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Monday, February 21, 2011

Vacation 101: Pantser or Plotter?

How does an author, who's normally a hard-core pantser, draw up an itinerary for a future Ireland / Scotland trip? Well, let me tell you it's quite difficult, especially when there is so much to see and not enough time to fit it all in. This is the dilemma I have come to face.

Let's start at the beginning...

As some of you may already know, I write full length historical novels. The first two books in my Emerald Isle Trilogy (RÆLIKSEN and MAC LIAM) are available and despite their length, their intricately woven plots, and the many twists that take place in the series, I have never--I repeat, NEVER--plotted them out on paper. Several of my friends and family, who've read the series, have asked me how in the world I've done such a thing, and honestly, I find myself asking "how do other authors plot out their books and stick to it?"

I know my personality, and because of it, I'd spend more time revising my outline than writing the story by memory. Don't get me wrong, I've tried. And the first time I ever plotted anything out was for my contemporary novella due out in April called Silent Partner. With it supposedly being only a novella, I decided to see if I could even write a novella--which means keeping it below a certain word count. I have to say, I successfully wrote out the entire outline for the story just to see how many chapters it would take to complete it, but then when it came time to writing the story, I seemed to have dismissed the outline, never consulting it as the scenes played out in my head.

Was that a waste of my time? Not did help me to keep things in order. But in all honesty, I actually preferred to fly by the seat of my pants. Did I write the novella without any trouble? Yes. Did I keep it under a certain word count? No. But yet, I am so thankful I didn't because now it will be released as both an ebook and a print book. Does this mean I will never plot ever again? No. I think I'd try to plot again for most of my novellas swimming around in my head.

However, with me going to Ireland and Scotland this year, I know I MUST draw up an itinerary and stick to it, else I'll be running around the country like a chicken with my head cut off and going no where fast.

So, here I am. I'm in the process of drawing up this blasted schedule for a two week trip and I'm nearly finished. The only thing I'm worried about is cutting myself short. The most important things on the schedule are visiting the places I've talked about in the Emerald Isle Trilogy (the amazing places my heroine and the two heroes have stood): Inis Mór, Galway, Limerick, the River Shannon, pretty much the entire west coast of Ireland. But my goodness, we all know there is so much more to see than those nostalgic locations.

I plan on immersing myself in the country and I've already told my husband that he's going to be hard pressed to get me out of the country when the time comes to get back on the plane and head for home. This is a place I've long dreamed about visiting and to leave it all behind will be one of the hardest things for me to do.

With that being said, I take a deep breath and continue on my crusade to plot this darn trip out, day by day, hour by hour. So, I ask that the best way to do it? Or should I just go over there and enjoy my trip like I write--by the seat of my pants?

*Visit Renee Vincent at her website, Past The Print, or at


Linda Kage said...

Oooh! Have fun in Ireland/Scotland. That sounds like so much fun. I hear Ireland is really I'd love to see it someday.

I usually have some kind of plot outline in my head for a story, usually don't write it down, I just know where I'd like it to go.

And if I DO write down a plot idea, the characters usually have a way of detouring me in a different direction and not following my carefully planned plot. But plotting has been useful to me to give me an idea where to go next when I'm stuck.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Oh, how jealous I am! What a wonderful trip. And I'd leave a day or two unscheduled, just to soak in and enjoy! But then I'm halfway between a plotter and pantser, so that sounds like me...

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks for sharing Linda...and yes, I am so excited to see those 40 shades of green they are always talking about. What's more, I can't wait to capture those lovely shades on my camera!

Hmm...good idea about leaving a couple days open. Might actually just do that. I like the idea of soaking it all up! Thanks Cindy!

Sandy said...

Renee, I have been to Ireland, and I suggest you do some planning and some by the seat of your pants sightseeing.

Both are fun. We took a few tours, which helped us to see the places we wanted to see without getting lost, and they were fun. The things we did without a plan were equally fun but in a different way. Talk to the people about everything. Here's where you find out how they think. Often, it's just like us.

Sandy said...

Oops, I was going to add, enjoy your trip.

C. Zampa said...

I have no advice on the trip. I can only envy you! Whether you plan or panster it, it's sure to be the experience of a lifetime. Enjoy! And pictures, pictures, pictures!

As far as panstering in writing? I fear I'm like you. And I, too, would spend my time revising the outline! LOL....

I must read this book, by the way! I'm so intrigued.

