head. I needed this today. Thanks, Nan!