Nicky Wells discusses plotting and pantsing!

I am so excited to have my friend and colleague Nicky Wells on my blog today! She’s the author of a rock star trilogy (Romance that Rocks Your World!) and this month she launches the first installment, Sophie’s Turn, with her new publisher Sapphire Star. Today she tells us why she chose plotting over pantsing as her writing style (I totally agree with you there, Nicky!)  But first a little bit about Sophie’s Turn:

Slapper.  Slut.  Adulteress.  These are hardly words that Sophie Penhalligan would normally use to describe herself.  Yet this is exactly how she is behaving, all things considered, even if she isn’t quite married to Tim yet.  And it’s all happening because her past is coming to tempt her!  Nine years ago, she met her teenage idol and rock star extraordinaire, Dan, up close and personal.  Well, almost.  Now Dan has crash-landed back in her life.  How could Tim ever stand a chance against the charming, handsome singer?  How could she?

Sophie, now twenty-eight and a budding newspaper journalist, is happily embroiled in a relationship with Tim, her boyfriend of two years.  Until recently, she was confident that Tim would eventually propose—probably as soon as he could get his act together.  But just as Tim’s persistent inaction is beginning to cast a cloud over their relationship, Dan’s sudden reappearance turns Sophie’s world upside down.  Thus unfolds a roller-coaster of events including an ill-fated trip to Paris with Tim, a night of unfulfilled romance with Dan, Sophie and Tim’s engagement party gate-crashed by Dan, and Sophie’s professional secondment to accompany Dan’s band on their revival tour—at Dan’s special request and very much against her will.

And then, one fine day in Paris, Sophie suddenly finds herself engaged to Dan while her erstwhile fiancé Tim is…  well, doing whatever it is Tim does back in London.   What is she to do now?  Who wouldn’t give anything to meet their favorite star, let alone marry him?

Find out how Sophie gets into this impossible situation, and how she turns it around, in Sophie’s Turn, the honest, funny and sometimes bittersweet story of one woman’s entanglement with a rock star.


Now Nicky shares her not-so-rare plotting disorder with us!


I suffer from Compulsive-Obsessive Plotting Disorder

Yup, that would be me. I’m a compulsive, obsessive plotter. I plot the plot, then I plot it again, then I re-plot and then, just to be absolutely certain, I plot once again. Lost the plot yet? I don’t blame you!

Let me step back a little.

Plot. What a peculiar word. I remember hearing it for the very first time. I was in secondary school and had elected English as one of my major, A-Level courses. Bear in mind this was in Germany, and we were all working in English as a second language. I believe it was Macbeth that prompted my introduction to ‘plot’. Suddenly, there it was, this word, plot. It was everywhere, and I didn’t have a clue what it meant. By way of bizarre association, it made me think of apple stew.  You know, apple compote. Apple complot.

The teacher tried her hardest but the meaning was elusive to me, somehow. If she’d used some inventive imagery—for example, the plot is your red threat, your guiding line, your string of pearls—I might have got it sooner. As it was, it took me a good while to figure out what a plot was.

However, once I’d grasped the concept, I never looked back. I’ve discovered that I’m a ruthless plotter. I tried pantsing, once, but I didn’t like it. The chaos and the uncertainty wasn’t for me, and all the effort involved in going back and making sure I got my chronology right was just too much.

So now, I plot. As threatened above, I plot in four stages.

Stage #1 is the core idea, the guiding principle, the ‘nugget’ of the story. Take Sophie’s Turn, for example. Here, the ‘nugget’ is that she wants to marry the rock star, but she’s already engaged.

Stage #2 is the handwritten plot. I nick the kids’ roll of paper off their easel and measure out roughly the length of the dining room table. I draw a loooooong line across, and write the beginning and end points at… the beginning and end, doh. Sorry, that was obvious! That accomplished, I know where to start and where I’ll finish, so I map out how I get there. Events that I’m certain will take place I write straight onto the plot line in roughly the right place. The rest gets populated with multi-colored sticky notes, which also help to raise questions, mark subplots, or flag contradictions.

Stage #3 is the word-processed plot-chart. This involves putting the rather large and unwieldy handwritten plot into Word, using block arrows for sections or chapters, and plenty of bullet points to flesh out each stage. There is a certain firming up of ideas, and some initial research that takes place at this point, and I typically get that tingling feeling that means the book will be written.

Stage #4 is my master outline. Here, I take each one of the individual sections represented by a block arrow and really develop it. I create a one-page synopsis for each segment of the narrative, with a large space in the margin for research notes, character description or anything else (“note to self: don’t forget to let Sophie chose her own dinner in Chapter 32”) that will help me write. When that is done, I usually have between 20 and 30 pages of ‘summaries’ which constitute my detailed plot outline, or crib sheets. When I write, this is what I refer to.

It’s quite handy, this process. It means once I’ve got to Stage 4, I’ve usually resolved major conflicts and have the plot firmly embedded in my head. It also enables me to write in short sharp bursts, as and when family life and other commitments allow me to, without getting lost or confused in my own narrative.