Enjoy your trip! And know that many dreamy souls like mine..who long to see Ireland...will accompany you in our minds and hearts!

Chicks of Characterization said...

Hey Renee! I am a pantser at heart!!

I always fly by the seat of my pants but my advice to you is- figure out the main things that you want to do, but allow time to do whatever else comes along that you didn't expect!

Becuase there definitely will be things you come across!

There will be places that you see and things that you want to do that you hadn't planned on.

Have a wonderful time!!!!! I know you are gonna love it. I am sooooooooo jealous!! But I am hoping to go back sometime nextyear!! :O)

Am reading RAELIKSEN now, LOVE IT!!


Bobbye Terry said...

How exciting, Renee. I have strong Irish and Scottish roots. I'd love to stow away in your luggage. Have a great time and take plenty of pictures.

Renee Vincent said...

Sandy, that is one thing I can't wait to hear...that lovely Irish accent. I will definitely be talking to the people there. By the end of my trip, they will probably be pushing me away saying, "I've nothing more to say to you! Now go!" haha

C. Zampa, I sure hope you pick it up. It is a story that is very close to my heart and I would be honored to have you read it.

Oh Andrea...this just makes me smile. I am so glad you are finally reading it and liking it so far! Do let me know your thoughts when you are through.
Happy reading!

Renee Vincent said...

Bobbye, you can stow away if you'd like...but you have to pay the extra luggage fees. Deal? haha

Tina Donahue said...

Hey lady, I love the guy on the cover. He is sooooo hawt! Wonderful book, Renee. No wonder it's gotten so many awesome reviews. :)

Suzanne Barrett said...


I'm not sure you can do much more than get the briefest of overviews in just two weeks. I think it's necessary to have two to three weeks for each country! And even then...

Okay, I assume you'll be flying in to Shannon, picking up a rental car there. A few miles down the road is Limerick. We used to eat at an upstairs place on George's Quay with a lovely view of the Shannon and John's Castle. Sadly, the place we ate at is gone away and I don't know the name of the one that replaced it.

Since you're planning on Inis Mor, you'll be in Galway. Great place for a walking tour, and the best way to see the sights. (You can check out an article I wrote at titled "Getting Around Galway."

Will you be planning to see Kilkenny? A walking tour (self-guided--you can get a map at most shops)shows so much of the old city including medieval buildings, the old city walls. There's a 12th century Norman round tower on the river (it's become a restaurant), Rothe House, St. Canice's Cathedral and more. In Dublin there's a Viking museum (Dvblinia). The Cliffs of Moher are spectacular, the Ring of Kerry is lovely but touristy.

Depends on the time of year you're going as to what's open. Most places don't have weekday open hours until May.

Best bet would be to have a tour of Dvblinia, but do your own thing elsewhere. I think you're going for the "feel" of the country, and you don't get this on a tour. Stop in pubs, talk to the locals.

And if you're in Galway, do have a meal at McDonagh's. A very unassuming little place, but they have the best fish and chips in Ireland. If you're in the southern part of the country, forget the Guinness and try Murphy's--it's brewed in Cork.

Suzanne Barrett said...

Regarding the Irish accent: very different throughout the country...but mostly all pleasant to the ear.

When we spent times in the West Cork countryside, I had to interpret the strong W. Cork accent for my husband--and we're talking English! They might as well have been speaking Gaelic for all he could understand!

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to have the dilemma of trying to figure out how to squeeze as much into an Ireland/Scotland trip as I could in two weeks! Your brain will be stuffed with plot ideas by the time you come home. Have fun!

jean hart stewart said...

You'll have a wonderful time whatever you do. If you schedule too tightly you'll just have to break it, because you'll definitely find stuff you want to spend more time one...Don't worry, you can't help but have a blast. Jean

Katalina Leon said...

Renee, don't over plan. Leave room for something special to come your way. Surprises are part of the fun.
Have a wonderful time.

Melissa said...

I don't know Renee, flying by the seat of your pants works sooooooo wonderfully for you! It shows in everything you do and I love ya for it. Besides, you see where planning has taken us lately!! (-! hahaha

Keri Ford said...

how fun!!!! I'm a panster for the most part, but on a trip like that I would absolutely plot it out to the nines. I would be too afraid I'd miss something!

Christina Wolfer said...

There is nothing I can say that the others haven't, but I'd like to sorta repeat one - know that those of us "who long to see Ireland" will be with you in spirit.

