What I Learned About Writing by the Seat of My Pants

Photo by Matt Moloney on Unsplash

First of all let’s take a moment to address the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants”, since “writing by the seat of your pants” stems from that original phrase. Where did that phrase come from and what does it mean?

The phrase “flying by the seat of your pants” came from the early days of aviation and first came into use in 1938 and was in relation to Douglas Corrigan’s flight from Ireland to the United States, when a mechanic had to help him rejuvenate the plane. It also was used because in the early days of aviation, they didn’t have a radio, instruments, or other navigational or communication equipment.

The phrase “flying by the seat of your pants” means you’re entering into the unknown and taking action without planning.

And that’s what “writing by the seat of your pants” means–writing without planning or just sitting down with your characters and an idea and simply writing as it comes into your head.

Well, that’s how I have written ever since I first began writing as a school student. The problem is that ever since I’ve been trying to write a full-length novel, writing without a plan hasn’t worked out very well. My first attempt at writing a novel did not result in a full-length novel. My second attempt at writing a novel ended up in the trash pile.

After those first two failed attempts, I heard about “Planning (or plotting) your story”, which means you do a lot of prep work for your novel: complete character interviews and write your characters’ back stories and descriptions of their physical appearance. In addition to that, you need to have a good idea of each scene from start to finish and you need to have your story mapped out. So, I decided to try this, but this literally killed my creativity. By the time I was finished planning, I had no interest in writing the story. I had spent all my creative energy doing character interviews and writing their physical descriptions and back stories, and I didn’t have any interest in writing scenes. I couldn’t even create a story beginning.

So, I decided to try a bit of a combination of writing by the seat of my pants and planning/plotting. I wrote physical descriptions of my characters, created back stories for them and knew who their immediate family members were and what kind of family life they had. In addition, I researched everything I thought I needed to research for the historical aspect of my story, and I had a very good idea of how the story would play out from beginning to end. But this didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to either.

I got about two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through my novel and suddenly, out of nowhere a new character showed up — not just a minor character, but this one had to be a major character who needed to be in the book from very close to the beginning all the way to the end. So, just when I thought I was nearing the finish line and ready to edit and publish, now I had to do some MAJOR EDITING.

At first I thought I was going to have to START ALL OVER, but thanks to a group I belong to on MeWe, I was able to ask if there was a way to do it without having to start over, and an already published author gave me excellent advice! She explained how I could place this character into scenes I had already written and simply build the character and the character’s presence from there.

Of course, I did have to scrap quite a few scenes and write new ones, but it is coming along quite well. But, now I know that I will do more planning/plotting before I begin writing, but not enough to kill my creativity. I have figured out the balance for me and I look forward to finishing my current novel’s edits so that I can begin the next book in the series, using my newly learned balance to writing both by the seat of my pants and, by doing some necessary planning, and I hope that this will help me produce the second book much faster and not require as many edits.

So, if someone insists you have to decide whether to write by the seat of your pants or to plan or plot your whole novel before starting to write, remember there is a balance between the two that might work for you. The key is finding what works for you and the way your creative mind works.

Updates and a New Blog to Check Out

Photo by Owen Michael Grech on Unsplash

I have made some updates here on my website. I have updated my editing services page and given it a new name. If you are a writer and want to be sure your writing is the best it can be before you publish it, having it professionally edited is the best way to do that, and I can help you without breaking your bank account. You can hire me for your editing job, but even before you do that, you can read my upcoming posts (starting tomorrow) that will give you tips to do “self-editing” to save you even more money.

I have also added a new page and service for authors. All authors are now responsible to promote and market their own books. One great way to do that is to do author interviews, and I worked as an interview writer for a magazine for a year and have done several author interviews on my blog. Now I am offering this as a service for authors. This is a great way to let readers know a little about yourself, as well as a little about your latest book or book series. If this sounds like something you’d like to do to promote and market your book, click the “Author Interviews” tab at the top of the homepage to find out more.

The last update I made is in the “My Books” tab. I added the latest devotional book that one of my devotions is published in. So, if you like to read daily devotions or know someone who does, check out this latest book.

