Should pantsers become plotters? - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
April 27, 2021

How to write a book can be a hotly contested topic. Formal training dictates that outlining is a necessity of the craft, while authors often object to the practice, saying that plotting a novel takes all of the fun and creativity out of the practice.

So which path is best? M.J. Blehart has strong opinions on the subject. He ”pantsed” his first series but is now a dedicated plotter. Pantsing is the practice of writing without an outline, and comes from the term “writing by the seat of your pants” — though personally, we prefer the term discovery writing.

It’s a common practice among novelists. Often, the author doesn’t know where a story will go (or how it will end) until they write the scenes. This method of creation can sometimes lead to brilliant storytelling — but can also end in disaster, with the author writing himself or herself into a dead end or a meandering plot that doesn’t seem to have a purpose.

We brought M.J. onto First Draft Friday to hear his thoughts on the subject and to explore his methods of plotting. Here are a few takeaways from our chat:

Plotting isn’t set in stone

Just because your writing moves down a path for your story to take, if the characters and your creative impulses veer off path, don’t be afraid to follow them and see what happens!

Plots can be as simple or detailed as you want them to be

The beats within a scene can be one-line bullet points, while other can take up 1-2 pages and include lines of dialogue, setting details and backstory.

Plotting is especially important when writing a series

The more planning and preparation of the plot, the more complex ideas you can introduce, with proper placement and timing of red herrings, foreshadowing and subplot execution.

Watch our discussion in the video chat above. Click above to watch it, or listen to the podcast.

Transcript of our conversation

Alessandra: Hey everyone this is First Draft Friday. I am Alessandra Torre and I am here today with M.J. Blehart and we are going to be talking all about plotting versus pantsing and so I’m really excited for this conversation and I can already start to see some comments coming in. So hey everyone; this is going to be a half hour show that is going to be focused as always 100% on craft. First Draft Friday is brought to you by Authors A.I. We have a fantastic digital editor called Marlowe who would love to read your manuscript and give her thoughts. So if you’re interested please visit authors dot A.I.. So, we will jump right in. M.J. you want to introduce yourself and tell everybody a little bit about you? Can you hear me?

MJ Blehart:  Yeah, it’s my computer doing weird stuff.

Alessandra: Yeah, we can hear you. Do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself?

MJ Blehart:  Absolutely. I am M.J. Blehart. I am primarily a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. I started writing sci-fi when I was 9 years old. Wrote my first 50 pages Illustrated story back then, and then since that time over the years I’ve written several fantasy novels. I’ve done a lot of incomplete stuff but I’ve been primarily focused the last two years on sci-fi which is my first love. I was exposed to Star Wars when I was 5 years old and it just influenced everything and I’ve been a big Star Wars fan, a big sci-fi fan since then. So I’ve been really working to up the number of titles I have in my collection. So this year I’m in the process of publishing six books from two separate series – both sci-fi. And those two separate series have actually been written, one by the seat of my pants and one that I planned out. So this felt like just the right thing to talk about because I was a diehard pantser for years, and now I’m going “Wait! Planning isn’t terrible.” I thought it was totally stifling, so it’s been an interesting eye-opening experience.

Alessandra: I love that word stifling because I’ve felt the same thing. For those watching, I also am an author and I’m romance and suspense, but I was always a pantser and I’ve tried to plot or tried to do the full outline in the past and I really felt… stifled is a great word. Just creatively blocked, I wasn’t interested in writing the book anymore, I felt like I already knew everything and I was bored, so I’m really interested to hear. Now, I kind of do a combination of, and anyone watching; please chime in and say if you are a pantser or a plotter and please ask questions and interact because we will be taking your questions as we go along. But tell me about your transition and what is plotting to you. When you say plotting, what is your process?

