Episode 72B – TW Piperbrook – Pantsing vs Plotting

Clip

Overview

Tyler talks about pantsing vs plotting and how his technique has changed over his decade of writing. He found that working with a partner made it almost necessary to have to plot.

He likes to use Trello.

https://trello.com/

Stay tuned until the end to hear some hair metal discussion.

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Transcript

[00:00:48] Stephen: Tyler. Welcome back. Second half mark. I mark these as the B podcast. I don’t know if that helps anybody, but it helps me. It looks like you haven’t moved, so that’s wonderful.

[00:00:58] TW Piperbrook: I love it. Yeah, I’m still in my [00:01:00] dungeon down here. This is my music room. Like the basement, my little man cave. You can’t see it, but I’ve got my electronic drum set here and all my guitars and basses and all that stuff.

[00:01:10] Stephen: Great. That’s cool. Yeah. I played bass. I talked to a lot of authors that also play music. That seems to be a thing.

[00:01:17] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. Yeah, it is. I think it’s all the artistic stuff.

[00:01:20] Stephen: You’ve been doing this for eight and a half years. What have you learned that you’re doing different now than you did clear back when you started?

[00:01:28] TW Piperbrook: Yeah, I think maybe as we said in part a there just looking on general terms I guess I’ve maybe grown thicker skin for things, as far as like feedback and reviews and stuff like that. And I, I think you’re always learning you’re learning about your process. Ideal you’re reading.

I make reading a part of my day if I can. So always reading and learning new words and new ways to plot things and all that stuff. Yeah, I guess I’ve learned that I’m always gonna make mistakes, but ideally, and hopefully I’m getting better at my craft, but who knows? And that’s not really for me to decide, but that’s the goal, right?

So this is to try to get [00:02:00] better and yeah, you fall and you get back.

[00:02:02] Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, I’ve heard many times the successful people are just the ones that kept writing that wrote that next book and got them out. Not just the one. I’m, I haven’t been doing this forever, but I’ve already talked to enough authors.

That they get a book out and they’re like, yeah, it didn’t really do anything. So I stopped doing it. I knew a guy that spent, took off, put working, spent four years writing without working his wife, supported them with kids. And it’s going to be the best book ever. And then he basically said I don’t want to use an editor because I don’t think they’ll understand what I’m trying to do.

And it’s man. Gotcha. And, I think he sold 20 copies or something like that total. Yeah, just keep going, keep writing, do more learn.

[00:02:51] TW Piperbrook: I agree with, yeah. Yeah. And I guess to your point, like I’ve had a couple of different editors over the last batch of years. Each one will teach you so much.

Cause they’re all, they [00:03:00] all have their unique skill sets. And so I guess I’m always looking for somebody to beat me up a little more, as I say, because I’ve got an editor now that’s really beating me up. And I like it when I see like a whole bunch of red on the word document and the comments and track changes.

I say, this is great. This is stuff I can learn because like I always say I’ve used the tech editor in the past to like a military guy. I always say, I’d rather you beat me up. Then the reviewers beat me up. So let me have it and let me try to get better,

[00:03:27] Stephen: yeah. That’s why I don’t push my stuff a lot on family, because they don’t want to say anything and hurt your feelings.

And I’m like, but you’re missing the point. I’d rather you tell me this socks, then have it, get out there and don’t sell anything. And I feel like discouraged. And that’s a hard thing though. A family, I don’t think understands very often.

[00:03:46] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. It’s a small crossover. Have a yeah. Family.

Doesn’t always, I’ve had a couple of family members will read things, but they’re not always big readers, so it’s a different set of people.

[00:03:56] Stephen: Yeah. Agreed. When you’re writing a, what are some of those [00:04:00] services and software that you use that are big and important to you for your writing?

[00:04:04] TW Piperbrook: I mostly use word for drafting. I have used Scribner in the past and I used to use Scribner more so for formatting, and then now I have vellum, I use vellum for formatting. So I guess the simple answer is word, but as far as what we’re probably gonna talk about platting and panting, I use a Trello, the Trello, a site for it’s almost like the little note cards, in the website too, to figure things out for plotting.

So I use that right now.

