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Plotting The Michelle Way

By On Feb 20 2009, 8:00 pm

Since I started writing, I’ve been a Pantser. That’s someone who “writes by the seat of her pants” if you’re new to the writing-lingo. I never plotted a thing. Ever. It just worked for me that way.

But then one day… Pantsing stopped working for me. I would find myself getting stuck for long periods of time and then just not writing anymore. In fact, I went nearly a year without writing. That’s bad! I was depressed about it, too. I couldn’t figure out why I was so stalled.

And then one day, I was reading an author’s blog (Kelly Gay to be specific) and she was talking about note cards. I can’t remember exactly what her post was about but it got me to thinking about note cards and what I could do with them.

Remember back in the day when we were required to write those dreaded research papers? And remember we had to actually go to the library because there was no such thing as Google? And, also, remember we had to actually take notes on those 3 × 5 note card and turn them in with our research paper as proof we did our research?

Well. I got to thinking about that. And so I decided to try and plot using the note cards. I went back to a book I had already written but was in the process of rewriting it into a Young Adult. I took the note cards and wrote a scene – any scene I could think of. I eventually put them in order of the book and pasted them to foamcore. It worked for that book.

But not for subsequent books. Which is strange.

Instead, what happened on the next book was I got this idea from a weird dream I had. So I quickly started to write it all down. As it turns out, I ended up with a four page synopsis. I used that as the basis of the book I wanted to write and ended up getting it finished, somewhat following the synopsis. I finished the book in about two months. I’m now editing it before it goes off to submission.

So now I’m wondering what to do next. Should I use the note cards? Or write a synopsis from an idea? I guess I’m weird when it comes to plotting/writing. It either works for me, or it doesn’t. I have noticed that if I take the time to sit down and write out a synopsis for the book, it helps me (a) stay on track and (b) keep writing. The note cards… well, not so much. Unless the book is already written and I know where I’m going and how to get there. I actually think these will come in handy for a series of books. That way I can look back and see what happened when and to whom and not get confused.

That’s why I call it Plotting The Michelle Way. One way works for me, then a different way works for me. Weird, huh? :)

Michelle Miles writes contemporary and adventure romance and has four books published with Samhain. Check out her website at


6 Responses to “Plotting The Michelle Way”

  1. sami lee says:

    I’ve tried the note cards before, but mainly I use them just to make sure a story idea has legs. i.e. if I can write 25 or so note cards with scene ideas, conflict points on them, I have enough for a story. But then once I start writing I rarely use those scene ideas because I think of other things along the way. I’ve tried the synopsis thing but it doesn’t actually keep me writing — I don’t much see the point when I already know what’s going to happen.

    So I’m still stuck in pantsting land, although I’ve always envied those who can plot and write efficiently. All you can do is try what works for you for that particular book because each one is different. The unpredictability of writing is what makes it fun (for me anyway).

    Good luck – Sami

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi, Sami! I’m with you. Really, being a “pantser” ultimately works for me. I guess it’s just how I think. :)

  3. Kelly Gay says:

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for the mention. :-) I was just thinking about this the other day and how all my books have been plotted somewhat differently from the one before. Sometimes notecards, sometimes a synopsis, sometimes a very detailed chapter outline, and, just recently completely ‘pantsing it’. That’s a new one for me, but it’s working for this particular book!

  4. Hi, Michelle. This really resonated with me. I actually blogged about it a couple days ago. I use Scrivener which helps you lay out the plot by outline or hierarchy of files which turns into index cards on a storyboard. I did what you did. Finished my book by pantsing, now, I’m having to work backwards to revise it. Yuck!
    Next time I’m going to work through it first with either physical cards or Scrivener or both. There’s a picture on my blog of the screen with the index cards. Doesn’t look like you’re doing too bad though. Congratulations on the new contract.

  5. It feels good to know that not the only one who the works-today-but-who-knows-about-tomorrow method! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Michelle says:

    Hi, all! Sorry I’m just now getting to this – all the messages went into my spam folder and I didn’t get them until today.

    Kelly – I think this must be my style, too. Every book feels different, so it makes sense to me to write them differently. :)

    Marley – That sounds interesting! I may have to check into that! Thanks for passing it along.

    Magaly – LOL! Welcome to the insanity. ;)

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