MJ Blehart:  So for the longest time I have sat down and typed. The story came to mind. I wrote it out. That was what I did. And I would do all this by the seat of my pants and I banged out the first three books of my fantasy series this way. I wrote first of my two sci-fi stories this way. I just sat down and worked at it, and it was crazy but that’s what I did. And then, I had this idea for a new series that I wanted to play with, and I decided I need to lay out a lot of the world in advance. And in the interests of making it more commercially plotted because a lot of times my plot kind of is secondary to my characters and my story. I sat down and wrote out the initial plot. Then I started coming out with a lot of the character stuff and started building all these little bits and pieces without assembling it. And then, I started plotting each chapter out and it wasn’t the chapter word for word. I didn’t plot a whole chapter. I did in general; this is what this chapter is going to look like. These are the key points I’m going to hit in this chapter to keep moving the plot forward.

And what I found was I used to think this would stifle my creativity. I thought that this would completely lock me up because “Oh no, I’ve set myself to this course, what am I going to do? Where to go from here?” But I found that by creating this general outline, and it’s vague it’s very general it’s not a very long outline of each chapter. But I’m open to doing all kinds of stuff when I actually write the chapter; the characters that you don’t expect that crop up when you’re pantsing can still crop up, and suddenly the outline isn’t so rigid that that’s what you’re stuck to. It’s just the general idea. It’s sort of like in the Pirates Of The Caribbean it’s the idea that the pirate code is just a guideline more than an actual code. So it’s sort of the same thing and that’s how I’ve been approaching this. But I found that the plot, the story I’m able to develop is so much richer this way. And it’s been a really interesting journey and I’m because of this plotting out a totally new series for next year. And I’ve got more books in the same series I’m going to…

Alessandra: I think MJ has froze on my end. Let’s see if he moves in a second. I’ll be curious to see… I’m seeing a lot of comments; a lot of it’s pretty evenly mixed right now between plotters and pantsers. Hey, you’re back. They you are.

MJ Blehart:  Yes.

Alessandra: So we lost you and you were saying that you’re moving forward and it sounded like you said you’re going to be plotting this series out.

MJ Blehart:  Yep. I’m plotting out a second sci fi series for next year and I’ve got three more books in the series I’ve been doing this year that I’m going to start plotting out. I’ve begun already because I finished the four books which was the other neat thing about the plotting was it made the writing process faster only because I knew where it was going. Even though while I was working things cropped up, there was a whole scene that I plotted out that totally wrote a whole other way. It was there the way I plotted it, but I was like “No, this isn’t what I’m doing.” So it was kind of a neat experience.

Alessandra: Yeah. When you say series are your books; is it one continuous story like with a cliffhanger I mean or are these spin offs?

MJ Blehart:  So for this particular series the first four books are one storyline. So there is a single storyline I’m going through, there’s an overarching four book plot. And then the next series will be probably three books. I’ve just begun plotting it out and I’m expecting it to come up to about three books. And I have an idea for a series after that because I created characters in a world that I just… there’s so much I can do with it. So yeah, it’s you know it’s not a one and done in this case, but I’ve got a few of those out there most of which were written at the seat of my pants, so it’s definitely an experience.

Alessandra: I think what allowed me to be a pantser for so long as I was writing stand the lines, right. And so, you can really in your first draft kind of wander all over the place and then fix everything and rewrites depending on where you end up, but it’s a much longer tedious process right. And normally, my first drafts look like just a patchwork disaster. With a series, I can imagine especially if you’re publishing as you go. You know, you might really need something in Book Three that should have been added in book one but you didn’t have that idea at that point in time and you can’t go back. I can’t imagine doing a multi book series without at least having a general outline even if it’s rough. So when you say you plot a chapter; are we talking about like a short paragraph or are we talking about like a page of plotting? How long are your chapter outlines?

MJ Blehart:  I mean, it depends entirely on the chapter. Some of them are two or three paragraphs and that’s it. Couple of them are like a page — a page and a half depending on how much detail I’m throwing in. Once in a while I throw in a little bit of dialogue because something popped into my head that I’m going to want to include. It really depends on where I am in the story and where I’ve been where I’m going as to how much gets put in. There’ve been a couple of chapters that I’ve plotted that were like three sentences and that was it. That’s all I had for the plot. It was just the… this where we just left off, this where we’re going, and one of the cool things I found with the plotting was it makes cliffhangers a lot easier to play with because you actually know where you’re going next. And when I write by the seat my pants, I might have a general idea where I’m going.