[00:04:30] Stephen: Got it. Okay. Since we’re go get into that, maybe in a minute, we can talk a little bit more about Trello for people that would like to know, but what do you. What do you do? We won’t, plant panting versus plotting. I’m assuming you started off more of a pantser and now you’re more of a plotter.

So tell us about your thinking on those two. I did a

[00:04:50] TW Piperbrook: podcast a little while ago with. It was a serial fiction podcast was really cool podcast to check out, but yeah someone Christine on there and mentioned the word plants, or [00:05:00] so I guess the the short answer is that’s where I am now but you exactly nailed it where I started off just totally pantsing, in the beginning which kind of works, in a way.

And then I think what kind of tipped me over towards plotting a little more was I did a collaborative series, a with another post APOC author called the last survivor. And we started off panting cause that’s what we both did. So we would just have like story meetings, whatever, figure out. A little bit, but then we would just go off and pants and then we were running into some problems, like a couple of, some more timeline issues or, yeah, just different things that weren’t lining up.

It was creating a lot of work on the backend to smooth things out. So over the course of that series, we started pantsing. And then I think about midway through we, we were almost exclusively plotters for the series and we use this Trello app to pretty much, we’d have story meetings and.

Like I said that series was like a game of Thrones meets walking dead 300 years after the apocalypse with like weird zombie ish preachers that were made from the quarter steps, fungus I guess that video game, the [00:06:00] last of us, but I didn’t know about that game at the time.

Yeah. So we started, there was a lot of story threads, for like different characters, like an alternated POV’s a lot. So we really needed to keep our stuff, on track. So we’d have story meetings and then we would just use these note cards in this app to go down and plot by scene or by ideas for each character.

So we’d have everything lined up. Although at one point I actually, I hadn’t met him in person. His name was Bobby Dera. Hadn’t I hadn’t met him in person for the writing of the first, I think three books. We had just met, online we’re both indie authors or whatever we were in each. Other’s also bots.

And we were in like a multi-author box set that actually J thorn put together. And that’s how we met. We started talking about audio books and stuff, and then we, through email and then we just ended up collaborating. But yeah, I flew out to meet him. Before we did the fourth book and at one point we plotted everything on sticky notes on his dining room table.

And I’d say within a couple hours we plotted an entire book was sticky notes. One sec. Yeah. So I guess, like I said, I [00:07:00] migrated from panting to plotting. And then now where I’m at is for my own stuff is more of a mixture where I’ll have the end in mind. I have a beginning.

So I’ll know what I’m driving towards. And then I’ll almost pants along a little bit with like mile markers that I know I want to hit. And then I’ll hit a point in the project, which I just hit yesterday with the current book. Where maybe I’m like halfway through the book. And I’ve plotted, it passed it. And then I just knew, all right. I know where the end is. I’m just going to plot to the end. And so I had a couple of sentences for each scene, approximate word count. And I went through and yesterday in about an hour, I just plotted the whole rest of the book.

So I’ll just say, yeah, it’s just weird the way, it does seem I guess I’m of the flexible mindset where. Like I read a blog by Chuck Wendig. Have you heard of him? It’s called terrible minds, but he’s talked about, he, I think he’s had a blog post where he says, I want there to be a process, like a concrete process, but it just doesn’t work out that way, like in reality.

So [00:08:00] every book becomes its own, like its own animal, like maybe what works for one book doesn’t necessarily work for the other. So I’m flexible as far as the process per project. But it seems like I’ve settled into that groove of planting basically. So pantsing, but also plotting.

And then, like I said, when I can see that home stretch, I can plot right to the end and that’ll, that’s a big help then it’s like smooth sailing from there. So I dunno, the method I’ve been

[00:08:25] Stephen: using lately. So you started off panting and you moved a little bit in the plotting. Did you find.

That you were hitting a wall or you couldn’t think of where to go, what to do at times, and that kind of pushed you into it, or was there a specific, anything that happened that pushed you into plotting?

[00:08:43] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. Like I said, it was definitely the collaboration, just making everything, clearer.

Oh yeah. Because I remember there was a couple issues that were coming up, especially in the first book where I think what Bobby said at one point, he says, Piper, Brooke over here is envisioning everything taking place in this book in four days. And I’m thinking it’s over the span [00:09:00] of a few weeks.

