Authors talk a lot about being a “pantser” or a “plotter,” two schools of story process that involves how they write a novel. Do they write “by the seat of their pants,” diving into a blank page without a particular plan and allowing the story to develop organically one scene at a time? Or do they write an outline, either broad or detailed, with the ending well thought out before they even write the first word?
I definitely fall into that second category. I am a planner by nature. When I travel, I have already Googled the place extensively and have a list of historical sites and even restaurants I’d like to visit. I hate the idea I might miss something!
Writing an outline first helps, too, with the overall story arc. When I wrote my first book, I found myself a bit stuck in the middle. The plot started to drag. While I knew where I wanted the story to end up, I wasn’t sure how to keep the story interesting until I got there. I learned that if I wrote at least a brief outline with highlights of each chapter, I would get the tough work done early and this would also help me avoid writer’s block. Every morning, when I sat down to write, I knew what the next scene would be about.
Does this take the spontaneity out of writing? Not at all! I use the outline just as a guide. Most of the time, the story changes as I write. The characters I create demand that the plot move in a different direction. I frequently adjust the outline and keep moving forward. In my first novel, I even changed the murderer in my second draft as the original version didn’t make sense.
In my new release, The Three Widows of Wylder, the plot shifted somewhat from the first outline, but stuck fairly close all the way through. I didn’t feel bound to the original idea but I liked how it worked. I hope readers enjoy it too!
The Three Widows of Wylder
Tagline: Three women. Three terrible secrets.
Three women on the run.
After the death of her husband, Clara flees a hanging judge and seeks refuge with her brother in Wylder, Wyoming.
With secrets of her own and good reasons to flee, spoiled and vain Mary Rose joins Clara on the trek to Wyoming. Surely a suitable man exists somewhere.
Emma is a mystery. A crack shot and expert horsewoman, her harrowing past seeps out in a steady drip. She’s on the run from something, but what?
After the three women descend on Wylder, a budding romance leads to exposure of their pasts. As disaster looms, will any of them escape?
Emma stood, legs apart, one hand on the pistol at her hip. The covered wagon was the type used years ago by pioneers, before trains tamed the prairie, and they still lumbered across areas where tracks hadn’t been laid. Two women sat side-by-side, too focused on their argument to yet notice the camp they entered. Their one horse, overmatched by the heavy wagon, was damp with sweat, its mouth flecked with froth.
“We should have stayed on the main road.” The peevish one appeared much younger, curly gold hair topped by a large straw hat. She wore a light-yellow dress with lace at her wrists and throat, a perfectly inadequate outfit for travel. “Someone could have provided directions.”
The older woman had finely-drawn features, a few strands of gray threaded through her dark, uncovered hair. Dressed in sensible blue calico, she gripped the reins too tight and the poor horse gave a pathetic shake of its head. “The whole point was to avoid people,” she sniped.
Emma strode forward and seized the reins. “For God’s sake, you’re killing him.”
The two women gaped as though at an apparition. The horse, released from harsh hands, lowered its head and halted. Its sides heaved as flies drank at its sweaty flanks.
“Whomever let you two fools handle a horse should be whipped.” Tempted to dispatch the women to hell for their cruelty, Emma rested her hand on the pistol’s handle.
They two travelers spoke in tandem. “Who are you?” and “How dare you call me a fool.”
As Emma crooned into in the horse’s ear, her expert fingers undid the buckles at its shoulders and haunches. By the time the older of the two women climbed to the ground, the horse was unhitched and Emma led it to the creek.
“That’s our horse,” cried the one in yellow. “Clara, what is that insane girl doing? She’s stealing him.”
Emma halted, shoulders stiff. She turned and pointed the pistol at the one with lace at her throat. “I’m no horse thief.” She cocked the hammer. “Apologize.”
About the author:
Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime mystery series and Spirited Quest paranormal mystery series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and editor of the Potato Soup Journal. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.
Follow her on Instagram: @authorjuliehoward