CJ said...

When I took my family back home to find their roots, we had only 3 weeks and since one cannot see everything, each had to write down 2 places they absolutely had to see. Me - I wrote down only 1 place - the cemetery where the family is buried for the past 6 or 7 generations.Hey, that is how you find your ancestors. ROFL. Three years later, they are still talking about the great trip.
Now how long will you be in Ireland? What do you absolutely have to see? the rest of the time, just go where the wind push you and enjoy, take gazillions of pictures, and enjoy.

Jennifer Mathis said...

so jealous enjoy ur trip. I say seat of your pants it

Paris said...

Your trip sounds like so much fun and I can understand you wanting to plan so that you don't miss something really important but leave yourself at least two days for spur of the moment inspiration. It will delight the panster in you and no doubt inspire something wonderful:)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I hope you have the adventure of a lifetime, Renee. I am so jealous. I can't wait to read the next book in the Emerald Isle Trilogy.

Jerry said...

What a great article. My daughter is "plotting" a trip to Ireland this May. Having made a trip with my step-sister at the young age of 14 to France with her $5.00 a day idea, I honestly recommending plotting. Less starving, more memories.As to writing, I am also a pantser. My characters seem to take over and voila--a story.

Renee Vincent said...

Tina: I love the guy on my cover too! I've become a huge Sam Bond fan! *snicker*

Suzanne: I plan on going to the Dublin Viking Museum for sure! Wouldn't miss that for the world. I am also going to go horseback riding on the beaches of the Dingle Peninsula. I will definitely take your suggestions into account...would love to eat at McDonagh's in Galway! Sounds like a very charming place! Thanks so much!

P McCrillis: Oh, you are so right! I can't even imagine the amount of stories that will be swimming in my brain when I come back from this trip!

Jean: Thanks for visiting with me. And I will certainly have a wonderful time no matter how I decide to spend my time in Ireland. I promise to take lots of pics!

Renee Vincent said...

Katalina: Great advice, hon! Thanks for dropping by today. You are such a sweetheart!

Melissa: Oh you are so right! Planning hasn't gotten us anywhere! And you are so sweet for coming here today. Luv ye darlin!

Keri: Exactly! That is how I'm feeling right now. I hate to plan anything but I don't want to miss out on anything either!
Thanks for being here with me!

Christina: Thanks for your sweet words. And you know as I'm there I will feel those close to me in spirit.

CJ: I'm sure I'll be talking about this trip for years to come all will probably be sick of hearing about it and for that I'm going to apologize ahead of time.

Jennifer: haha loved the way you made your suggestion. Thanks for making me smile.

Paris: Hey darlin! Thanks for your wonderful suggestion. I think the consensus today has been to plot a bit of the trip, but leave a few days open for the pantser in me.

Sarah: Adventure of a lifetime is an understatement haha. I'm afraid that the night before I won't hardly sleep a wink. I can't imagine the high I'm going to be on this summer!

Jerry: You'll have to let me know what places she liked best when she returns from her Ireland trip. I'd love to hear her feedback.

Marianne Stephens said...

Your trip sounds wonderful! You do have to schedule where you want to go, but as a pantser, you can always change things once you're there!
I do a mini outline...and try to follow it but it doesn't always work. The "voices in my head" take over and away I go on a tangent, creating some scene that suddenly appeals to me!

Renee Vincent said...

Marianne said: The "voices in my head" take over and away I go on a tangent

You are I are so much alike. I can just see this happening to me!

Word_Wench said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Word_Wench said...

I often visit Wales, which is a favorite place for me. I tend to *mark out* in my head the places I want to visit and then just go. I spend as long as I like at each place and thoroughly enjoy it.
I'd say that as you've already decided the places you want to visit the most, simply go and see what happens! Be impulsive and go and see whatever takes your fancy :)

So yeah... be spontaneous and wild, like the areas you're visiting. Enjoy your trip hun -- by the seat of your pants!

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks Word_Wench for your input. I think I'm definitely going to fly by the seat of my pants on some things...just can't wait until I get there!

Madison J Edwards said...

I'm a pantser, through and through. Like you, I spend more time 'tweaking' the plot line than writing. With that said, when I write, there is a general plot line in my head. I know where I want the characters to go, and sometimes they take interesting detours, but the story always seems to end up where I was headed.
Enjoy your trip, and don't plan so much that you can't enjoy the little things that may pop up and surprise you while there.

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