The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Writing Craft: How Do I Love Thee”

Welcome to Day #2 of The Week of the Writer! Everyone please join me in welcoming Jami Gold to the blog! Her blog is one of the few I look forward to reading each week! She offers great writing advice and presents it in a way that is all her own, causing every writer who stops by her blog to stop and think about their own writing from a different angle.

When I thought of how best to introduce her for today’s post, I quickly discovered I couldn’t do it any better than she could, which is one of the reasons why I love her – in a non-creepy way. But I will say this: I love her sense of humor, the way she approaches writing, and the fact that we have so much more in common than our love for the written word. 🙂 

Thank you Jami for stopping by today and sharing in your love of the craft! And for the reminder that the rules of writing are really more like a guideline! 


“Writing craft” can refer to many different things, the act of writing (drafting), the nitpickiness of editing and grammar, the art of creating sentences that flow, etc. For me, I’ll take “all of the above.”

I’ve never fit into a box very well, so this is nothing new. I’m not quite a plotter or a pantser when it comes to drafting. I’ve written stories that started with strong characters and needed a plot, and other stories that had a strong plot and needed characters. I’ve written stories both chronologically and out of order. In a group of black sheep, I’d be the black sheep among the black sheep.

So when Melinda asked me to share my writing process, I wondered: Do I have a writing process?

I think my answer is that I do whatever works. *smile*

And I’m not trying to be flippant. Some people start as plotters on their first book because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to get all the details right before they dig in. But then for their second book, maybe a character whispers in their ear so loudly they can’t ignore it.

Except maybe they do ignore it. Maybe they’re stuck on being a plotter because that’s what worked for them before, so they tell that character, “I’ll start writing when you give me the plot details.” When the character isn’t interested in hashing it out in advance, the story dies.

Or the reverse might be true. Some people start as pantsers because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to dig in right now, today. But then for their second book, maybe they have an idea for a series, and the convoluted plot threads need to be figured out in advance to make the series work.

Except maybe they don’t figure it out. Maybe they’re stuck on being a pantser because that’s what worked for them before, so they refuse to outline anything for the series’ big picture. Then they write themselves into a corner, and the series dies an early death.

My point is that for much of writing, the rules are more like (in the words of some immortal pirates) guidelines. There’s often no “one right way” to do things.

I know, because I’ve written both from a scene-by-scene outline and from the seat of my pants. I like having ideas for all those turning points the structure people talk about (storyfix.com is a great resource for structure lessons). But I also like not knowing how a scene is going to play out before I write it.

I love that sense of discovery while I’m writing. When my characters surprise me in a scene, that’s a good sign the plot isn’t cliché. But if I were a strict plotter, I wouldn’t let my characters get away with adding a new subplot. And if I were a strict pantser, I wouldn’t be able to see how to tie events together and I’d have to fix it in revisions. The most important thing to me is whether it works.

So at some point, we have to shut out what others say, and even what our own experience says. Just because something worked for us before, doesn’t mean it will work for every situation. If we keep an open mind about every aspect of writing craft, we never know when we’ll find something that works for us.

If we’ve never been good at grammar, we can keep our eyes out for a new resource to make it clear. If we’ve never been good at editing, we can try a different approach. No matter how miserable our past encounters are with an aspect of writing, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be difficult—as long as we’re willing to learn what might work for us.

If you’re a plotter, do your characters still surprise you with their actions? If you’re a pantser, are you able to see a story’s big picture? Are there some aspects of writing you enjoy more than others? Why do you like some aspects less? Does that change from story to story?


After dancing with the Devil in the pale moonlight—and accidentally  tripping him—Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas. Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Goodreads.

15 thoughts on “The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Writing Craft: How Do I Love Thee”

  1. Thank you so much for inviting me! I love your idea of celebrating writers and the craft this week. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else says about their love of the craft. 🙂

  2. Jami, I love how you emphasize the flexibility needed in writing. Each story has its own unique demands, and, as writers, we need to approach each story in the way best to tell it. Kind of like children, they all have their unique personalities, and what you can do with one child, may not work for another!

    Like you, some of my stories have required heavy plotting beforehand, and some have come out at the speed of light with the characters telling me what to do as I go.

    And so glad Melinda is doing these posts this week. It’s great to get to know my favorite bloggers better! ;-0

  3. Excellent post, both of you. I must say, Jami IS one of those blogs that, since finding it, I’ve looked forward to every single post – because she DOES make me stop and think about writing slightly differently than before.

