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October 2011

Reporter: Lisa Carter

Lisa CarterA freelance writer/music teacher, Lisa Carter writes Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder—Southern romantic suspense. A member of RWA and ACFW, she has written for FamilyFun, MomSense, Afictionado and Christian Parenting Today. Her debut novel set in Hawaii, part of Abingdon Press’s Quilts of Love series, releases September of 2013. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two daughters. visit her website or her blog.

Editor: Janny Butler

Janny ButlerA popular speaker, workshop teacher, and writing coach, Janet W. (Janny) Butler is a Golden Heart winner, author of the “best little book no one’s ever heard of,” ACFW member, and book project editor for the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic publisher. She blogs at Catholic Writer Chick at Large! and Hoosier Ink. Visit her here.


Workshop 7: There’s Nothing Wrong With You!

karen BallIn There’s Nothing Wrong with You—Seat-of-the-Pants (SOTP) Writing with Confidence, Karen Ball (right), editor and agent, explains that SOTP writers are hard-wired to think in a non-linear fashion.

You know you’re a SOTP writer if:

  • You attend a plotting workshop and everyone but you loves it.
  • The idea of plotting causes you to break out in hives.

In this workshop/support group for SOTP-ers, Karen encourages writers to know up front the two keys for successful SOTP writing.

Two keys for successful SOTP writing

“The first,” Karen said, “is that God made you the way you are, and it’s all good.” (Audible sighs of relief from the audience. )“And second, the secret to SOTP writing success lies in the rewrite.”

The bright side/pros of SOTP writing

What’s good about SOTP writing? According to Ball:

  • The ability to think quickly on your feet. SOTPers tend to be great brainstormers and process their plots out loud.
  • In not planning out every detail of the story, characters and storylines unfold, leading to a journey of discovery for the writer. This also translates into an exciting story for the readers.
  • SOTPers tend to be flexible writers who may not experience writer’s block as often.


Embracing the freedom inherent in this style of writing, Ball told SOTPers to “Trust your instincts. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise because you are gifted with seeing the possibilities that add texture to your writing as you go deeper and deeper into the storyline.”

The dark side/cons to SOTP writing

On the other hand . . .

  • SOTPers often paint themselves into writing corners, which leads to “panic and despair” two-thirds of the way into the story.
  • SOTPers have a tendency to say “yes” to everything without considering schedules.
  • And when publishers require a synopsis? Ball, a die-hard SOTPer, asks, “Are they out of their minds?”
  • Closely related to the dreaded synopsis, for an SOTPer, is a dreaded deadline. Or, as Karen said, “Deadlines? I love the sound they make when they go whooshing by.”

Quick fixes by Karen

When stuck, walk away from writing and do something else in real life to get the creative juices flowing again. Need a synopsis? Since SOTPers are so good at thinking out loud, try tape recording yourself talking about your book. And the minute you suspect you will miss your deadline? Let your agent know to notify your editor.

Karen invited a panel of authors to discuss their solutions for not just overcoming the hazards of their own SOTP writing styles but using their unique giftedness to produce the best story.

How to avoid panic

  • Maureen Lang: At end of day, know what you will write the next day. “You don’t have to know weeks ahead, but do plan one day ahead.”
  • Jill Eileen Smith: “When you get stuck, (do some) research, which may spark a new idea.”
  • Jenny B. Jones: “Eat. Try not to get overwhelmed with the hugeness of the project. Think one chapter ahead. Take 10 minutes and plan out the next chapter for the next day.”
  • Lenora Worth: Rereading the whole manuscript may help you fix what’s holding you back. “Keep a notebook to jot down ideas. Jot down bullet points to get you started on the next chapter tomorrow.”
  • Mary DeMuth: Don’t overschedule. Instead, “As a SOTPer, schedule time for the rewrite.”

Best advice for SOTPers to get to know their characters

  • Karen Ball: Learn what your character likes to drink. Coffee, tea, or cola? Sit down at the table with your character. Have a conversation with your character. Discover their spiritual struggles over a cup of joe.
  • Maureen Lang: Listen to music. She finds a song that corresponds to the emotions her characters experience in the story. The music helps Maureen to feel those emotions.
  • Jill Eileen Smith: As a visual learner, Jill finds pictures that resemble her fictional characters from the internet and creates a character notebook with a page for each major character in her novel. To see them is the beginning of getting to know them better.
  • Lenora Worth: An astute observer of human nature, Lenora takes a trip to WalMart and often not only finds her characters, but sometimes her story, too.
  • Mary DeMuth: Exploring the duality of life, Mary experiences her characters by living her own life to the max and by being fully engaged in other people’s lives.

In closing, Karen offers these words of encouragement.

  • Embrace how God has created you to write stories.
  • God has breathed the story into you—equipped you—and nobody else can tell your story.
  • Write down important ideas as they come to you so that the ideas don’t get away.

And finally, Karen urges, “Say it with me, people. Say it again. Say it like you mean it.”

  • “Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite!”

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