Now, about a new blog I’d like to encourage you to check out. But, wait… first, I mentioned here before, that I left Facebook and am now on MeWe, but here’s another great announcement for writers: if you are interested in being part of a fun, active writing group, I have just the group for you–it’s called “Christian Writers Write Now” and it’s only on MeWe. We announce a word prompt everyday and encourage everyone to write something, including that word, without going over 60 words! It’s a fun and great way to practice writing tightly, using only the most necessary words to create a great short piece of writing! We also offer other occasional fun writing exercises, encouragement, help and tips of all kinds in writing and marketing on the group page and in the group chat. So, check us out!

Okay, so now the new blog. You may wonder why I got side tracked about MeWe when I mentioned the new blog in the last paragraph. Here’s why. This new blog is a “group blog”. It is a collaboration of six different writers from my “Christian Writers Write Now” writers group on MeWe. Three fantasy writers and three romance writers (from different romance genres) have joined forces to share articles that will appeal to both readers and writers. So, check out Hope, Hearts, & Heroes today!

Some Interesting Articles and a New Blog to Check Out

As you may note, there is a link on my sidebar to A3 which is a great resource for writing. I write eight articles for them a year and my newest article for romance writers just posted today. Check it out at this link: https://www.almostanauthor.com/hole-hearted-to-whole-hearted-and-how-to-get-there/

My most recent post for historical writers can be found at this link: https://www.almostanauthor.com/what-time-is-it/ However, I just submitted an new article for historical writers, but you’ll have to wait until next month to read it.

The cool logo below is the header for a new blog you’ll want to check out.

Where A Collective of Authors Share

Hope, Hearts, & Heroes is a new blog that I am a part of with several other writers. We all met on MeWe and are part of writers group on MeWe. On this blog, you can read introductory posts about each of us and learn more about what we write as well as any books we’ve published or that we will be releasing soon! We are a mix of Christian Fantasy authors and Christian or clean Romance stories — some historical and some suspense. Go to the following link and check out this new blog now! https://hopeheartsheroes.wordpress.com/

A New Look and a Few Changes

I hope that those of you who have been following my blog are still here and aren’t having any problems finding my posts. I have decided to change some things to transform it from a simple blog to a full website. That is why there are tabs at the top of the page that you can click on to navigate to what it is you are interested in, whether it is reading my blog posts, finding out “About” me, seeking my “Editing Services” or interested in having me read your book and write a review, or finding out more about writings I have published. It should all be easier to navigate.

In addition, I am working on cleaning up my categories as well. When I finish that, there will be no more than ten category choices for you to find particular posts you are interested in.

I also hope you noticed the change in the subtitle or quote of my website, which is now “A Story Without Love is Empty”. I came up with this quote and decided it fits my website and my writing very well, as I cannot seem to write any story, whether my novel-in-progress, or my flash fiction stories without including love in the story, whether it is a romantic love or love of another kind.

The one change I have decided to make as far as blog posts go, is that I will no longer be posting Tea and Poetry posts on Tuesdays. I really want my posts to be things my readers will look forward to seeing, and I want them to be relevant to the things I do: writing, editing, reading and reviewing books, and poetry is not something I believe I do well or am really comfortable writing. Therefore, beginning this coming Tuesday, the new Tuesday posts will be titled and under the category “Timeless Tuesdays” as the novel I am currently working on and those that will follow in the, hopefully near future, are historical romance stories. My “Timeless Tuesday” posts will be tidbits about the historical period, places, and other tidbits in regard to my upcoming novel. Monday posts will continue to be Book Reviews, Wednesdays will continue to be “Wordless Wednesdays” that feature my photographs of things that capture my eye when I get to be out and about, and Fridays will continue to feature my Flash Fictions stories which are usually more Contemporary Romance or Women’s Fiction, but in which I may also occasionally explore the YA Romance and Fantasy genres.

The last thing I want to mention, and hope you will look forward to, is that I will soon be creating an e-newsletter that you will be able to sign up for in order to receive special news, updates on my upcoming novel(s), Flash Fiction stories not posted on the blog, and occasional freebies.


