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November 10, 2011

Addison Fox: To Plot or to Pantz... That is the Question

My thanks to Plotting Princesses for having me here today!

So it’s hard to make a visit to the “Plotting” Princesses and not naturally think of plot while preparing a blog topic. In thinking about what I wanted to talk about today, I began playing with the concept of plotting and “pantzing” (writing by the seat of your pants) and how my process has changed somewhat over time.

While I’ve always considered myself a pantzer – and frankly, find the joy in writing the story the discovery of what’s going to happen – there is a roadmap. My publisher requires a synopsis/outline of the story, but I’ve got the freedom to veer from the outline where necessary as my story grows and develops.

What I’ve come to realize over the last few books, however, is that while I am writing the story as I go, I’m also thinking about plot development far more than I realize. I’ll see these snatches of story that I quickly scribble into a notebook (usually when I’m sitting in the middle of a client meeting for my day job or the moment I’m stepping out of the shower!) as I’m working through the development of the book.

This has been an incredibly interesting revelation. As someone who considers myself very character-driven as a writer, it’s actually quite gratifying to know the plot is cooking in my head, developing in my subconscious as I write the book.

So what about you? As you’re working on a manuscript, what’s getting fired up in your mental kitchen? Do you see plot first and then work through character development? Or are you developing the plot as you go, shaping it to fit the characters you’ve developed and the conflict that exists between them? One commenter today will receive a copy of BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE.

Happy Writing!


“Just because I choose to humor my grandmother doesn‘t mean I have to actually be in the contest.”

“Play the tough guy all you want, Counselor. I don‘t think you‘re quite as immune to all this as you say.

“Oh, really?” Walker stepped closer, seized by the urge to reach out and touch her. He moved before he could question the impulse. “And what gave you that impression?”

“I think you like being an object of such intense attention. All those women fawning over you. You and your buddies, the eligible bachelor brigade, on display.”

Walker took the last few steps to close the gap between them. Despite the heavy layers of clothes—and the oversized coat she‘d wrapped herself in—he could still smell her captivating scent. The rose notes that must be her shampoo filled his senses.  “Why don‘t you compete and find out?”

“You may not like what I write about you.”

“That‘s a risk I‘m prepared to take.”

“I refuse to be influenced by my subjects.”

Walker leaned down to press his lips against her ear as he settled his hands on her waist. “I can‘t promise I won‘t try to influence you.”

Her voice fell from her lips in a hushed whisper. “I wouldn‘t be a very good reporter if I allowed myself to lose my objectivity.”

Sloan‘s head fell back slightly, allowing him better access to her neck, and Walker reached up to lay his hands on either side of her throat. He shifted so his mouth hovered over hers, anticipation humming through his body with eager pulses that matched the beat of his heart. “You can remain as impartial during the competition as you‘d like, Ms. McKinley. Just so long as you don‘t remain impartial to this.”

With a tenderness that belied the crazy, raging need that gripped him, he pressed his mouth to hers and plundered.


PamnTX said...

Good Morning, Addison,thank you for the blog post. I need a road map/outline to help me know where I'm going, but often my characters take off in a different direction without reading the map!

Your excerpt was excellent...very romantic!

Pam P.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Thank you, sweetie, for visiting with the PP Gals today on our signature subject.

I confess, I've adopted Ms. Lipperman's term: Plot + (pant) ster = Plotster. LOL

Love, love, love the excerpt. oxoxox

chris keniston said...

This sounds like the perfect book to read on my trip to Hawaii next month - what can be better than a sunny day, sandy beach, breaking waves and a great book!! Never mind - don't answer that - LOL. okay - maybe one thought - a sandy haired blue eyed six foot cabana boy reading it to me - : )

as a non published author I'm still totally a pantser - which is where the princesses come in - I give them my snippets and they plot away for me !!

I think every pantser needs a few good plotters around them for the occasional nudge - but like you I write books for the same reason I read them - to see where the story goes!

Patricia said...

Hi Addison! I'm a pantser but for the first time (I'm writing my fourth book) I actually wrote a synopsis and chapter outlines! I couldn't believe how much that helped me out when I didn't know what to do next. And I think of great ideas in the early morning before I get out of bed and then rush to scribble my notes down before I move on. But I can't ever picture myself doing an in-depth outline with bullet points and such from beginning to end. I like not knowing exactly what's going to happen and I often change it up anyway.

chris keniston said...

I'm with you Patricia- can't imagine writing a bullet point outline for a proposal- LOL -

I hold out hope to be like our other princess Liz Lipperman whose sold her books on blurbs only!! LOL

Kathy Ivan said...

Hi Addison and welcome to the Plotting Princesses.

I'm a combination of the two. I have a general plot because that usually comes to me first, before the characters do. I know the basics or genesis of the story line and then I'll start doing a "what if this happens" followed by, "okay if that happens, then this should happen, too" scenario.

The characters soon follow and they take shape as the story progresses. So even though I have a general idea of the story, writing it is still pretty much by the seat of my pants for the day-to-day writing. Which is good because that keeps the surprise element there and you still get those Ah Ha! moments that wouldn't be the same if you plotted the whole thing out.

Lovely post and the book looks fabulous; of course, all your books are wonderful.

(Please forgive any typos--I'm rushing between tasks at work so I'm in a hurry but wanted to make sure I got to say hello!)

Addison said...

