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Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Garden Design Influenced a Pantser


by Dawn Marie Hamilton

One of my favorite pastimes is gardening. In the past, I most often approached planting as I do writing—as a pantser. Stick a plant here. Tuck another one there. No specific plan. That was until I decided to plant a shade garden from scratch. This required forethought—planning.

Yikes! I needed to make a garden plan?

Okay. I can do this.

Once I had my research assembled—garden books, magazines, plant catalogues—out came the grid paper, sharp pencil, and circle template.

The completed design would be installed along the back fence of my property. Each circle on the plan represented a specific plant identified by a unique number. A list of the required plants and their bloom times was presented below the garden drawing.

If I had felt especially creative, I could have used colored pencils to represent plant colors and shaded the circles. I probably should have, but as with writing, I’m always in a hurry to proceed.

What does this have to do with writing a novel? After completing my first book without preplanning, then having to perform multiple rewrites, I decided to do at least a minimum amount of planning with the second book. I think it paid off. Sea Panther was a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist.


As with the previous story, I started the process of writing Sea Panther with research, but this time, I assembled the miscellaneous bits and pieces in a three-ring binder. Then I started writing to get a feel for the characters. After the first several chapters were complete as a rough draft, I created an overall outline for the story and a conflict chart for the main characters.

Circles—just like with the garden plan. I learned about the conflict chart during a workshop presented by Laurie Sanders. It includes the hero and heroine’s strengths and weaknesses, what attracts them, and what causes conflict.

As with drawing the garden plan, I used a grid to create a storyboard from the outline. Using a thick, 30 by 20 poster board divided into twenty-four squares with each square representing a chapter, I recorded the premise for each chapter on a yellow sticky and stuck them to the board. As the story unfolded in my mind, stickies were added—a different color for each POV and/or plot thread. With stickies, I could easily move scenes around on the board as the story progressed. I also could locate when too much of one POV was used and find plot holes.

This method worked for me. What works for you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is your process?

Blurb for Dawn Marie’s most recent book, Just Once in a Verra Blue Moon:

What happens when a twenty-first century business executive is expected to fulfill a prophecy given at the birth of a sixteenth-century seer? Of course, he must raise his sword in her defense.

Believing women only want him for his wealth, Finn MacIntyre doesn't trust any woman to love him. When, during Scottish Highland games, faerie magic sends him back in time to avenge the brutal abduction of his time-traveling cousin, he learns he's the subject of a fae prophecy.

Elspeth MacLachlan, the beloved clan seer, is betrothed to a man she dislikes and dreams of the man prophesized at her birth, only to find him in the most unexpected place—face down in the mud.

With the help of fae allies, they must overcome the treachery set to destroy them to claim a love that
transcends time.

About Dawn Marie:

Dawn Marie Hamilton dares you to dream. She is a 2013 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist who pens Scottish-inspired fantasy and paranormal romance. Some of her tales are rife with mischief-making faeries, brownies, and other fae creatures. More tormented souls—shape shifters, vampires, and maybe a zombie or two—stalk across the pages of other stories. She is a member of The Golden Network, Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal, Celtic Hearts, and From the Heart chapters of RWA. When not writing, she’s cooking, gardening, or paddling the local creeks of Southern Maryland with her husband.

You can find Dawn Marie hanging out at…

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3 comments:

Angela Adams said...

Hi, Dawn,

You have a very "catchy" book title.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi, Angela! Thanks! I've always been fascinated by the moon. When I stumbled upon a piece of folklore about moonstones, I just had to use it in the story. Thus, 'Just Once in a Verra Blue Moon'. Some might think the title a tad long, but I really like it. :)

NLB said...

Love the concept of cross-planning. Makes sense! Seems I write the way I plan a lap quilt. Choose the colors (characters), choose the patterns (plot lines) and sew it all together.