Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The True and Honest Confession of an SOTP Writer

After wrapping up my last manuscript I dipped my toes into the first scene of my next idea.

I'd tossed around ideas for the main characters, theme, and basic ideas for months. Time to crank out the words, right?

Yes, I am an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer and have enjoyed every minute. Sort of. 

Recently, I sat at my computer tapping out the first few chapters stopping only when interruptions or lack of the next words stopped me. Three thousand words into the manuscript I closed my laptop. 

I was stuck. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out some fantastic resources for organizing a manuscript and since I can be distracted by shiny things, I bounced from one resource to another. 

Organizing a manuscript is like going on a diet. It is something you have to want to do to be successful. My attitude read the how-to pages and rebelled against organizing, preplanning, outlining, story world research. (You missed the two-year-old stomping of the feet. And the inner voice shouting "No! I won't do it!")

I set the books aside and looked at the clock, wondering what useful writing task I could do to fill the remaining minutes of my writing block. I ventured over to You Tube and found an interesting vlog chock full of tricks and shortcuts for a program I use. I didn't know the presenter would use her method of outlining, characterization, setting, and organization of a novel to demonstrate the shortcuts. 

Before I knew it, I was hooked.

So intrigued with viewing new ways to use the computer program I enjoyed, I actually learned a method for outlining my book--and horror of horrors--I liked it!

I did the assignments suitable to my shiny way of thinking: watched travel logs of similar places to create my story world. I swept through various sites to find names suitable for my characters, mapped out the story world city on power point, and figured out which character worked at the diner, postoffice, auto repair shop, etc. The families interacted in my mind and their faces appeared. They shared with me their issues and joys, lies, victories, hardships, etc.

I broke the story down into a three act play. (It became a Lays potato chip moment.) Each act had three chapters addressing specific issues. Each chapter had scenes with assigned POVs to best communicate the events and gradual infusion of new characters.  Subplots ideas appeared. I tucked them into scenes where they'd enhance the story. I wrote one to two paragraphs for each scene. It was like watching a garden grow.

Yes, I'd learned how to map out my book from other wonderful resources. But now, for some crazy reason, I wanted to follow through.

I set a goal for each day, allowing three weeks for the set up/research process. 

The first day of the fourth week I opened a scene and saw my summary para. I read it through and wrote the scene without any writer's block. The same thing happened the next day when I sat down to write another scene. I couldn't contain my excitement at how easy the words flew together. I wrote a third scene the same day. 

Having the scenes pre planned with summaries enabled me to choose any scene from the new book idea that popped into my mind. Of course the scene begging the loudest to be word painted on the page that day won. It didn't matter. I was prepared.

I could switch to my natural tendencies as an SOTP and write the chapter tweaking my mind because the book was now organized. (I can't believe I'm saying this.)

Can you hear the thrill in my words? I feel like the kid who finally learned to ride a bike. Or tie their shoes. The teen who has their driver's license or the college student who left home. Freedom!

The date I set to have finished all research and start writing a scene in my manuscript was 10/15/13.

Did I make it?


I had so much fun writing reports about the locations, the top six characters, everything I learned about the people and places, lies and victories, and etc. I did much more than planned for each day. I ended up writing my first scene one week early. 

Seriously!  I know--shocker. 

Successful writing can be done as an SOTP, plotter, or as a mix. That's me. I'm now a mutt writer and very happy. I hopped over the fence, jumped out of the box, and colored outside my own lines. 

Here I've rambled on for a whole post, sharing my confession like a kid at Christmas. 

How does this help you?  

Are you in a rut, ready to try something new?

Here at the Writers Alley, ten women share fabulous ideas from different perspectives, brimming with ideas for our readers. 

Yes, there are many ideas available on the Internet, conferences, classes, and books. What you have to do is to find the one that you are willing to apply to your need.

