Once, Twice, Three Times a Manuscript….(Anyone Under 40 Won’t Have a Clue What Song The Title References But I’m Using it Anyway Because it’s My Title and I Can…Sing it!)

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

The weekend before last I was lucky enough to hang out at the Pikes Peak Writer Conference. I also did some teaching but it was more about seeing old friends and making plenty of new fabulous ones. Besides having a great time abusing whiskey, wine and food I spent some time talking with other writers about their process.

It was at this point I had an epiphany.

Or maybe you could refer to it as a drunken revelation.

Either way, this is my point-- tables have dancing naked weight limits.

No, scratch that. I had two epiphanies and a bruise on my coccus the size and shape of Texas.

Anyway....we all have such different methods and madness for our works. And each, while valid, might not be the best choice for us, like dancing on a table when you're old enough to know far better.

Here's what I mean. I'm a pantster. A REALLY BIG ONE. I sit down to write and start at page one, word one. But I can learn to be better at plotting and that could make for more words, and more books. I can learn how to be a better marketer. I can learn to write deeper characters and better description. An old dog can be taught new tricks, as long as the teacher talks real slow and plenty of cookies are involved.

Maybe I can learn these things from a class or a workshop taught from one of the amazing instructors already selected for the RMFW Conference in September. Or I can learn from the fantastic community we are a part of.

One of the interesting things I learned a few weekends ago was from a longtime RMFW member -- Mike Befeler. Mike never knows who is murderer is going to be. Right up until the end. It's a good lesson if you've ever read his work, it feels organic for the protagonist when he figures out who done it. Now I am not saying I could pull it off, but it does give me insight into his process.

I'm interested in your own process. How many revisions does it take for the finished (or as close as you can get) product? Do you know what is going to happen when you start? Do you have any advice that has helped you greatly along your path? Let's open up and share all we can together.

Or else I will get on that table!


The Fairyland Murders_ebook (1)J.A. (Julie) Kazimer writes books. So many books that she now has to use her toes to count them. Learn more at jakazimer.com or friend her on facebook because she's pretty lonely. You can also tweet her at @jakazimer and she'll share some gruesome stories about decaying bodies or puppies. Tweeters choice.

Also, her latest book, THE FAIRYLAND MURDERS is on sale for the low, low, how the heck am I going to afford my Rolex now, price of $1.99. I don't know how long it will be on sale as my publisher never tells me anything....So pick up a copy today. Or don't. I'm not going to beg...Okay, I will beg. Please, please--

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer on Email
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 15 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com.

17 thoughts on “Once, Twice, Three Times a Manuscript….(Anyone Under 40 Won’t Have a Clue What Song The Title References But I’m Using it Anyway Because it’s My Title and I Can…Sing it!)

  1. I’m a pantser, too. I haven’t known how the end of the book would turn out until the last 100 pages, but so far, I’ve liked where the characters have taken them. I have found that over the years, I’ve at least started to make notes on the bottom of the manuscript as to what “could” happen next – sometimes is does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Great blog, and I hope you have good insurance.

    • Hi Terri, so many pantser. I love it. I also love the idea of could at the bottom of my MS. I never do that. Then I forget what great idea I had. I am so stealing that. Thanks.

  2. Julie — this is a family-friendly blog so if you’re going to dance on the table, please be lady-like and keep your clothes on.

    As for writing, yes, I’m a pantser too. I love winging it, even though it means many more revisions before I have a final manuscript (five or six minimum). Planning and outlining would probably mean more books finished sooner, but I tried it once and it’s not as much fun for me. If I’m not having fun with this thing, I’ll quit and do something else like crocheting shawls or baking cookies.

    • Hi, Julie, and thanks for your special blend of light humor this morning. Goes well with my coffee! I’m sorry I missed your table dance. I’ve always enjoyed Pikes Peak, and that would have been an entertaining extra!