The Difference Between Editors and Beta Readers

I’m not sure why, but lately it seems there is confusion in regard to editors and Beta Readers. I have been an editor for about two years now and have been a Beta Reader longer than that.

Therefore, I’ll talk about Beta Readers first. Whenever I’ve been asked to Beta Read a book, I have always been given a polished manuscript, meaning it has been through a thorough edit and has been revised by the writer and is now close to publication quality. What the writer wants to know from Beta Readers are the answers to questions like:

  • Did the first sentence/paragraph grab your attention/interest and make you want to keep reading?
  • Are the characters realistic? Can you relate to them?
  • Are the characters emotions and reactions believable?
  • Do the minor characters add to and/or support the story line?
  • Does the story have conflict and tension?
  • Does the story move at a consistent pace?
  • Is there anything that slows the story down?
  • Is there anything that seems too rushed?
  • Do you find anything that seems unnecessary or unrelated to the story?
  • Is there anything you find confusing?
  • Do setting descriptions give you a clear picture of the story’s world and is it realistic?
  • Is the dialogue natural?
  • Is each character’s voice distinct?
  • Is there a good mix of narrative and dialogue?
  • Does the writing “show” and not “tell”?
  • Are the changes of point of view clear and handled well, with page breaks or chapter changes, consistently?
  • Is the writing good quality, allowing you to focus on the story and not be distracted by writing errors?
  • Is the story unique and interesting?
  • Does the story deliver on its premise?
  • Does the story fit the genre?
  • Did you enjoy the story?
  • Are there any scenes you think should be shortened or cut?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Who is your least favorite character and why?

As you read over the above questions, you should get an understanding that a Beta Reader’s job is to focus on the story and the characters. It is not a Beta Reader’s job to find grammatical, spelling, or other technical writing errors and point them out. They should only be giving feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about the story and why — the types of things they would discuss with other readers when discussing books both have read or suggesting the book to a friend.

Now, the editor’s job is very different from the Beta Reader’s job. A good editor will be looking for and pointing out ALL of the writing errors — wrong word usage, spelling, grammatical, punctuation, passive vs. active voice, better and/or stronger word choices, etc. In addition to all of this, the editor will also be looking for weak spots in the story — areas that need to be shortened or lengthened, more intense or less intense, the pace of the story, how well the characters are developed, do setting descriptions appeal to the senses, is the time line accurate, is the order of the story correct; is the language in the dialogue appropriate for the ages of the characters, for the setting, and for the time period of the story, and so much more.

As you can see the editor’s job includes some of the same aspects of the Beta Reader’s job, but it’s very important that the editor’s job come first because the editor is the one to help the writer produce their best possible work.

The Beta Reader is like a “test reader”. Their job is to read the manuscript before it is published, as a reader, in order to offer feedback on what they think of the story, setting, and characters from a reader’s perspective without having to be bogged down by lots of writing mistakes.

When the writer gets the Beta Readers’ responses, they can run through the manuscript one more time to fine tune it and be sure it will now be published in the best possible quality it can be. It should be ready for a multitude of readers before it is published and released to the world.

My Editing Life

Today I want to share what’s been going on in my editing life. I have been editing for about eight months now and am really enjoying it because I enjoy helping and encouraging other writers, and English and writing have always been my favorite subjects. I am extremely to be an active part of the writing and publishing world.

I love all of the clients I have worked with thus far. They have a desire to put out their best possible work and are very open to my suggestions for improving their work. I began with one client, which then grew to two, and now I have worked with a third, and they all became clients as a result of direct contact with me in one critique group or another, or by word of mouth.

I will keep my editing information here on my blog and will continue to update it and add book covers of books I work on, as I would love to add a few more clients to my list of clients, but will be keeping a close watch on that, as I have recently been blessed to become editor on the team of a publishing company. I am excited to be part of this team and look forward to the work it may bring me, but as long as I have room in my schedule, I will be happy to receive clients through contact here on my blog as well.