    Jami, you haven’t not amazed me yet. You’re absolutely right with both aspects you’ve outlined here. When I’ve gone in pantser style, the series often dies. I’m just not good at it, I guess. But when I go in, plots ablaze, I’m able to get through a lot of it.

    Funny thing is, even when I plot, the characters can still surprise and speak to me, edging the story or dialog in another direction that they prefer. And when I did it pantsing style, I still had a good idea of the story’s overall feel and placement.

    So I think that both aspects can bleed over into each other, and some people may be really good at one, and terrible at another; perhaps they’re excellent at both. For me, I need some kind of background and story plotted out ahead of time.

  4. Great post Jami. I’m a little of both, pantser and plotter. I doubt I’ll ever be completely a pantser again nor can I see myself ever plotting each and every detail.

    I have to say writing that first draft is usually my favorite part. I’ve locked my inner editor in the penthouse suite with never-ending distractions *wink* and the juices just flow. Sometimes there’s a road map with points of interest and others I’m just along for the ride. Either way, it’s always a fun trip 🙂

  5. The key for any writer is flexibility. You touched on the importance of learning and growing. I love that you emphasized the fact that because something has been difficult before, doesn’t mean it will always be difficult. In banging our heads against the wall, we don’t take the time to step back, take a breath, and say, “You know what, I can do this.”

    I postponed writing a novel for so long. I stuck with picture books, never daring to take that leap. I thought, “When I’m good enough as a writer, I’ll try a novel.” What a silly idea. I didn’t realize that I could grow with each attempt, with each novel. I wasted too many years on self doubts and being stuck in one place. Learn AS you go. Be open and be flexible. That’s the ticket, 🙂

    Great post!

  6. @Susan – LOL! at comparing our stories to kids. That’s a great way to look at it.

    @David – Yes, even when I have the point A and point B of a scene planned out, my characters still surprise me with how they get there. 🙂 And I think you’re right – there is a lot of bleed-over between the extremes.

    @Raelyn – First drafts often feel like that for me too: I’m just along for the ride. 🙂

    @Tina – I’m glad you were able to work past that worry. 🙂 I know I wouldn’t be able to do justice to a certain story right now, but it’s at the end of the series, so I’ve got a way to go yet. 🙂

  7. Love the post Jami! I’m a mix, started as a pantser, became a plotter, mixed the two and whenever something in the process roadblocks me I’m quick to look for a solution or adjust for “that” project. I do have a basic guideline that I work on (and am currently refining), nothing is ever in stone.

    Thanks fot Melinda for hosting 🙂

  8. I’m definitely a plotter, Jami–which means I just have to work harder to get my characters deep enough. Pantsers seem to work from characters first and plotters from plot first. Gotta have both of them, though!

  9. Jami: Thank you again for joining this week!

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post and you’re right: we do need to be flexible with each story. Like Susan said, every child has their own ‘needs’ and when we know them, we need to recognize them and bend our process for them. 🙂

  10. @Gene – Yes, I kind of have defaults too, which I then adjust as needed.

    @Suzanne – Oh, interesting! I never thought about that plotter-plot and pantser-character link before. That might not be the case for everyone, but I bet that applies for many. Thanks for that insight!

    @Melinda – Thank you again for inviting me. I had a great time! 🙂

  11. What a great reminder! So many aspiring writers are out there trying to do it “right” when in fact there are good general guidelines and even rules you have to learn before you break them, but in essence it’s still a creative process and everyone is different. Wow that was a seriously long run on sentence…

  12. Jami said: “I’m not quite a plotter or a pantser when it comes to drafting. I’ve written stories that started with strong characters and needed a plot, and other stories that had a strong plot and needed characters. I’ve written stories both chronologically and out of order.”

    I am so not alone! Thanks, Jami and Melinda!

    I also love that ‘sense of discovery’ as I write, not just first draft, but revision, too. (Characters do the darndest things after they’ve been around the virtual world a while.) Guess I prefer revision b/c I don’t have to think up new story, just find a way to tell it best.

  13. @Lisa – Yes, we have to learn and understand the rules before we break them. Anytime we break rules it should be because doing so will make the story better, not just because we feel like it. 🙂 But virtually every rule can be broken for a good enough reason.

    @Joanna – Yay! Another random-process writer. 🙂 And yes, I know what you mean about how sometimes drafting is harder because it’s like pulling teeth.

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