Pam P-

Good morning! And don't you just love those "off the map" moments?? I find those are some of the most rewarding as an author...when the story moves in a direction you didn't see coming and you just *know* it's right!!

And thanks for your lovely comments on the excerpt! :-)


Addison said...


My thanks to you and all the Princesses for having me today - I've been really looking forward to visiting.

And I love the Plotser reference - that is a good one!!!


Addison said...


I will take that as the very higest compliment...what author doesn't want to be a beach read??!?!!! But to be a HAWAII beach read....heaven! :-)

(And OK...what's REALLY heavenly is the 6 ft. tall Cabana boy...)


Addison said...


Congrats on your fourth book!! That's fantastic!

And I do agree with you - I think the biggest reason I fall into the "Pantzer" camp is because I like not knowing quite how things are going to end up...beyond the HEA, that is :-)


Addison said...


I really do hear you on the discovery part. I love writing for so many reasons and on so many levels (it really IS the greatest job!), but that whole process of discovery is incredibly rewarding.

And thank you for your incredibly kind comments on my work!!


Liz Lipperman said...

Addison, what a great excerpt. It really does sound like a good book to take on a Hawaiian trip--along with the hot cabana boy serving drinks while you read.

I am definitely a plotser. I write elaborate outlines, long character profiles and multiple subplots before I even think about writing. Somewhere along the way, I change almost everything, which is why I coined the phrase plotser

And Chris, behind those blurbs are all of the above preparations, mostly from the great Plotting Princess retreats we have.

Miss you, Addison.

chris keniston said...

a few things -

1. yes it's the highest compliment

2. maybe 'boy' wasn't really what I had in mind - LOl

3. and I agree with Liz - we miss you!

Diane Kelly said...

I've found I write much faster if I plot things out in advance. Surprises still pop up along the way, but it's usually something I can fit in without a problem. But I am like you in that my subconscious seems to be working on my books even when I am not aware of it. Hope you are having a fun fall up there!

Addison said...

Chris & Liz:

I miss all of you, too!!!!


Addison said...


The subconscious is always working...that's one of the other things I find truly amazing about the process. That book's cooking even while we're busy doing other things.

Separately, CONGRATULATIONS on DEATH, TAXES & A FRENCH MANICURE. Fantastic book - I can't wait for more of Tara's adventures!!


J.D. Tyler said...


I enjoyed your post about plotting and pantzing. Like you, I have to submit an outline to my publisher so they can get an idea of my character arc and plot for the book. But I also have the freedom to create as I go within that outline. And sometimes to change a plot element if something works better than what I'd proposed to my editor. If I don't at least have an outline these days, I'm lost. I can no longer just sit down and write a book with no outline whatsoever--it doesn't work for me! :)

I love your excerpt of BABY! It's on my definite to-read list! No need to enter me in the drawing, it's in my stack. Happy writing!

Sylvia said...

Hi Addison,
Can't wait to read your holiday book. Love them! I'm a plotter, but things always change and usually for the better as I write. Something just naturally happens and changes the plot. But I have to know the end before I begin because otherwise, I'm lost. It's sort of my own personal GPS system.

Addison said...


Thanks for your sweet comments!!!

And...while I can't say I love the outlining process, I have found that forcing myself to go through that discipline does ensure the story has a full arc, start to finish. There's not nearly as much re-working when you have an overall roadmap of where you're going!


Addison said...


Thanks so much!

And I LOVE that - "your own personal GPS system!!" :-)


Phyllis said...

Hi Addison! Thank you for being with us at PP.

I am more of a pantser as my characters come to me first. They are just there, popped into in my head, and I start by writing a piece of dialogue here and scene description there.

I have to say I do 'some' plotting since I need to know where all those snippets are heading, or if I will even use them. Most often, I have my big black moment and write the last chapter first. I then start back at the beginning and go from there.

So, I usually I’m on the road before I check out the roadmap, ha!

Your excerpt sounds luscious…lol


Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Addison,
Thank you for visiting the PP today! It's nice to "see" you again. :) I usually start with an idea, but it's usually more of the plot and then I have to work in the characters.

Looking forward to reading your book! Congrats on your release!!

Elizabeth Essex said...

Hey Addison, what a thought provoking post. I have to say that I am entirely on the character side of the aisle. I find my characters first and every other aspect of the story flows from the central friction between the hero and heroine. I usually dream up a few scenes and then just let the story unfold from there.

I must also say that it was a privilege and a pleasure to get an ARC of BABY ITS COLD OUTSIDE! Your story was full of fun, quirky characters and some serious hot men! And that scene in the sauna. (Mrs. Essex takes out her fan and waves it feverishly.) Oh my! That scene was pure chemistry! :)
Looking forward to what's next from your proverbial pen. Cheers.

Addison said...


I am SO impressed you can write the last chapter first. I am so linear, the thought of writing a few paragraphs ahead of myself gives me agida!! :-)


Addison said...


So great to "see" you again, too!

And we'll add a check in the "plot first" camp for you! :-)

I'm always so incredibly fascinated by the individualized process we all have, yet we all end up in the same place - with a story at the end. It's such an incredibly neat thing!


Addison said...

Hello EE!!!! (waving madly!!)

You, my dear, have mad skillz with the awesomely HOT Hugh who will be with us at the end of the month!!


The sauna scene is one of my favorites... ;-)