I mean the fantasy series that’s what I did. I knew how it would end. I knew where I started, but along the way a lot of it just evolved because I didn’t outline and I didn’t plan it. It just happened. I was fortunate by the time I published book one, I had finished book two and was halfway through book three, so I was able to go back into book one and make a couple of necessary changes. But yeah, it’s an interesting trick with the one sci-fi series I’m writing, I just started writing. And I had probably a several hundred pages written out before I started breaking it down into its books and started going, “Okay, this is book one, this book two” which you know, because it took me a long time just to find my overall plot. That’s the biggest problem with planning and pantsing I find is that to some degree the plot is secondary when I’m writing by the seat of my pants. It’s the characters and the scenes that take the most work, and the plot itself comes in later. I’ve written an entire novel without having the overarching plot done.

Alessandra: So there are different ways to outline, you know, there’s the skeleton method, there’s I’m sure a bunch of other plot different ways. But when you plot, are you simply just starting at the beginning like you would start writing a book and then you’re kind of almost pantsing your way through the plot like you’re saying, “Okay, this is going to happen” or do you just establish the beginning, middle and end and then go in and fill in the middle? What’s your process?

MJ Blehart:  So ultimately I write the plot just like I’m writing by the seat of my pants. I have a general idea… What I’ve been doing for these last couple as I’m sitting down and creating a lot of the background info I need, the type of world, what type of faster than light travel we’ve got, am I doing more of a sci-fi versus sci-fantasy angle. And having that in the background, I’ve got a general idea of, “Okay, this is I think the story I want to tell, let’s start writing it, but let’s instead of writing everything out, here’s the outline of the first chapter. Here’s the outline of the second chapter. Here’s the outline of the third chapter and I’m very much writing it just like I would write by the seat of my pants. But instead of writing the whole thing out in one shot, I’m figuring out, “Okay, these are the chapters; hey, I made a mistake here, or I left something out here, or I don’t like the way this turned out, I can read you this one.” It’s giving me instead of less fluidity – more, which is totally the opposite of what I expected. I really thought this was going to be limiting and it’s just not it’s giving me a lot more to work with because I feel that, you know, this book I think has the strongest plot I’ve ever had or just about anything I’ve written in these four books that I’m creating are just… it could be one super long book, but it’s more interesting to break it up into four shorter books that are something you could sit down and read in a couple of days and then the next one comes out. And to me, that’s kind of exciting. It’s serialized in a lot of respect, and I love a good serialized story. And having this ability because I’ve plotted this out and did it just like I would write by the seat of my pants but in like two steps instead of one, I think I get a better strength out of it. So yeah, it’s definitely been an experience, I could say.

Alessandra: So how long are your books in this series?

MJ Blehart:  This series are generally around 50,000 words for each book. So they’re coming out around two hundred pages per book.

Alessandra: And how long does it take you to plot out like one book? Is it like a week long process or does this take…?

MJ Blehart:  It only takes about a week to plot a whole book. I have a very set writing goal because I’m writing full time. So I sit down and I plot out a chapter here or there. I try to plot out… you know, I have a daily word count goal that I set. So it generally, it takes me about a week to plot a whole book. And then once the plotting is done… I’m actually plotting all the books in the series. I plotted all four books in the span of about three weeks because I wanted to have, you know, where’s this starting, where’s it going, is it four books, is it five. That’s why for the next part of the same series, I actually don’t know how many books is going to be yet because I’m pretty much writing it by the seat of my pants. I’ve got this general idea of this is the next storyline with these same characters, but I don’t know how long this is going to turn out; for all I know it’ll be another four books when I’m done with it. But it’s kind of cool because again, I didn’t think I’d have this freedom from plotting. So it’s been really eye opening in that respect.

Alessandra: So have you had a moment where you have just completely steered off base and you’ve said “I think this is a better way to go,” and at that point do you keep writing or do you stop and read plot?

