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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Guest Blog: Suz deMello: Writing a Book Series The Right-Brained Way

Although I’m creative, I’m also highly logical. I tend to think in a linear manner. I practiced law for twenty years, an undertaking that certainly requires logic and objectivity. Although my first manuscript or two were pretty off-the-cuff, I soon discovered that outlining was really helpful. When I wrote for Silhouette Romance, everything was charted—I knew what scene would slot in where, even down to the number of pages I wanted for each scene.

Digital books have changed publishing quite a lot. Silhouette Romances had to be rigidly structured because the story had to fit into 50,000 words. Why, you ask? Because the pre-cut cover flats are a specific size, and the book, when typeset, had to fit within that cover flat.

Ebooks are different. I write the book I want, and my publisher decides if it’s a short story, a novella, a novel or a saga; the story is priced accordingly. It’s a much more comfortable way to write, but has led to less structured writing over time.

So with my Highland Vampire series, which is projected to reach seven publications, the order which I’ve written them looks like this:
#7: Highland Vampire, a contemporary short story. FMI:
#2: Temptation in Tartan, a novel set in 1747. FMI:
#4: Bridling his Vampire, a short story set in 1766.
#3: Desire in Tartan, a novel set in 1759.
#5: Rakes in Tartan, a novel set in 1816.
#1: Viking in Tartan, a novella set in medieval Scotland—around 1260 or so.
#6: untitled Victorian/steampunk, set in about 1880 or so.

#6 hasn’t been written at all yet, though I know the major characters and most of the plot. I just thought up the first scene yesterday driving home from hot yoga, so that’s good. I have a number of other scenes already in mind—again, part of the right-brained bouncing around my mind does. I’m part-way through Viking in Tartan...there’s a steep learning curve in regard to Scottish/Viking medievals. Little writing or reliable historic sources survive, though perhaps that’s an advantage—I can make up stuff.

The same meandering path often applies to writing the books. Authors often categorize themselves as “plotters” or pantsers.” A plotter will do what I did when I wrote my Silhouettes—plot everything out carefully. With a list of scenes, all one has to do is write each scene, like stringing beads onto a necklace. A pantser is completely different. She will eschew plotting, preferring a more casual unstructured approach.

Some writers think of themselves as “scenesters.” I’ve often followed this pattern. A scene that’s completely disconnected to anything I’ve already written on a project will pop into my head, often as the result of a dream or an event that happened in my life. I’ll write that scene, and maybe several others—but they’re out of order. They’ve jumped into my mind in a nonlinear fashion. But I can arrange them in chronological order, and the rest of the book becomes a matter of filling in the blanks.

Can a reader figure out if a writer is a plotter, a pantser, or a scenester? You tell me :)

Read this blurb, or maybe go to my site and read an excerpt, and let me know what you think.
Bridling his Vampire
Scotland, 1766.

Edgar, Laird MacReiver, has never regretted his decision to wed Isobel, daughter of Clan Kilburn’s laird, until she bites his tongue and drinks his blood. Still, he's determined to bridle the wild child of the infamous vampire clan by any means necessary, including bondage and discipline.

But are some women impossible to tame?

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press, where she is currently Managing Editor. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at
For editing services, email her at
Befriend her on Facebook: and visit her group page at
She tweets her reading picks @ReadThis4fun and @Suzdemello


Cara Marsi said...

Hi, Suz, I really enjoyed your blog. Interesting about how you had to plot out every scene for Silhouette. Writing for ebooks is definitely more freeing. I read your blurb, which is really good, but I can't tell if you're a plotter or pantster from it. I doubt readers know or care how a writer finished a story, only if they like it. Best of luck with your series.

Rose Anderson said...

Nice post, Suz. I'm a pantser myself. The characters tell me where to take them. Thanks for joining us today. Best luck. :)

Tina Donahue said...

Love the cover of your book, Suz. You're very accomplished and talented - wow! :)

jean hart stewart said...

Would hate, hate, hate to plot out every scene. Sometimes one o my characters takes over in spite of me and then where would the outline be? I admire you for being able to do

vicki batman said...

Hi, Suz! A scenester is a new one for me. I tend to do that some. I'm a Plot (ter) + (Pant) ster = Plotster. I know where the story is ending, what the black moment will be. the beginning hook. then let the imagination run wild.

Sam Cheever said...

Great post Suz! I start out as a panster and then about 2/3 of the way through the book I hit a wall. That's when I know I need to plan out the finish. It works for me. :D

Suz said...

Gang, thanks for your thoughtful responses to my blog. I appreciate it.

Melissa Keir said...

I agree with Cara. I don't know if readers can tell. I often can't. I do love a good book/good story and that is what matters. I'm a pantser and love writing the story that comes to me. It gives me the freedom to write what the characters want and need.

Normandie Alleman said...

I've not heard of scenester but I do that absolutely. I start with a loose outline then let me imagination go. Great post! I love to hear about writers' processes.

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