And that was, so that was like one example. So like I tend to write very real time for some reason. I don’t know why. I have a tight timeline with a lot of my books. And then occasionally I’ll be like, a week passed and then whatever. But for some reason I just maybe, cause I like a lot of the action immediate stuff happening and really following along.

But in this book, we had some different ideas that just never came up. So when we started showing each other, the chapters in Dropbox or whatever, we’re like, whoa, there’s some issues here that we didn’t really account for or no, we’re gonna grab a prop up, yeah. That kind of necessitated, plotting, I think.

And in that instance, it was us collaborating and just getting the story straight, because it was a big story that we were telling, like I said, it was, it ended up being a six book series. So we just needed to get that right. So that’s what tipped me over towards plotting.

[00:09:46] Stephen: Got it. And I think I was the same way.

The first book. Hit a lot of whom, not sure what to do. Oh, I’ll just do this and got done with it. And of course, my gosh, this is so good. And give it to an editor and came back [00:10:00] with 20 pages worth of notes from her. And I went, yeah, this sucks. And I ended up ripping out literally half of it.

Cause I’m like, this just sucks. But that’s when I started discovering hold on more of the planning, but what I’ve tried to tell other new, newer than me authors. Just write the book and start writing whatever feels best and most comfortable. And until you get something written, nothing else makes sense.

So trying to explain to somebody how to apply and the story beats and stuff, it makes no sense until they’ve written some things. So that’s my advice. Just start writing. Don’t worry about because you can change it, you can fix it and more than likely you’re going to get rid of it and move on to something else.

Anyway. It’s a hard thing to hear.

[00:10:46] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. There’s been times pantsing, a lot of people will say, you tend to waste more words. Like you’ll have a lot left on the cutting room floor by the end tonight. I, it definitely happens. But then there’s also been times where I will plot stuff out and you start to go down [00:11:00] that road and then you realize, I almost think of it like a, choose your own adventure.

It’s there’s so many possibilities for a story. And a lot of them will work. Who’s to say what the best one is, but I think I found over whatever the last batch of years is it’s hard to, I’ll see that there are like, I used to just pants things and not think about it. Oh, this is what happened next.

And that’s it. And it’s cool. And it works and that’s it. But as you get further along, you’re like some choices are probably better than others or more, there’s more conflict to them or they just work better and make for a better read. So I think knowing that can sometimes. Slow me down versus something, I don’t know.

I read this on a, that guy, Russell Blake another author there, he had a blog and he was just saying the further into my career, I get the longer a book takes to write. And you’re like that seems like counterintuitive, but it’s because, I’ve written X number of books and I’ve seen. Certain choices are better than others.

So I want to craft a better book. Like I want to take a little more time and think about the plot or think about things and try to go reach for whatever the best choices. So sometimes that can [00:12:00] take a little longer, or like I said, I’ve plotted things too, and gone down the road, gone down the, choose your own adventure and then realized, wait a minute, this isn’t working.

It’s just, and then I’ll have a revelation. Oh. So then I have to like, all right, I’ve got to throw away 5,000 words back up to where it worked and then veer off and go on to where it should. So I’ve had that happen even with plotting tools. It’s tough to know, with the best, but yeah, I think to your point, just writing the book and getting the words down, because without that you don’t have anything.

[00:12:26] Stephen: Yeah. At the beginning you literally don’t know what you don’t know. And there’s so many things you think, oh, I’ve read forever. I could write and boom. But then as the more I’ve learned about writing, the more I’ve learned about grammar and craft and story beats and all that, I look back and I’m like, oh my gosh, I didn’t even realize, I didn’t know that.

Oh, I remember sharing about that before, but it didn’t make sense for me. I thought it was stupid, but it’s because I didn’t have enough experience and that’s really it. And then you run into the problems like I’ll just go back and rewrite this for the 400th time. And at some [00:13:00] point you got to

[00:13:00] TW Piperbrook: stop.

Yeah that, that’s a good point too. It’s tough. Like my first series, my first couple of series, I’ll look back at some of that every once in a while and I’ll cringe and say, Ooh, what did I do there? But then. It’s weird. Cause you, sometimes you just just going for it.

I feel like I had maybe there were fewer barriers to me just charging ahead back then strangely, because I was just like doing the thing and I wasn’t thinking about the thing. And then there was a product at the end and then, there were people that really likes like that stuff to this day oh, that’s great.