Now, then, you ask, do I ever deviate from the plot I’ve so meticulously plotted? Of course I do; or rather, my characters do it for me. They’re a bit pesky like that, always coming up with their own ideas, their own ways of doing something. Usually, I let them run and eventually find they fall in line, resuming the plot as previously planned by their creator. Very occasionally (and notably so in Sophie’s Turn), they will force me to reconsider or adjust certain elements (significant ones, too, like the ending!). But do you know what? Even that I find much easier after all that plotting, because at least I know what course I am diverging from.

See, I am compulsive obsessive. How about you?


About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!

Rock On! Nicky Wells writes fun and glamorous contemporary romance featuring a rock star and the girl next door.  She recently signed her work with U.S. publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing.  Nicky loves rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters.  When she’s not writing, Nicky is a wife, mother, and occasional teaching assistant.

Originally born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993, and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys.  In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C.

Visit Nicky on her blog where you can find articles, interviews, radio interviews and, of course, an ongoing update on her work in progress, the second and third parts of the Rock Star Romance Trilogy.  You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook.  Nicky is a featured author on the innovative reader/author project, and has joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Nicky also has author pages at Sapphire Star Publishing and, of course, Goodreads.


Great information and advice, Nicky! Thanks so much for visiting my blog!


10 Responses

  1. Chris Longmuir Says:

    I’m impressed. I’m an inveterate pantster but in order to ensure the chronology is right as well as other things, I compile a timeline as I go along.

  2. Melanie Robertson-King Says:

    I think I’m a “plantser”. I do like the unknown but I have to know my ending before I start. Getting there is the adventure.

  3. Linn B Halton Says:

    Wow! Now that is a masterplan! It’s always interesting to hear how other authors operate. This takes some beating though! I use a spreadsheet, with a range of columns to give me control. Guess we ar two control freaks but it certainly helps! Thanks for sharing ladies.

  4. Nicky Wells Says:

    Bonnie, it’s such an honor to be here today! Thank you so much for hosting me as part of my launch blogtour for Sophie’s Turn.

    I hope your readers enjoy hearing about my OTT, OCD style approach to planning. May I just add that of course, ‘my way’ won’t work for everyone and sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be… ooh, I don’t know. More spontaneous? LOL.

    Anyway, happy reading, happy writing and rock on. XX

    Chris and Melanie ~ thank you very much for visiting and commenting. I totally take my hat off to you both and wish I could be more adventorous myself. You ladies write cracking books with fabulous endings so there it is… everyone’s journey is up to them. I’m my own personal GPS, you get to explore the countryside. Awesome!

  5. Joanna (Lazuli Portals) Says:

    Nicky, you continue to amaze me. I knew you plotted compulsively, but hadn’t quite grasped the extent of it!

    As you know, I’m a pantser (I think you have to be when your fiction is in the ‘visionary’ genre) but that does create work down the line, as you found yourself. Now that we’re on book 2 of our series, I have more documents than I’d like in Evernote, all of which have attempted to tie everything together and make sure I am consistent and chronological throughout the series!

    Good to be here on your blog, Bonnie, which I think is a new one for me, as I follow Nicky around. 😉

  6. Sheryl Browne Says:

    Well… I’ am a bit plantser (like it, Chris), but yo’ve just convinced me I need to do bit of plotting tomorrow re the second half of my WIP. I think I made need several easel’s worth – or a loo roll, or something. You make me smile, Nicky, in the best possible way. Happy plotting, m’dear! 🙂 xx

  7. admin Says:

    Thanks so much everyone for all your comments! I love this piece and think it quite helpful for all writers. Thanks so much for visiting my website, Nicky! Well done!

  8. Nicky Wells Says:

    Hello again!

    Linn–our comments must have overlapped, sorry I didn’t say hi before. I like the idea of a spreadsheet. There’s a lot to be said for the flexiblity of Excel; maybe I’ll give that a go.

    Jo–I adore your style and your humour. Thank you for commenting and continuing to be chief groupie; I think you’re enjoying finding all these blogs! Haven’t heard of Evernote, you’ll have to fill me in on that sometime.

    Sheryl, thank you yet again for visiting one of my blogspots. You’re always there: is this part of my grand plot? Course it is. Do give the looooong piece of paper approach a try, you might enjoy it. You can also add photos of you and your loved ones to keep you amused while you write, although they might distract, of course. Rock on, my friend!

    Bonnie ~ hope you’re having a nice time with me and all the visitors here. I know I’m enjoying myself!

  9. Emma Calin Says:

    I think I am a pantser by nature – but I do have to do the plotting eventually to tie up those loose ends and get the timeline sorted. As you say – horses for courses!

  10. Nicky Wells Says:

    Absolutely ~ as long as you get there in the end. Well said, Emma, and thanks for visiting. X

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