Authors love to chat about whether they’re a plotter or pantser. It’s an enlightening topic that pulls back the curtain to see how novels make the journey from idea to bookshelf. 

Do you start your book by plotting out the scenes? Once you have a solid outline from opening image, through the various acts and on to the final scene, then you start writing based on this rough outline. Or are you a pantser? Start writing and see how the book unfolds? These are two common ways to go about taking an idea and turning it into a bestseller. It’s interesting to hear authors’ preferences and styles. Some authors flip flop a little, but most have a preferred approach. 

I’ve heard best-sellers also talk about the “vomit and mop” method. Sorry about triggering any gag-reflexes, but this is a good one. You just start writing it all out and then go back and mop it up, setting into scenes, chapters, and filling in the gaps. 

I capture moments of my author’s journey on Instagram and would love to connect with you there @kimberlyc_author

While I’ve written books using all these approaches, I’ve found one that really works for me.

Maybe it’s more plotter meets pantser, still, I like to call it quilting. I’ve never made a quilt, I don’t sew, but I imagine this is what quilting is like—at least the book writing version. Here’s how it works. 

I start out with a rough outline—my plot. Then I randomly write scenes as they transpire. In other words, I may wake up with a vision or dialogue running through my mind and then I write that scene. It may fall at the end of a book, or in the middle, but it’s a scene. No matter what I’m doing—exercising, resting, reading, all my daily activities usually inspire some scene and dialogue, so I capture it as soon as I can. 

This results in little patches, or squares of my quilt, which I slowly sew together. Some will stay, some will go, some will be vastly redesigned, but in time the quilt comes together and viola, I’ve got my book. 

Any other “quilters” out there?

2 responses to “Plotter or Pantser? What About Quilter?”

  1. This is very profound. Quilting is the perfect term. I also have never quilted but I imagine, especially with patchwork quilts, the creator might have some antique cloth they always wanted to use. Not enough for a blanket, but just enough for 2 or 3 squares. They include that in the mosaic and when they stand back and look at the quilt, those 3 squares stand out to them and bring a smile. That’s exactly the way I write. Maybe a vague outline. Or a thrill of giving yourself over to the craft of discovery while writing. But always a little antique cloth you can reach back into your basket and use to make three squares. After months of this, you stand back and have a blanket.
    Quilting. Great analogy and thank you for the introspective. I’ll join you as a fellow quilter.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Ryan. I appreciate the new perspectives, the blanket versus a few squares is an awesome analogy!

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