Friday, September 23, 2011

Writing With Jennifer Estep

Writers usually are pantsers or plotters.There is no right or wrong way only the way that works for you, the writer. 

My guest urban fantasy author, Jennifer Estep. She writes both an adult Elemental Assassin series and  Mythos Academy series for young adults.

Jennifer talks about how she writes her stories.

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to Sia for having me on the blog again today. Thanks so much, Sia!

So today I thought I would talk a little about my writing process since that always seems to be a popular question with readers, authors, and everyone else. How do you go about taking the characters and stories in your head, getting them down on paper (or in the computer), and turning them into a cohesive book? Everyone’s process is a little different. Some people like to plot out what will happen in every single chapter. Other folks just take an idea and run with it. There’s no right or wrong way to write a book. All that really matters at the end of the day is getting the words down and finishing that first rough draft.

I have to admit that I’m a total panster when it comes to writing. I don’t do detailed outlines, character descriptions, storyboards, or anything like that. I just think about my heroine, her magic, and how she can use it to defeat the bad guys. Once I have that in mind, along with some of the major turning points of the story, I just sit down and start writing.

Sometimes, it works out well, and the story just flows. Other times … not so much. It’s not pretty, but it’s the method that works for me. I find that if I outline a story too much that I sort of get impatient and even a little bored writing it, since I know what’s going to happen next. I guess part of me likes my characters to surprise me a little bit as I write them.

When I do start writing that first rough draft, I try to write at least 2,000 to 3,000 words a day (or more) until I have a rough draft of about 50,000 or 60,000 words or so. I find that working on the draft every day helps me keep the story flowing and the words pouring out. Then, when I’m finished with the rough draft, I let the story sit for a few weeks before going back to it, reading through, and seeing what changes might need to be made and what needs to be added to the story.

Then, I start my second draft, where I layer in more emotion, description, and dialogue. With my second draft, I usually aim to have about 90,000 words by the time I finish it. Then, I let that draft sit for a few weeks before going back to it and layering in even more emotion, description, and dialogue. I usually do this a couple of times until I have a draft of about 95,000 words or so and the book is the best that I can make it.

So there you have it – a little bit about my writing process.

  • What about you guys? What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a panster? What books are you enjoying right now?

Spider's Revenge Available 9/27/11 

Old habits die hard for assassins.

And I plan on murdering someone before the night is through.

Killing used to be my regular gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, assassin-for-hire. And I was very, very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly matters: Mab Monroe, the dangerous Fire elemental who murdered my family when I was thirteen.

Oh, I don’t think the mission will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more problematic than expected. The bitch knows I’m coming for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters Mab hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keeping Bria safe is my first priority. Taking Mab out is a close second. 

Good thing I’ve got my powerful Ice and Stone magic—and my irresistible lover, Owen Grayson—to watch my back. This battle has been years in the making, and there’s a good chance I won’t survive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s coming with me . . . no matter what I have to do to make that happen. Excerpt

USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assas­sin code­named the Spi­der who can con­trol the ele­ments of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing peo­ple and right­ing wrongs, Gin runs a bar­be­cue restau­rant called the Pork Pit in the fic­tional South­ern metrop­o­lis of Ash­land. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vam­pires, and ele­men­tals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Books in the series are Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, and Tangled Threads. Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in the series, will be released on Sept. 27.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. Touch of Frost, the first book in the series, was released in August. First Frost, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a 99-cent download. Kiss of Frost, the second book, will be released on Nov. 29.

For more information, excerpts, and more, visit Jennifer’s website at

You can also find Jennifer:  FACEBOOK, GOODREADS, TWITTER


~Sia McKye~ said...

Jennifer, I love having you visit.

I really enjoyed your article. I'm definitely a pantser. While I need the general story outline in my head and how it will end in general terms, the turning points and an idea of the black moment, I like going on the adventure with my characters rather than know every detail in the plot.

Isis Rushdan said...

Sia, thanks for having Jennifer on.

Jennifer, your process is truly unique and shows how different it is for every writer. Now I feel better about doing three passes to layer things in. Thought it was just me.

Jennifer Estep said...

Sia -- Thanks for hosting me on the blog again. I appreciate it. Me too. Some of my best ideas have come from just sitting down and writing and letting the characters run wild.

