Plotting, Pantsing, or Gardening: How to Grow Your Book "Seed"

A lot of writers are familiar with the terms plotting and pantsing. Before writing a single word, plotters plan out their chapters and scenes down to every detail, whereas pantsers fly by the seat of their pants, forging ahead without planning much, if anything.

how to speak boy cover

Personally, I’ve never related to either term, because my writing falls somewhere in the middle (like a lot of authors, I’m guessing). I plot a little, go off roading several times, and in the end, I have a book. My process for How to Speak Boy was something like that. The best analogy I’ve heard is when someone said, “I’m not a plotter or a pantser. I’m a gardener.”

Here’s how gardening works:

You plant seeds, then see how they grow. You know the type of seeds you plant (maybe a little romance, some adventure, and a few seeds of mystery), then as your garden grows, you realize a few plants need more water, like a lot more than you’d originally planned, and you should really move that one weakling to where it’ll get more sunlight throughout the day. Sure, maybe you started out with clean rows, but by the time your seeds have grown, some tomatoes have gone gangbusters and taken over half the garden, and that’s okay because no one likes peas all that much anyway. I’ve mixed up my gardening and plot metaphors, but you get the point.

How I Gardened How to Speak Boy:

With my second book, I started with a synopsis. It sold on proposal, meaning I couldn’t deviate too much from the original plan. But just because I knew the main structure didn’t mean I knew how each scene would take me from Point A to Point B. In fact, my characters surprised me by kissing in the middle of the book, when I hadn’t planned on them kissing until the end! Sometimes characters take on a life of their own, and that’s okay too.

I have my own outlining method that’s bits and pieces of Save the Cat (Blake Snyder), Romancing the Beat (Gwen Hayes), and the 7/9 Point Story Structure (Dan Wells and Sarah M. Eden). I use the pieces that work for me, and I ignore what doesn’t. (I actually have a preset Scrivener template that pre-populates my combined method, because I’m a Scrivener geek like that). After I get my outline together, I flesh out a few things that seem important, and then I go for it.

The Takeaway:

Basically, what I’m saying here is, there’s no one right way to write a book. Whatever works for you, do that. Whether it’s plotting, pantsing, or something in between, if it gets the work done, then that’s what you should do. Now go forth, and conquer!

How to Speak Boy goes on sale January 7! Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Author spotlight

Tiana Smith

Hey there! I write YA books with lots of kissing in them, because those are the best. Supposedly, I'm too …

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