Disney and Literature

Last Monday evening I attended a birthday party where we watched the birthday woman open gifts, then we all indulged in ice cream and watched a DVD–“Saving Mr. Banks”. I had never seen the movie before. If you are unfamiliar with it as well, I will simply say that it is a movie about how Walt Disney acquired the right to Mary Poppins, who was already a character in multiple stories written by P. L. Travers.

Since I am a writer, I found this story completely fascinating and engaging for several reasons and I was extremely interested in P. L. Travers. The movie also piqued my curiosity in many ways: 1) I now want to read the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers because, even though I have never seen Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, I want to experience Mary Poppins as her creator intended her to be; 2) I was curious as to why Walt Disney, a talented cartoonist, would be so interested in obtaining the creations of other writers; and 3) I wanted to know how many Disney characters were based on literary characters.

So, I spent some time doing some research on the computer, and here is what I found: 1) Walt Disney had an early cartoon character he created, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose rights had been stolen from Walt Disney a few years after 1923. (This again made me wonder why, then, he would be so eager to obtain the rights to characters who were created by other writers). Not long after Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was stolen from Walt Disney, he, along with his brother Roy, their wives, and Ub Iwerks produced three cartoons featuring a new character Walt had been developing–Mickey Mouse. In 1929, Walt Disney created “Silly Symphonies”, which featured Mickey’s newly created friends: Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. 2) According to the research I did online, I found that Walt Disney Studios, which continues Walt’s legacy, created movies from more than 71 books that were written and created by other people, several of which were based on English Literary works and one French novel. Some of these were produced by Walt himself. Walt’s last major success that he produced himself was “Mary Poppins” in 1964. Walt died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966.

The most interesting thing I found was that P. L. Travers continued writing Mary Poppins stories even after Disney’s film, and in the late 1980s worked with a Disney screenwriter on a film sequel that never materialized.

What do I plan to do with my newfound information? Read the literary works written by others that Disney used to create movies because Disney also changed many things from the way the original creator created his or her work and I am interested in the original characters and their stories the way their creators meant them to be.

If you are interested in a list of the books many Disney movies are based on and any of the other websites I used for this post, here are the links: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/16838.Disney_movies_based_off_books, https://d23.com/disney-films-that-started-out-as-childrens-books/, https://www.biography.com/people/walt-disney-9275533, and http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-things-you-might-not-know-about-walt-disney


My New Hero

Okay, so he’s not really my hero, but he is definitely an inspiration and I can’t wait to research him to learn more about him and read his writings. “Who?” You ask — Sir Walter Scott!

You see, my sister-in-law and her husband and son recently went on vacation to Europe and when they came back, she sent me copies of the following photos because she had taken them because they made her think of me. Aww!

Why did they make her think of me? Because Sir Walter Scott, as the photo of the plaque below explains, created the genre of the historical novel, which is what I write! And, they built a monument to honor him in Edinburgh, Scotland (pictured below). It is the largest monument to a writer in the world! (I jokingly said, “Some day they’ll build one in my honor.” To which my middle son groaned.)    😀

Sir Walter Scott wrote one of my favorite stories, Ivanhoe, which I haven’t read in years, but now I’ll have to revisit.

What do you know about Sir Walter Scott? What did he write that you like?



Something New

As a Christian, I always pray about my writing and ask for God’s guidance in what I write and how I write it. God has been faithful and is blessing my writing.

Sometimes God opens a door you weren’t really thinking about and that’s what’s been happening in my life recently. I have been very active in three different critique groups; one I’ve been a part of for four years, and the other two I’ve been a part of for a little over a year. During that time, I have continued to learn more and more about the craft and rules or guidelines of writing, and I have found that I enjoy critiquing.

Recently, at one of my critique groups, several ladies were impressed with my critiques on their work and a couple of them asked if I am an editor. I paused to really think about how to answer that question. Then I responded with, “I believe I am qualified to be an editor, but I don’t have experience as an editor.”

