Writing Process: Nonfiction vs. Novel vs. Story/Novella -when is pantsing really plotting?

  I notice that I’m seeing vast differences between my process for writing Do Better, which is a nonfiction work, and those processes for my fiction.  While I’ve always considered myself a “plotter” due to my meticulous outlining process for articles and nonfiction books (as seen in today’s earlier post, for example), and my plot outlining process for Who By Fire, I’m realizing that what I thought was “pantsing,” as I wrote Ann & Anna off the top of my head each week, was really plotting, but just in my head.   Why?

  Because the history of one of our Anna’s, maria_weems_escaping_in_male_attire_28page_220_crop29   Anna Marie Weems, is already well known.  Not to mention that: 

1.)   I knew the characters intimately, for Ann & Anna, because I’ve done years of research on the topic of slavery, and even dreamt of my own ancestresses escaping bondage,



2.) I know the area in which they start their escape intimately, having grown up in, and also been a tour guide, in DC and the near parts of Maryland.

   That meant that I really only needed to imagine the scenes as they fit into a time frame that I already knew, with characters that I already knew, since I know the other protagonist very well.  Having grown up with Methodist church hymns swimming in my head from my youngest days, writing this story was like going back to a home I’d always wanted to leave, but could never really get away from, until I wrote it down in the form of Willow’s story, as she escapes with Anna.  Obviously I had to tweak the history just a little, but not too much.  It’s quite a different process from either a nonfiction book, or even my much more complex historical fantasy novel, Who By Fire, whose characters I am still getting to know, as I continue to flesh out the plot, having charted this plot & subplot scene timeline nearly two years ago.

  But I do have one note:  I will never again work on two, let alone three, different books simultaneously!


    The overall objective of this novel, Who By Fire: I Will, as part of Project Do Better,   remains that of putting a floor on poverty so that each and every baby born can have a safe childhood.


Action Prompts:

1.) Share some ideas you may have on how writing can help to solve homelessness and child abuse, starting right now,

2.)   Write a story, post or tweet that uses those sources and your thoughts.


Click here to read, if you like:

B5, Hakan:Muhafiz/The Protector, Lupin, & La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) Reviews…

Holistic High School Lessons,

Thoughtful Readers, if you are on Twitter, please consider following   #Project Do Better  on Twitter.


Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


8 thoughts on “Writing Process: Nonfiction vs. Novel vs. Story/Novella -when is pantsing really plotting?

  1. I follow your idea of letting history dictate how one can tell the story. I’m reticent to take too many liberties to change the facts for even my fiction. As far as your question, I could think of writing a story about someone so desperate in need of money who becomes a child prostitute here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for answering my Prompts!

      Hmm, I’d agree with this story, as long as it takes into account that most prostitutes, especially children, are actually forced into it, and used as money-makers, by sex traffickers (or what we used to call pimps, I believe) and abusive ‘guardians’ or enforcers/knee-cappers. No child that I have read of actually becomes such voluntarily, even out of desperation: there is always an abusive adult taking advantage of the child.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Trust me . There would be no heroes of mine who support child prostitution in any form. But I think stories like this will have a powerful publicity effect on spreading the wrongness of this practice.

    Liked by 3 people

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