1. Pray. Ask God to lead you to the answer.
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
3. Don't be afraid of the Internet. (but always use caution)
4. Chose you this day to work towards conquering the writing problem you have.
5. AND when you do....CONFESS so you can encourage others. :)

This is an opportunity--a chance to to ask for a topic, a method, an idea, help, a resource, whatever. We are here for you.

How can we help you? We are also willing to write posts devoted to writing issues.

What have you tried that trampolined you into a new, wonderful way of writing?

(And no, I won't tell you which program worked for me...because this is not a commercial for the program.) Yeah, I know....wicked.

photo by

This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Joanne Sher said...

This post absolutely made me smile, Mary! I can feel your passion for your "new way ". And I wanna know what program you used. : D

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Mary, LOVED this! Your excitement shone through the page. :) I love that you found a way that helped you write your story.

For my first book, being the uber-plotter that I am, I found myself writing mini-synopses for each scene of my book before I ever started writing. A few things changed in process. But, I was able to fly through writing it because I knew where I was going.

With this book I did more of a mix—the external journeys had a clear vision of where they were going. But for the internal journeys and relationships of my characters, I totally SOTP'd that. And I think it worked. :)

I'm so excited for you with your new story!

Unknown said...

Okay, I laughed out loud at this. Mainly because of how much I can relate. My stories tend to unfold AS I write, which is out of character for me b/c I'm so methodical about most things. There have been many times when I've read back through a story and thought, wow that all really tied together and I didn't even plan it!

But I can't completely escape my need for organization and coherence. For my first few books, I ended up outlining after the fact (I know, weird), to make sure their was a cohesive flow throughout each chapter and overall plot stream.

I'm approaching my newest WIP a bit differently. I love the ideas you've presented here. Can't wait to experiment and see how it goes.

Unknown said...

Loved this, Mary! :) And I love how much fun you ended up having plotting. Naturally, I'm a plotter...I love to plan and think and organize my ideas. However, I realized something as I wrote my last book...I also need those SOTP moments. I need to feel the magic of a story capturing me rather than just me capturing the story.

Now this third time around, I'm shooting for a balance. I'm writing my first three chapters without planning to much ahead. I know the basics, but I want to feel the fun of just seeing what happens on the page. Once I'm done with these first chapters, I'll go back and do my usual planning...but I'm going to leave things a little more open, stay a little more flexible. We'll see how it works. :)

Pepper said...

EXCELLENT, MARE!!! And you should totally share that vlog link!

Mary Vee Writer said...

The program I am using is Scrivener. Talk about the ultimate program for a "something shiny" person. My writing has leaped forward in productivity because of it.

Scrivener comes with instructional links to YouTube. But in the right column I found videos made by others who showed their shortcuts using the program.

Here is my confession: not advertisement- my teacher is a young gal about my daughter's age: here is the link :

Mary Vee Writer said...

It does seem like we know a lot more about the first books than any others. We may not always have the skill, but there is a first time writer enthusiasm that spits the story onto the page.
The second ones, well, we have to get down and dirty and plan those buggers out but then we box ourselves into the planning and can't hear the characters speaking to us.
I am so glad you came over to the dark side and used some SOTP in book three. Doesn't it feel good?

Mary Vee Writer said...

I can so relate. And what is even more awesome is when some tells you they see something tie together that we didn't see....WOW. That means they really dove into the story, became more than acquaintances with the characters, and saw through the issues. I imagine that has happened to your stories.
Love it. Your readers are so blessed.

Mary Vee Writer said...

You have chosen to walk down the dark alley with your characters. That is what happens with SOTP. Our characters whisper to us, their voices trembling because they can't see what is happening next. Their blood pressure rises and they sweat. Tentative steps are taken forward. They must. It is the only way out and neither of you know what is lurking five feet ahead.

ooooooo Melissa. Looking forward to this third book.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Yah, know Pepper,
I really wasn't going to share it.
But I can see how curiosity will kill the intent of the post. Soooooooo I gave in and put the link in Joanne's reply. pbbbbbbb