Guest Post! Writing Wednesdays: Why Pantsers need to plot (and how to do it) - with Rebecca Sky

In this special guest Writing Wednesday post from Wattpad writer Rebecca Sky, she shares why learning to plot is important for pantsers, and how to do that

As I mentioned last week, throughout August, I'm featuring guest posts for Writing Wednesdays from Wattpad writers - last week, Gavin Hetherington talked about knowing when to delete your entire manuscript; this week, I'm thrilled to have Rebecca Sky to talk about why it's important for pantsers (people who write by the seat of their pants) to learn how to plot.

And honestly, speaking as a pantser, this is something I could definitely do with some help on!

Before we get stuck into Rebecca's advice post, here's a little more about her and his writing...

I've known Rebecca for a while on Wattpad. She's always been a writer I admired and helps run the #Wattpad4 weekly Twitter chats (which I've taken part in a couple of times!). Rebecca's work on Wattpad has accumulated over 20 million reads and she's also done some great work with brands on Wattpad too. 

And last year, I was lucky enough to go along to Rebecca's book launch for her debut novel, Arrowheart, published with Hodder Children's Books. The sequel to Arrowheart, Heartstruck, was released in July this year. Here's a quick synopsis of Rebecca's debut novel - which I totally adored, for the record!

The gods are gone. The people have forgotten them. But sixteen-year-old Rachel Patel can't forget - the gods control her life, or more specifically, her love life. 
Being a Hedoness, one of a strong group of women descended from Greek God Eros, makes true love impossible for Rachel. She wields the power of that magical golden arrow, and with it, the promise to take the will of any boy she kisses. But the last thing Rachel wants is to force someone to love her . . .
When seventeen-year-old Benjamin Blake's disappearance links back to the Hedonesses, Rachel's world collides with his, and her biggest fear becomes a terrifying reality. She's falling for him - a messy, magnetic, arrow-over-feet type of fall.
Rachel distances herself, struggling to resist the growing attraction, but when he gives up his dream to help her evade arrest, distance becomes an insurmountable task. With the police hot on their trail, Rachel soon realises there are darker forces hunting them - a group of mortals recruited by the gods who will stop at nothing to preserve the power of the Hedonesses - not to mention Eros himself, who is desperate to reverse the curse . . .

Now, back to the writing advice!


I didn’t always tell people I’m a panty-liner, but thanks to my friend Fallon introducing me to the concept that writers can be both plotters, or outliners, and Pantsers, well:

As a newbie writer, I got the impression that you had to be one or the other.

It can sometimes feel like there’s a battle between the two camps, and authors tend to be very vocal of what side they fall. 

Plotters told me that Pantsers don’t take their work seriously and end up with a hot mess needing a lot of edits, and Pantsers said that Plotters lack the inspiration and flexibility of going with the flow. 

I was a Pantser that wanted to be a professional author so I tried Plotting and when it didn’t click I felt like I’d never reach my dream of publishing a book. It was so discouraging.

I wasn’t always this stressed about writing and my process. 

I started writing on a story sharing platform called Wattpad as a way to escape my life. At the time I was working part time at a law firm and going to school for Legal Administration – I learned quickly that I hated the law firm environment and was freaking out that I was setting myself up for a career I didn’t actually want. 

Wattpad, more specifically my writing, gave me an escape from that. 

I found myself writing on lunch breaks and every spare moment. It lit a fire inside of me and I knew that writing was something I would do for the rest of my life. But to me it was a hobby, I just wrote whatever inspired me, and I found inspiration everywhere – from comments my readers left to things I gleamed from conversations with friends. 

I was 100% Pantsing and I didn’t know any different. That’s what’s great about Wattpad, there are no rules or story format standards, it’s totally okay to go on tangents – you can have three chapters just about characters on a donut run if you want and you’ll find readers who will love that. 

After spending my days having to follow precise rules and systems at the law firm and school, it was nice to just follow my own creative inspirations.

Around this time I met the most blinders-on focused writer I've ever met. 