MJ Blehart:  So actually, what I ended up doing is I did run into this in book four. I hit a point where I had this entire way for how part of the story was going to go. I got to it and went, no, this doesn’t work, it no longer suits the character; I change the character too much. Rather than going back and replotting it, I just went with it and kept writing because I found that it didn’t really need to go back and replot at this point. It was still falling into, I knew where I was going from this point and where I came from which is easy to just keep going with it. And had it been more convoluted, had that changed the end story; I might have gone back and altered the plot of it. But again, I’m using the plotting as guideline more than straight and narrow “I got to do it this way.” It really did work so much better than I thought it would. This is like all I’ve been doing for the last six months and it really opened up after years and years of writing strictly by the seat of my pants, and I still write by the seat of my pants. My blogs, I usually have the topic and the outline and that’s it. So I blog every day and usually all I’ve got is a topic and a title and like the first two paragraphs and then I write the whole rest by the seat of my pants. And so, I still do both forms of writing but I’m finding first creating books that are saleable that I think people might want to read; I really feel that this has made for a stronger story overall, so that’s been cool.

Alessandra: Yeah. And I love a lot of things you said. You mentioned earlier that plotting is more like character based and scene based, I mean, pantsing, I’m sorry, and I agree with that. Like normally I dive in and I know my characters and I have some ideas of some scenes that I want to write, and then it kind of figures its way as we go. And the plot can get lost right, or the plot can wander all over the place. And I also like what you said about it’s easier to write cliffhanger endings and it’s also easier if you have an idea, a lot of time is a pantser, we start writing a scene and we really have no idea what’s going to happen in that scene. Where if you plot – if you know in advance what that scene is going to be, then you can say, “Oh, it might be more interesting if I write this scene from this character’s point of view or if I jump into the scene here instead. Or maybe if I skip this whole scene altogether because the reader doesn’t need to know that yet.” And you can’t make those decisions when you’re panting because you have no idea what you’re about to write, so you do it. Margaret said “Have you ever had the ending completely change from what you plotted out?” Which is kind of I think what you are saying; you did have a goal. Was it just a different path to the same ending or was the actual ending completely different than what you had?

MJ Blehart:  In this particular case it was a different path. It was just that one sequence needed to change. The ending stayed the same, but in a previous story in the fantasy series I’ve been working on for a long time now; in book one I had a very different ending in my head and this was even though I was writing it by the seat of my pants I knew the ending. And I got halfway through the book and realized that my villain ceased to be my villain, and it missed the whole thing up and I had to go back and completely rewrite his introduction because he wasn’t the villain anymore. I’d written him completely differently and I had to come up with a completely different ending. It took a lot and it changed the entire direction of what would eventually become the whole series.

Alessandra: You didn’t go back. You stuck with what you had gone off course and changed the plot around your variation versus going back and correcting the villain to be the villain. Is that correct?

MJ Blehart:  Yeah. And I find that it was more organic. The thing was because of when you’re writing about the seat of your pants, it’s very organic. It comes to mind you write it out and you get some really interesting characters; how you get characters you didn’t expect. I have a character in the third book of my fantasy series that I did not expect. She surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t expect her to be there, I didn’t expect her to be as important as she is to the story, but there she is. And I didn’t plot it, it was just there. That’s the thing about writing from the seat of your pants. Whereas when you’re planning, you have more of a general layout to go with. But even then, you can still have things that you didn’t expect to have happen, like that one scene that I planned one way and realize just didn’t work and had to rewrite the scene differently. It didn’t faze the outcome of the story, it didn’t change the ending, but it totally changed that particular section for that character and where they were going and made their journey more interesting I thought.