When I returned home that afternoon, I looked up what exactly editors do and found that, yes indeed, I am qualified to be an editor. I have actually been editing instead of critiquing people’s work, and God has given me a heart to help others.

Suddenly, I’ve had quite a few people contact me and ask me to edit their work or help them with something they are writing (which essentially translates to editing), and I have readily agreed. I believe that God has sent these people to me and has opened a door for me to become, not just a writer, but an editor too.

I will soon have enough experience to confidently call myself an editor. So, keep your eye on my blog if you are interested in an editor or know someone who is, because I will be posting more about what I will be doing as an editor by September.


Let’s Talk About Webinars

Have you ever participated in a live webinar?

I have participated in several. I have found the ones that I enjoy the most are the ones that have been set up by a group or organization that I belong to who do a complete webinar with no sales pitch at the end.

Sales pitch endings — yes, these are the webinars that I have come to strongly dislike. Why? Because they send you an invitation with lots of promises, like “in this webinar you will learn how to make money selling ebooks on Amazon”. There is also information offered about the speaker of the webinar which usually says things like “I used to be a struggling writer, trying to sell my work to feed my family” or something similar to give you a picture that the person had decided to try to have writing as his/her only job and wasn’t doing very well. He/She was struggling to pay bills, make ends meet, feed the family, etc. Then there’s usually something like “I hope you are not in a similar situation, but if you are, I want to help you. That’s why I’m sharing my secret for selling ebooks on Amazon with you. Just sign up to join my webinar, and hurry because space is limited and seats are going fast.”

So, you think to yourself, I relate to this person’s circumstances, and I would really like to be able to sell my (or more of my) books on Amazon. This sounds like a good marketing webinar. Therefore, you sign up and block out the date and time on your calendar to be sure you don’t miss it. (Of course, they send you several email reminders the day of the webinar, right up to start time).

Then with excitement and hopefulness, you tune into the webinar at the appointed date and time with a notebook and pen by your side so you can catch all of the important information. The webinar starts out well, giving you tips, advice and information that you think will be really helpful, but as the end of the webinar time approaches, the tips, advice and information slow down and eventually stop, just short of completing the information you were expecting and looking forward to.

What happens next? The speaker of the webinar begins a sales pitch. Yep, the information was to lure you in to pitch some new website or resource or online classes for writing that will cost you hundreds of dollars.

What happens to your excitement and hopefulness? Well, if you’re like me, it plummets into the pit of your stomach, and you think, “What? I thought you wanted to help the struggling (translate to starving) writers. How can wanting them (me) to spend hundreds of dollars they (I) don’t have, to get the complete information and help your webinar promised, help them (me)?

So, you turn off your computer, completely disappointed/distraught. And if you’re like me, you think, if they really wanted to help me, the struggling writer, why couldn’t they give me the complete information and offer their sales pitch on another webinar, or, why couldn’t they have been honest and informed you that to get the complete “formula”, you would have to purchase something at the end of the webinar? They claim they have made thousands of dollars with their “formula” and they want to “help others who may be where they were”, but in the end, they’re really not much help at all.

The last webinar I participated in, the speaker admitted, about halfway through the webinar, that he uses a pen name and if you search for his name (that he gave for the webinar), you’ll never find him, and he didn’t give his pen name so you couldn’t even look him up to see if his self-proclaimed success was factual or not.

(Sigh) These are all of the reasons I have sworn off webinars that are advertised on the internet or through email. If the webinar is offered through a group/organization that I am part of and know I can trust, I will participate. Otherwise, I’m not interested. I’m tired of empty promises from writers who claim to have found success that others could attain just as easily, only to have them want to make more money off of someone who can’t afford their prices, which also makes me really wonder if what they’re selling is really worth the money they are charging. Oh, sure, they have those little quotes they share that are supposed to be legitimate quotes by people who have learned their “formula” and are using it to become successful, but we all know, those quotes can easily be bought for a price for such purposes.

How about you? Have you participated in any of these webinars? Have you found any of them helpful and legitimate without your having to invest hundreds of dollars? I’d love to hear your story(ies). Please leave comments in the “Comments” section below.