Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Romance Author, Roseanne Dowell's Views on a Controversial Topic - To Plot or Not

Before we get to Roseanne's post, here's something about her Sweet Romance, Time to Love Again

The man next door, his granddaughter, and her sister’s ghost help bring Rose Asbury out of seclusion.
Fifty-eight year old, Rose Asbury knows people think she’s a recluse, but she doesn’t care. She just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t need anyone and no one needs her and that’s just fine. At least Rose didn’t until this year. For some reason this year is different. Suddenly, she’s melancholy and discontent with her life. 

And the man next door doesn’t help matters. He insists on speaking to her. So her stomach tumbles every time she sees him, that doesn’t mean anything. Hunger pangs, nerves, she just wishes he’d leave her alone. Or does she? To top it all off, his granddaughter and her friends insist on playing in her yard, sledding, building snowmen and throwing snowballs at her house.

Then her sister’s ghost shows up and Rose’s life changes drastically.

Buy Link:  http://amzn.to/timetoloveagain    
See Book releases from   http://bit.ly/roseannebooks
About Roseanne Dowell:
Multi-published author, Roseanne Dowell, writing instructor and former school secretary, is an avid reader and writes various types of romance – paranormal, contemporary and mystery. Living in Northeast Ohio with her husband of  fifty years, she has six grown children, fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild. She spends her time between writing, quilting and embroidering.  She’s been published since 2006 with seven releases this year and several new releases coming in 2012. She also enjoys blogging, tweeting, facebooking and posting on various writers groups.  To learn more about Roseanne check her website: www.roseannedowell.com  or her blog http://roseannedowellauthor.blogspot.com/

To Plot or Not  by Roseanne Dowell
At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.
I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why.
I started to outline my plot, and I came up with a pretty good story line. Then, I started writing. And it flowed pretty well. My heroine discovered the body.  Then I was stuck. Something didn’t feel right to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but for some reason, I couldn’t move on. My heroine wouldn’t let me. No matter how I tried to move on to the next conflict, I couldn’t.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right.                                                                                                    
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I wrote it, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  There are very few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.

Roseanne Dowell

Please leave a comment to welcome our guest, Roseanne Dowell to Sweet Not Spicy.


  1. Thank you so much for having me today.

  2. Roseanne, great post. I know if I try to outline it gives my muse unholy screaming fits and she runs as fast and far away as she can go. She once saw flashcards and had a total breakdown, and don't even mention yellow sticky notes. If she hears about those, I'll never get her back. I do things her way.

  3. Welcome to Sweet Not Spicy, Roseanne. In a way I wish I could plot, but I don't know what will happen in my books ahead of time. I do like to discover the story as I go along, but at times I have to backtrack and change a few things when the story shifts.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Roseanne, you are so write. Plotting doesn't work for everyone. It doesn't allow for the things you didn't know were going to happen until you got there, or people you didn't know you'd meet. I often have a vague idea of what's going to happen, but I know that those ideas can change. Also, my muse has a cute little trick - if I'm doing something wrong, or going in the wrong direction, he stops talking until I fix it. That's usually my cue that I've done something stupid lol

    Great post. Some people are just born pantsers. Whatever works for the individual is what you should do. It's not one way fits all.

  5. Sometimes it takes a while to find a comfortable formula, but when you do, your imagination will take you places you've never been. I'm mostly a pantser too, and I have all kinds of tricks. Sometimes I write last chapter first if it's crying to be heard. Or write the query or synopsis. Sometimes I go back and start reading from the beginning, and discover where I need to take my characters next. Whatever works for you. Profound words. And your book sounds delightful. I enjoyed reading about it.

  6. You already know I'm a total pantser

  7. Sorry-cut me off...anyhow, love you and I know there is no right or wrong...whatever moves the story to "the end" is what matters.


  8. Loved the article, Roseanne. I've done various amounts of outlining -- then I start writing, and after about the first quarter of the book, the characters take over and the outline is out the window.

    I'm not sorry I did it, mind you, as it's gotten me thinking about the characters and the plot.

  9. Great post - and hurray for pantsers! Even if I write a 'vague outline', I find that, before very long, my characters start to push me in other directions - and their way is inevitably much better than my intended route! With my current novel, I tried to map out some chapters with the main event(s) in each. By the time I got to Chapter 13, my characters were screaming 'No!' at me and telling me things were happening in the wrong order for them to develop their relationship. So I've gone back to Chapter 7, and yes, they definitely know best!

  10. It's nice to see someone come out and say it's okay to "not plot." I've written books both ways and I'm not sure which I prefer. But I don know that even the books I had plotted scene by scene changed when I actually wrote them. My characters still surprised me and did things I didn't expect. That's what keeps it fun!

  11. I started my current novel by having no idea who did the crime. I was half way through the first draft and still didn't have a clue. That was a little too loosey goosey, even for me. I got very nervous. I stayed awake one night trying to figure it out and didn't go to sleep until I did. The relief! I say it's okay not to know how you're getting to get to where you're going, but ultimately it's best to know where that is. Otherwise, you might have a lot of sleepless nights, like I did.

  12. Excellent post, Roe. I can't outline too much either. It's when I brainstorm about ideas that the best things happen, and then the characters take off on their own.

    Love the cover of this one.

    All my best,


  13. Thanks for the post, Roseanne.

    I wrote the first draft of my first novel from a plot outline. After 100,000 words, I threw it out and started over. By then I knew the characters well enough to know they wouldn't have done what I'd written. So, I went back and let the characters determine the plot.

  14. Good article. It goes to show, what works for one does not work for another.

    Go with what ya know. And gets the words down.

  15. I have lost my muse! so I clicked on to your blog and now I have it back! I am a panster;, but felt guilty about not outlining. thanx, Joan

  16. It's great to see so many pansters. Jabbering jo, don't ever feel guilty about what works for you. I'm glad you got your muse back.

  17. Dear Roseanne,
    It's good that you were able to see the wisdom of using a little of both ways. Start out with an idea and give it the freedom to change. The what ifs give your story power and energy to go where it needs to go. I'm proud of you.
    Never Give Up on your story.
    Joan Y. Edwards

  18. That's how I write too, asking what-if?

    I'm a panster through and through. I too have tried plotting once and I found I plotted the heart out of the story and couldn't write the darn thing.

    That's the best advice--Keep writing the way it works best for you.

  19. You're right. I love the 'whatever works for you, do it.' I've tried various ways and the only way that works for me is to stay a pantster. I run into some corners that way, but I do finally manage to get out of them. Great post.

  20. I am basically a pantser, too, although I've learned that the latest term for this is "organic writer." Anyway, over the years, I have tried various plotting techniques and plans. None worked very well, and I always go back to letting the story and characters develop pretty much as I write. It's more fun that way.