Alessandra: Side characters are great like that because I’m the same way, like you’ll have a scene stealer that you weren’t expecting, or it’s something that you’re just like “Oh, man comes in store and argues with him” and then you still have that flexibility when you’re writing that scene to make that man who comes in the store, any type of man that you want, and that argument as big or small as you want it to be. So I think that’s what… we had a comment that I like. T.K. says “Imagine building the house on the hill, the conceptual sketches at first, then come to a design you love but then it’s built according to plan.” And a lot of others… Arianna says she leans more. We have a lot of people watching today and you might have gravitate toward it, but most people seem to do both. So she did plots her disasters in the timeline when they will occur and that often is enough to get there safely. I love that. Safe with me till the end. Being a pantser can be really stressful. I have written myself into a corner a lot of times, but I also think a lot of new authors give up on their writing because they do try to be an outlier and being an outlier can be overwhelming at the beginning especially if you’re doing a full in-depth outline. It’s a lot to tackle if you’ve never written a story before.

MJ Blehart:  I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of you’ve outlined your story, you’ve got this idea for how you want it to go and suddenly as you’re writing, you’ve hit a totally different thing than you expected or a character did something that you didn’t think they’d do. It’s funny because you talk about these things like they’re alive because they are; all of the characters that we create are in our heads. They’re real. All of these people exist in my mind. I know who they are and what they do. They have motivations that don’t always make it to the page, and the next thing you know, your plan that you had for this character has completely gone out the window because they said something you didn’t think they’d say or they do something that you didn’t plan for them to do. And the next thing you know you’re stuck going, “Okay, so I go back and change the character or go back and change the plot?” And for some people that’s a moment of indecision that doesn’t, you know, it’s hard to deal with I think. And for me what I’ve always done is I just push through and I usually go with the gut feeling and I go with the one that feels the most natural to me. And more often than not, it’s not going to be the plot, it’s going to be the character spoke and told me they want to do something. I’m doing this thing with the character because they’re going to be more interesting.

Alessandra: The characters normally knows, and when you try to force a character down a path, then it starts feeling like you type out organic; it starts feeling awkward and going off base. We did have a question from a Facebook user. They said “Is there a particular structure such as a three-act structure that you plan with?” Or do you just get your chapter by chapter.

MJ Blehart:  I go chapter by chapter. In some respects, I have a general sense of beginning middle and end. But by and large, it’s more of I got the beginning, I’ve got the end and I have no idea what’s coming in the middle. I’ve even done that just working as a pantser where I knew the story was going to end and I knew what I want to start with, and the rest just fell in and I had no idea what it was going to be along the way. This is why you know my fantasy series that was originally going to be for books is going to be five. And it’s been years in the making but I’m still working on it. This sci-fi series that I’ve been doing for the last couple of years now that I’m publishing a couple more books of this year. There’s a second series I started last year that I wrote it by the seat of my pants. I’ve written books one through four which was just a giant file of everything I was writing. And I’ve actually come up that the ending when I get to the fifth and final book because I now know this is it I’m at the end; that’s going to get plot. I’m going to actually do the chapter-by-chapter plot of it because I’m finding that it’s not the tool… it’s not the negativity I thought it was, it’s not the you know obstacle I thought it might be to the creativity of writing by the seat of your pants. It gives you in some respects more to work with rather than less, or at least that’s what I found is I think I’ve got more structure and it’s easier to create. It’s easier to let the characters talk to you when you know where they’re going to go or at least that’s what I found. And the scenes make more sense that way in some respects too, it just sort of all plays out. And yeah, I don’t do the three-act thing, back to the original question; I have, but not in this case.

Alessandra: And for those of you watching, if you haven’t seen an MJ, We had a guest come on Stephanie Holmes and she writes what she calls a skeleton draft. Her first draft is like twenty thousand words. She writes 70,000- to 80,000-word books, but her first draft is like 20,000 words and she writes it in like seven or eight days. And it’s basically like an outline but each chapter is like a page sometimes and sometimes it’s a dialogue conversation, sometimes it’s whatever. But she kind of pants her way through that whole thing, but she can do it in seven-eight days. And then she’s reached the end and sometimes a chapter is just like conversation about this. And then she might write a paragraph of description or something you know, but it really is a skeleton. And I loved that idea and I was like “I’m going to do that on my next book” and I haven’t even had a chance write a book since then. But I love that idea because she’s like… First of all, you feel accomplishment like I’ve finished this book, you know, I’ve finish the first draft. And then she goes in and she adds like 60,000 words as she fleshes it out, but she has an idea and it still gives her that pantsing sense of moving through it. And I think that what your process is similar but yours is probably a little more structured and that you really are kind of outlining more than what she does which almost seems like a very abbreviated form of writing the book, but I find that fascinating.