Isis -- It is different for every writer. You just have to find what works for you.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have to outline or I'd be lost.
That's a really cool cover!

Jennifer Estep said...

Alex -- Thanks! I like the cover a lot too.

Sheila Deeth said...

Sounds a good process. I'm half-pantzer, half-plotter these days--start with seriously unplotted short stories, then, if the characters keep talking, ask them to tell me where they're taking me.

Jennifer Estep said...

Shelia -- That's an interesting approach too. Like I said, it's just about figuring out what works best for you.

VA said...

I pantz, but would do better with more plotting. The initial draft would do well as a strict pantz project, but rarely do I get the whole thing just on the fly.

Dana Fredsti said...

Hi, Jennifer! First of all, must read your books! I love paranormals and urban fantasies... Second, I'm a pantzer...pantser? The first looks like a German tank! I only outline if forced to do so. I generally have a vague idea of the beginning/middle/end, but trying to write it down beforehand doesn't work very well for me. I do take notes as I think of stuff... but the only time I've actually outlined is when forced to by editors. Bastards... :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Dana! You swore? I'm shocked I tell yah. May be scarred for life, dammit.

Outlining would work if I was doing a convoluted story. I can see doing some for thrillers, murder and mayhem stories because you have to layer in the clues and red herrings. Perhaps for some sci-fi stories too. Personally, outlining makes the story too much work.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Vivian, when I hit a glitch sometimes I go back and make notes on what I'm trying to accomplish and how the story measures up to the goals.

I think the most outlining, if you will, I do is a brief GMC Chart. So I hit the mark.

Kat Sheridan said...

Jennifer, the book sounds fabulous! Very gritty and fascinating, just the way I like them! While I used to be a hard core pantser, these days I'm a "planter", half plotter, half pantser. I like doing character sketches and laying out the GMC and a broad outline of the story, then I pants the rest of it. Good luck with your work!

Ken Coffman said...

I saw an alternate description for the different writing styles: Gardeners and Architects. That delineation appeals to me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, I like that designation, Ken. I'm not an architect but I do plan out my garden and then do lots of improvisation in real life, I can see where that would fit in writing.

Kat, that makes sense. You're the one that really got me into doing the GMC Chart--knowing how much me and spreadsheets don't get along--I do use one for that. :-)

Jo said...

Not sure. whats a panster?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Jo. A pantser is a writer who has an story idea and who the characters are and a general idea of where the story is going and sits and writes it without from the *seat of their pants*.

Plotters are those who outline the whole story, do character sketches, develops the plot points, the design of their world and then starts to write.

Then there are those who do a bit of both. As Kat says, she's a *planter*.

~Sia McKye~ said...

There is no right or wrong way to write a story. You do it how it works for you. Kinda like a cook--some use a recipe, others are into a pinch of this and a bit of that.

Jennifer Estep said...

VA -- Sometimes, I do a little more plotting. Sometimes, a little less. It just depends on the story and the characters.

Dana -- Thanks! Hope you get a chance to check out the books.

Kat -- Thanks! I appreciate that.

Jo -- What Sia said -- just someone who writes by the seat of their pants and doesn't necessarily have all of the story mapped out before they start writing.

Ken -- That's a cool way to look at it.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, Jennifer, on one of my groups I mentioned you were blogging with me but I hadn't yet had the chance to read your books. She told me: "Love Jennifer!! Great writer!! Elemental Assassin is excellent!!Definitely one for you to check out!! Jennifer Estep is a great writer and a super nice gal. Elemental Assassin is about Gin Blanco, who is an assassin and she is awesome. Really great. Add it to your list!! ;)"

Other Lisa said...

The writing process is so bizarre, truly!

I'm a pantser, though I generally have some emotional climaxes I'm aiming for when I'm writing.

Ian Rankin said something that really appealed to me: "If i knew what was going to happen, why write the book?"

That's pretty much my process and my motivation.

Jennifer Estep said...

Sia -- Thanks! That's so nice of her to say.

Lisa -- That's another cool way to look at the writing process.

whitewolfreads said...

I'm totally a planner! I like to have some sort of structure when i write even though most of the time i deviate from my outline. Currently I'm reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I'm really enjoing it so far.

Jennifer Estep said...

Whitewolf -- I like to have a little bit of structure, but I usually end up going in different directions too.