And I’m thinking, oh God, it’s horrible, but it’s just, it’s hard to know. But yeah, in a way maybe I tend to think about stuff a little more, now for better or for worse. And

[00:13:40] Stephen: we’ll say it’s better. You’re on my podcast. So we’re going to say it’s better. Definitely. All right. So you mentioned something about using Trello and that’s, I think something else, a lot of newer authors.

Oh my gosh. I got to get this software and use this and I got plot out 500 story points and no, you don’t have to do what, like you said, [00:14:00] do what feels comfortable. Some of the first things I wrote that I had. Plotted. It was just like four or five story beats sentences saw such and such happens.

They decide to go here. They do this now the big battle. And that was it. That was my whole plot. But at least I had a goal and knew where it was going a little better than I’m just gonna start. And it evolved from there. It’s oh wait, now I need to know, are they going to go here first, forget this, does this character come in and they’d be my plot have evolved.

Outlines have evolved over time. Still. I know they’re nowhere near what Patterson does, which is fine with me. But I it’s what I need to do to make sure my story’s cohesive, which arguably still may not be.

[00:14:43] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I think you again, to your point, you’ll figure out your process, whatever process works for you.

There’s so many tools and techniques and advice, but I think the main thing is just to figure out what works for you and just keep writing,

[00:14:54] Stephen: yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The books you’ve got that you’re working on, you’ve got out. How are you [00:15:00] marketing them? What are you doing?

[00:15:02] TW Piperbrook: I yeah, I still use the Permafree strategy where, so I write almost all series, which seems to do the, the best, for most people.

So I have the Permafree strategy going for one series and then I’ve done like some box sets and stuff like that. We’re, when I have a complete series, I’ll bundle it together, offer for a special price, but as far as actual, so that’s like the. No, built-in marketing, for Amazon and other sites is like the free thing. And obviously people will pick up the free book and if they get addicted, then they’ll ideally read through to the rest or a box that they’ll say, wow, this is a stellar deal at 99 cents. And for a 1500 or 2000 pages and they’ll pick it up.

And then, with that, you make more of the money with the Kindle unlimited page. So I do that, but as far as actual marketing I’ve got a newsletter I’ve been building up. So I have the link in the back of the books for people to sign up for the newsletter. So I’ll mark it to that.

I run a budget of AMS ads the Amazon ads on right on the site there. So I do that every month. I run a Facebook ad that I [00:16:00] have running for some box sets right now. Some doing that and then periodically. I guess more so for the Permafree, but like I’ll do some of the paid sites, like a F free Booksy or book barbarian Robin reads.

And I was lucky enough to have the, somebody smile on me and get a BookBub featured deal, maybe over the summer for my first book in a series, which that’s kinda like the the golden thing there. If you can get that, then it’s a great, it’s a great month. I had actually taken a scifi series that I had called sandstorm and it had been exclusive to Amazon for, since I wrote it.

So I took it wide to everybody for the first time and I set the first book to free. And then I, I lined up some paid ads and I got a BookBub. So I was able to give away, X thousand, cause of the site is so powerful, thousands of copies. And then I saw a good amount of through, on the other books, which was really cool.

[00:16:54] Stephen: Yeah. A lot of people say BookBub, isn’t as good as it used to be, but it sounds like it’s still did a lot of good and helped you out [00:17:00] recently. Yeah,

[00:17:01] TW Piperbrook: I think it’s probably doled a little bit over the years, but it’s still powerful. And I think, they curate things heavily, obviously over there, so it’s hard to get a spot, but I think they tend to favor books that are wide, and all retail.

Like this series I had, I haven’t had a BookBub in years, and I’ve not for lack of trying. And I put this series out wide for the first time and I put that in the note and then I got accepted and I was like woo. And, and it gave me the traction on the other sites because this series had never been on apple or Barnes noble or anything.

It was a good jumpstart to bring that series out to other people.

[00:17:34] Stephen: Nice. Oh, there’s some good thing to know that helps take things wide if you can get it. So there you go. If you want a BookBub go wide and if you get it, hopefully it will help jump it on all the platforms.

Yeah. Tyler, before we go do you have any like really good last minute advice for new authors?