MJ Blehart:  The difference I would almost say, I think I’m kind of creating the skin but everything beneath the skin is the stuff that still has to be worked out. So I don’t have a skeletal structure if you were to take that skin structure there’s nothing behind it, but it’s sort of the general “here’s what it’s going to look like” and then we’re going to get into it. It’s less skeletal. I think more like, I kind of look at it just a building structure. Same idea, it’s just slightly different analogy I think, but it’s a neat concept.

Alessandra: So if you have subplots, do you write the main plot, like you outline the main plot and then do you go in and add subplots and outline through there, or are you as you’re creating each chapter outline you are also creating and building subplots as you go?

MJ Blehart:  I’m generally just creating and building the subplots as I go. I tend to have my subplots just kind of pop up. In one of the books, there’s a relationship between two characters; they’re both minor characters. It’s sort of a subplot. It doesn’t have a huge bearing on the overall story except later when certain things happen in the later books. There’s an impact because of it and it was not meant to be. This particular book’s got a much more straightforward this is the overall plot arc. With some of the other stuff I’ve written, yeah, the subplots are just there, and sometimes it would probably help me if I had plotted them out because I have no idea where that came from. Or you know this character is… I don’t know what his characters actually doing. You know, it’s like they’re just kind of there to give color to the world in some cases. In my fantasy series my first editor recommended I throw in just a random character to the world who’s not directly connected to everybody just to give color to the world. And I actually bring that character back in the third book for another chapter and it’s one chapter of just this random character who serves no purpose for the rest of the book, but just gives you color of the world. I mean, this is Joe every guy in the middle of this world just like you and me, living in the middle these monster events happening around him and doing his job, and that’s it. So total subplot and just, you know, as I get to him I write it. I do not plan that out in advance.

Alessandra: Sometimes some of those characters are readers’ favorites, you know? And they’re always wanting to know like what happened with so-and-so and are they going to come back?

MJ Blehart:  That character is actually my wife’s favorite character from the first book.

Alessandra: Normally that’s what I normally get, “Oh are they going to have their own book?” I don’t know if they have enough to have their own book. But you always do fun bonus content and stuff like that with that sort of character. We are almost at time, so if anybody has a question, please shout it out now. And MJ where can they find out more if they’re interested in reading your books. Where would you suggest they start.

MJ Blehart:  So all my stuff is on Amazon. I would say if you’re interested, you can see links to everything on my website which you’re seeing there I also maintain a couple of different blogs. I post a medium daily, and then I would say if you’re interested in starting, I’ve got the first book of the two sci-fi series I’ve talked about; The Void Incursion series, first book is called Opening Gambit. That one was actually the last series I wrote as a pantser, so it was written by the seat of my pants. Book three of that series is actually publishing on Sunday this week. And this one I’ve been talking about it’s called Unexpected Witness. It’s the first book of the Forgotten Fodder series. It’s about 500 years into our future, and what happens to the clones that were used to fight a war after there’s no war for them to fight. And how are they living as second class citizens. It’s crazy.

Alessandra: That’s an interesting world. I love that. So the first book was called what, Gambit?

MJ Blehart:  The first book is called Opening Gambit, it’s book one of Void Incursion. And then, this other one, the one that I’ve been talking about that I’m plotting, the first book that I’ve really written from plot onwards is Unexpected Witness. It’s book one of Forgotten Fodder; book two of that series, Clone Conundrum, I’m planning to put out in May, actually, sorry, June. So that one’s coming out in June; all four of those books will be out before the end of the year, the first four books of that series. I’m just working on editing them now and getting the covers made. So it’s been a real, you know, this whole plotting thing is not what I thought it was. It’s been much more eye opening and it’s really given me so much more to work with than I thought I’d have. So yeah, this has just been neat.

