Recommendations · Writing

Plotting for a Pantser

For Christmas a few weeks ago, I received the book “Romancing the Beat” by Gwen Hayes*. The book was on my Amazon wish list, and I was happy to get it. Last weekend, I took the book out to read it, which took a surprisingly short amount of time. Like many craft or self-improvement books, I read it and basically told myself “Hm. That was interesting,” then put it down.

However, about half an hour later, something occurred to me (which should have been obvious, but you can’t tell me you’ve never done this). Reading a book about craft (or self-improvement) is all well and good, but you won’t actually get any better unless you apply what you learned.

The interesting thing about this book is that it’s about the ‘beats’ in a romance novel. What this means is that, irrespective of your actual plot, these are the things that should happen in a romance novel between the two protagonists.

My books tend to have a paranormal and action bent to them, so as I’m writing my first draft, all I care about is whether or not the action is satisfying and makes sense. However, since I’m also writing romance novels, this book helped me see what sort of tension was missing between my main characters.

Enter inspiration.

I spent part of my Sunday afternoon building this:

My cork board

I matched one of my works in progress against her beats. It helped me to show which ones I had covered (most of the first half of the book) and which ones I was missing or should punch up (most of the second half of the book). I think that, because the action increased in the second half of the book, the tension in the love story was absent, or at least was definitely second fiddle to the action scenes. This showed me exactly what I was missing, and what I needed to add in order to make my story stronger.

A small aside. I am almost exclusively a ‘pantser’. When I come up with a new story idea, I generally have an inspiration, make about one (small) page of notes for me to reference, and then go to town. I don’t outline, and I don’t pre-plan much more than a handful of highlight scenes.

The beauty of “Romancing the Beat’ is that it can be applied while you’re outlining (for those plotters out there), OR while revising (for those of us pantsers). Software might be able to tell you where your spelling and grammar are off (a copy edit type review) but something like this can tell you if your story holds together or not (a story edit perspective).

Overall, I’m so happy with this refreshing new look at one of my current works in progress, and will definitely use it in the future!

*Note: I only promote things I have actually used myself and have had success with.