I'm talking about my now-bestie, E. Latimer (Erin). I was drawn to her drive to publish her work and had a front row seat to her journey querying agents and working towards that goal. Her determination and seeing her go through that process really got me curious about it. 

Then one day Erin encouraged me to try to get a literary agent too, and it was like getting struck with a bolt of lightning. Though I loved story telling so much, I’d never even considered I could publish a book. 

Here I was going to school for a career I hated and to suddenly think that writing, this thing that was so special to me, could possibly be a profession, shook me to the core. 

The desire to see my writing in a tangible book form manifested then in me. I began reading more, taking courses, exploring the traditional publishing world, and mostly I watched Erin’s example of what it took to be a professional author.

I realized quickly that the way I told stories on Wattpad doesn’t work the way books do. 

Books cost money to produce so publishers tend to like them to stay within a certain page or word count, longer stories = bigger books = more page cost to the publisher. Pacing needs to be fast (no 3 chapter donut runs) word counts need to be contained (standard for YA is around 70-80,000 words *fantasy and scifi can be longer). 

There are extraordinary stories that can go above or below that word count, but I figured it’s good to aim for publishing standards to give myself the best possible chance at getting a book deal. 

I needed to cut a lot of words and speed my pacing to make my Wattpad draft of Arrowheart fit that mold. So I pulled one of the most popular plot techniques and I wrote down the key parts of my story in it, I knew those key parts were things that couldn’t be cut, everything else could.

Here are a couple of handy diagrams when it comes to plotting...


I changed a lot, cut a lot of scenes, and it was a real struggle for me.

It was hard because I didn't want to change too much from what it was. Writing Arrowheart on Wattpad was a special experience, my readers' input and engagement helped shape the story (I wish I could hug every single reader who was reading while I first serialized Arrowheart online, you seriously mean so much to me). It’s a very different story in book form, but the heart of it is the same.

When it came time to write my next story, I thought I needed to Plot it to avoid the editing epidemic that Arrowheart was.

But I found it really stifling, I got writer’s block and never had the motivation to write. 

Part of what I love about writing is being surprised by my characters and story and going with the flow of that. I wanted to get back to that, but as you can tell from this blog post, I wander a lot in my writing and my first act specifically tends to be long. I have a hard time introducing all the backstory and the characters and getting to the action without overloading it sometimes, or at least I feel that's my weakness. 

And I knew from the Plot charts what I needed to do to fix that. As a reader I really connect to books that hook you in fast right away like Hunger Games, Female of The Species, The Hate U Give. I want my writing to reflect my taste, but I struggled with being restricted by plotting rules.

But here’s the thing: learning Plotting rules can help you be a better Pantser. 

When I connected that, it changed the way I write. I know my book should be roughly around 80,000 words and my first act should be 15-20,000 words. So now if I’m nearing the 15,000 range and I haven’t hit my big plot point yet, I know I need to speed things up or find a way to cut things. 

And if I'm hitting those plot points then I can relax and let the story follow the threads. I'm now using plotting as a road map. I know where I need to end up and I can take any of the roads I want to get there. 

Plotting helps me structure a better story, and Pantsing keeps me inspired to keep telling it. 

If you’re a Pantser here are some great Plots to read up on: Heroes Journey, The 7 Point Plot Structure, and The Snowflake Method.

Thanks for hanging with me in Beth’s blog today! I’d love to connect more, you can find me mostly on Twitter or Instagram (where I post way too much about my books, my adorable Boston Terrier Winston, and about body positivity). And if you’d like reading about Greek Mythology but in a Contemporary world check out my books Arrowheart and Heartstruck: about the descendants of Greek God Eros who have the ability to steal your will with a kiss.


Huge thank you to Rebecca for the wonderful post - I know I'm definitely taking some of this advice away and looking into The Snowflake Method more! And I really can't recommend Arrowheart enough - make sure you check it out!

Next week, I'll be sharing more advice from Wattpader Kelly Anne Blount so make sure to keep an eye out for that!

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