Alessandra: I love that we did have one final question from Margaret and she said, how do you organize your outlines? Do you use a mapping tool or a storyboard or a notebook, or are you just working like in a Word file?

MJ Blehart:  So I have three Word Documents, basically. Word document one, and I’m fortunate that I have two screens I work from here. Word Document one is where I’m putting down the actual outline, document two is all of the background stuff I built up and I try to that down into sections so I can move through it as I need to look at characters, worlds, vehicles, technologies, stuff like that. And then there’s a file of nothing but glossary stuff; names, places, all that stuff, because sometimes you forget your own stuff when you’ve got enough characters with…

Alessandra: Especially in sci-fi and fantasy because yeah, you’ve got complicated names of things and…

MJ Blehart:  Yeah, I mean, this series, I’ve been very careful with the names. All the names have been based on actual factual, real names, but I’m using more obscure names. I’ve been mixing up my nationalities because I figured 500 plus years in the future, it’s all going to be a blur anyways, so everybody’s…

Alessandra: A melting pot of everything, yeah.

MJ Blehart:  So, you know, I’ve got one of my main characters. Her name is half Arabic, half Chinese. How would that not be a thing? So, you know, this is the kind of thing I was thinking about for these characters, but with my fantasy series, forget about it. I made up names that I pretty much pulled out of nowhere and they make sense to me, but I needed a glossary just to keep track of those people myself.

Alessandra: So you’re on a Word Doc, and then you just like chapter one, and then you just write and then do page break and chapter two?

MJ Blehart:  Nope. Literally, I’m just doing it’s, one, write out what I need, two, write out the next bit and just doing it that way. And that’s why, like I said, some of them are just a few paragraphs; some of them are a page. For this new series I’m starting now that I’ve been beginning to plot out which is another sci-fi series, it’s a much longer document. They are a page or two per chapter, but I’ve also needed because of the nature of that story to give myself more to work with. And the two pages I wrote of plotting are going to probably be 10 pages of story when I actually break it out and start putting it together down the line once I finished the plotting, which has been much less detrimental than I thought it wouldn’t. But yeah, and I can see a lot of value in having it mapped out because there can be a lot of good in having that; this is why I have the three separate docs. But for me, I live in Microsoft Word, which is probably not my best plan, but I’ve been working with it for so long. At this point I can make it do whatever I want, so that’s where I work. The one other thing I want to say, because I know we’re getting to the end here; when it comes to planning versus pantsing. I know for pantsers, it’s much easier to just go, you sit down you write. For planners and plotters, sometimes you get stuck because the story isn’t going the way you thought it was going to go, your plot is stuttered, as you started writing on your plot, you might’ve hit something unusual. My suggestion – just write through it. You can go back and change everything in the edits. Don’t stop yourself. Just push. It’s sometimes frustrating, but it’s often the best thing you can do for yourself because you never know what you’re going to come up with. And the idea you plotted out might only be half as good as the idea you’re actually writing. I found that as much as I thought, having the plot would be discouraging too, that it wasn’t at all. It actually made it easier because when I changed the character and changed where they were going, it didn’t alter, you know, it altered that scene, but it didn’t alter the story, which was kind of neat, so I was able to work within the framework I created. So that’s been a really unexpected find in all of this and you know, there’s value to both, pantsing and plotting. And there’s nothing that says that pantsers don’t plot and plotters don’t pants.

Alessandra: I love those final thoughts. Thank you so much. I love that final tip. So everyone watching, this is First Draft Friday. Thank you so much. If you are watching us on YouTube or Facebook; please subscribe or join the group. And if you’re listening on your favorite podcast app, please leave us a review and subscribe there. So thank you so much. We’ll see you guys in two weeks. Thank you so much, MJ, for coming on and for sharing your wisdom with us today. If anyone’s interested in checking out Marlowe our AI novel editor, please visit and you can discover her there. Thank you all. I hope you guys have a great weekend and a happy Friday and we’ll see guys in two weeks.

MJ Blehart:  Thank you.

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