      I get hives thinking about the Pantsers process. I have learned much from Robin Perini and Laura Baker’s “Story Magic” method of plotting, and yes, it takes me all the way to the final scene. Sometimes I get lucky and the final scene comes to me in living color, and I hurry and write it all down. It may change, but I always know where I’m going. Cheers to you, Terri, Mike Befeler and Pat for your courage. Whatever fits as a writer is the right choice.

      • It’s okay, Janet, you can come to the darkside…Just try it…It’s good for you… Yeah, I probably wouldn’t make a good drug dealer or car salesman. I love plotters. I wish I could do it. It would be so much easier. Story Magic I’ve heard great things about. Can you share what you like best about it?

  3. Under 40, and I totally know what song that is!

    And I’m such a pantser, I didn’t realize I had a series on my hands until I started the second book. So, you know. But I did recently finish a book I’d planned a little bit in advance – it was a NaNoWriMo attempt, and I figured I should do *some* planning.

    I found that when I know a *little bit* where I’m going, the words come faster – but I worry they’re not as good as they could be, and I’m thinking I’ll need way more editing than usual. And I would say I generally do the equivalent of maybe 5 drafts? I also edit-as-I-go, so it’s difficult to say, on that score.

    I’ve also tried to plot books, and when I do that, I take all the magic out of it for myself. I know the end of the story, so I just don’t care anymore – and those manuscripts, half-finished, are just sitting in my files, probably never to be seen again.

  4. Pants, pants, always seat of the pants. I really can’t imagine any other way. I really believe that, deep down, we’ve all seen enough movies and read enough books to know the shape and form of the plot. I love the ‘now’ moment of writing as a pantser and not looking around the next corner of the plot.

    • We should get a pantser support group going as most of us are seat of the pants kind of writers. Or maybe RMFW should be changed to RM by the seat of our knickers FW? What say you, Mark?

  5. I’m a pantser. My fantasy Bronze Age series, which I think will finish up with book 3 but ya never know, started as a short story. The story, and book1, have actually been published! But as I got sick and tired of writing the same scene three times (from different POVs) and putting said scene in several different places in the ms, I have learned a bit more about planning ahead.

    • I agree, Jane. That is why plotting is nice. If you are a series writer, it does help. Or so I’ve heard. I dislike writing more than 2 books in a series. I’m more of a single book *don’t judge me* kind of gal.

  6. One of the most gratifying moments at the writing chair is when your ‘pantsed’ stuff fits together like a solved Rubik’s Cube. And that’s another old-school reference, in itself… 😉

  7. I in transition, currently a plantser. Most of my work now requires a bit more planning and plotting to make sure I don’t leave my pantser’s down and get in-bare-assed. Kind of like not giving up wine, I’m not giving up on the free-for-all writing sessions from the seat of my pants.

    • LOL, Dean, please keep ’em up. This is becoming quite the racy little blog-set, hahaha

      Julie, to answer your question, the real power of Story Magic is that it enables you to understand your protagonist’s inner story, the reason/s behind her struggle and motivations. SM provides the added insurance that the protagonist will drive the story, not the antagonist, and not the other characters.

      With the big-player names I’m seeing on these responses, I’m betting that you all know how to accomplish that, so this statement does not apply to you, but for others who are perhaps not yet skilled at controlling the pantser experience through author direction, the result can be lack of clarity with the inner story. I have read some stories that I suspect were not planned, and the risk is losing that direct connection between the protag and her story. The result: little or none of the significant story action and turning points are initiated by the protagonist, or are related to her growth over the course of the novel.

      When reading about Mike’s and Mark’s experiences, though, I can see where a Pantser approach to mysteries would be excellent, because each suspect gets an excellent backstory with strong motivation, which enriches the mystery and creates a genuine surprise for the Solution– because the author is just as surprised as the reader. 🙂

  8. So many pantsers here! Yay! I’m constantly reading about writers who carefully plan & plot, and as much as I’d like to do that, it’s just not me. I have a vague idea about where I want to go, but how I’m getting there surprises me which each word I type. It’s kind of cool actually. I don’t count revisions because it has a tendency to make me feel like I’m not getting anywhere. I just change titles ;-P! Go pantsers!

Comments are closed.