Plotter, Pantser or Puzzle Master?

Hello! This week it’s my turn to take you through my writing process.


I’ve been teaching my four year old the best way (in my opinion) to approach jigsaw puzzles. To me, it’s like plotting out a novel. First you find the corners, then the border pieces so you have the structure and the outline. Next, sort through the middle pieces and divide them into sections so that when you begin, everything is organised and flows logically.

To me, this seems a great way to plan my writing. There is so much value in being a plotter.

If only I worked that way.

My process is this: “Oooh! Look at that pretty puzzle piece. It’s all bumpy with no straight edges or lines. It’s intriguing and colourful. I think I’ll just carry it around with me for a few days until I’m familiar with its curves and contours.”

After a week or so, it starts burning my fingers so I’ll place it somewhere towards the middle of the puzzle board. Instead of finding the next logical piece – the piece that fits into it – I spot another piece with different shapes and colours and whack that on the board somewhere else.

Do you see a pattern here? No? Me neither. My method is messy.

Generally after I’ve placed the first few pieces a whisper of an idea takes shape about where the story is heading. Not any major plot twists, an ending or anything as useful as that, just a light caress of what the story might be.


I envy those who have a clear vision of where their story is headed. I would love to be able to know what’s going to happen before I write it. That’s not how my mind works. I don’t know all the intricacies of my story yet, but I do know they will be found. Though the pieces don’t all connect at the start, they will by the end. I know that the random chapters, the characters and protagonists, the challenges and resolutions will all come together with a perfect ‘snick’.

Side note: ‘Snick’ is the term used by Laini Taylor for that moment when “the idea slots into place like a puzzle.”

I can’t wait for the perfect storyline to emerge before starting. It just doesn’t work for me like that. I tried it once. I was determined to plot out a dystopian novel about a school that determines who gets to be a part of society. I had the characters, I had the world building, and I had the plot. Everything was ready. Yet I could not write it. I was trying to force out a story. There was no passion or excitement for the writing process. So I shelved it. I concentrated on my blog posts until one day a shiny piece of a new puzzle caught my eye.

To me, writing is like entering the fictional dream. You know how you lose yourself in reading a novel and realty slips away around you? That’s what it’s like for me when I’m writing. It’s as exciting and intriguing as reading because I’m absorbed and enthralled in the story. I usually have no idea what’s going to happen until the words hit the page. Those random chapters eventually link up (’Oh, so that’s why that happened!’) and the puzzle is solved.

Nope, I’m definitely not a Plotter. Pantser? That’s a nice way of putting it.

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After the first draft is completed and my euphoria settles down, I start the edits. I bring out my best English Teacher (ET) mug and pen and set about grading the extended written response. The paper always needs a lot of work. The ET can see where the writer was heading, and many of the ideas and scenes work well, but the ET always spots gaps that need filling, sentences that need re-writing/cutting/jokes made about them. Chapters that are missing a certain je ne sais quoi are identified and sent back for an overhaul.

As strange as it might sound, I don’t consider myself a person who makes up stories. I am someone who discovers them as they unfold on my screen or in my notebook. The pieces are already there. It’s my job to find them and fit them together.

Just call me the Puzzle Master.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Plotter, Pantser or Puzzle Master?

  1. Great imagery! I love being a pantser, myself.


  2. I also believe that the pieces are already there and that we unlock when we need to. Subconsciously we lead ourselves to the correct path. How can we know where to go when our characters are yet to show us?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Have you ever had that experience where you have been fighting with a particular puzzle piece – absolutely convinced that it fits “over here” only to find (50 pieces later) that it quick obviously ‘snicks’ in “over there”. Certainly it’s the same with my writing…


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