[00:17:52] TW Piperbrook: It’s simple, but I’d say just keep writing. Like we said, if there’s nothing on the page, there’s nothing to work with. And know that you’re doing. You’re going to [00:18:00] take some lumps along the way.

Like I said, in the early days, I remember getting some reviews that were just like, ouch, but you just persevere. And I think generally if the good reviews outweigh the bad, then you just take that as the positive and just keep going and then, and realize that. I don’t, you’re not going to write a perfect first book.

So it’s, and of course, I don’t think I’ve written a perfect book to this day and most people probably, you’re always improving hopefully. And the only way to improve is to do the thing and just write,

[00:18:28] Stephen: there you go. Alright. Great. I appreciate it. It’s been great talking to you catching up again.

We’ll have to invade one of J and Zach’s things with. Pam hair metal, glam music again, sometime.

[00:18:40] TW Piperbrook: That sounds good. Actually. Maybe I’ll put you on the spot. What’s your favorite hair? Metal band.

[00:18:45] Stephen: Oh, okay. So this is an issue. A lot of people, a lot of the bands, I like classify as hair metal, but I don’t like, I’ve heard people say rush is hair metal and Russia’s not hair metal prog, maybe not a hair.

And I’ve [00:19:00] also, I, in this, I’ve gone back and forth and argued, but a lot of people say Def Leppard. Def Leppard was a little before the hair metal stuff. And they’ve lasted longer. So you can’t really say their style, his hair metal Iowa, back in the day, they were heavy metal, which is hilarious.

Now they’re not really heavy metal, so I don’t consider things like that. So in the hair metal realm I’m pretty much a long lots of them. One of the bands I really like was I forget their name now. It was the band that they used for the Marky mark movie rockstar. I’ll remember it after we hang up

[00:19:36] TW Piperbrook: on.

Sure.

[00:19:38] Stephen: Yeah, I’ll send you a message. I like to them a lot. Cinderella, when I went and saw them live, I went and saw doc and at Thing here. It was like four H hair metal bands, and slaughter was amazing. They were so much so good and so fun, but then Cinderella came up and I’d never really liked them.

And I’m like, these guys are phenomenal. I love them. And then docking came up and, they were [00:20:00] the headliners, they were the big group from the eighties. Playing in the night, they were boring as hell out there on stage. It was like the least soulful, powerful rendition of any of their songs.

And they just stood on stage just playing. I’m like, oh my gosh. So for me, Cinderella took that night. I’ve always liked poison. They came out, right out a perfect time for me and love their stuff. And Brett Michaels, I think is much smarter in the business than people give them credit for.

So those are some of my, I’ll have to find that one. It’s really driving me crazy

[00:20:32] TW Piperbrook: that you have to let me know. Yeah.

[00:20:34] Stephen: What about you? What

[00:20:35] TW Piperbrook: are your favorites? I guess I’d have to go with a Motley crew or rat. I think I might, we always buy two tops. Yeah,

[00:20:41] Stephen: I went and saw Motley crew when they were coming out with their last farewell tour.

Oh my God. It was horrible. Whoever was then. I couldn’t what my friend leans over and goes, what song are they on? I can’t hear any singing, no lyrics.

[00:20:56] TW Piperbrook: Yeah, Vince, I’m hoping that we’ve got tickets for the a, it’s already been postponed once, but [00:21:00] it’s poisoned, Def Leppard, Motley crew, and Joan Jett.

Next summer, it hurts at Hershey park. I’m supposed to go and bring my son. It’d be his first concert. He’s 11 and he loves hair metal. The same way we do. He knows that in horror movies, he can rap. He’s like a mini encyclopedia. He can rattle all that off the years, the player, everything, so it’d be cool to share that with them,

[00:21:23] Stephen: so I just looked it up at steel.

Dragon was the name rockstar. I really liked them. And it’s funny, you mentioned horror movies because me and a friend, they’re doing a horror movie podcast and we just got done with season one. Oh cool. But it’s not your typical horror movie reviews. It’s movies. You’ve probably never even heard of. So

[00:21:43] TW Piperbrook: check that out.

I’ll show you,

[00:21:46] Stephen: but I want you to, some of the movies are not for kids, so just warning.

[00:21:50] TW Piperbrook: Yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. Cool. Cool.

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