Plotter? Pantser? Yes and yes, perhaps?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Dan Jolley to my blog, with new about Gray widow, walk, web and war. If you look at those covers, you'll the spider-sense in these cool scifi, fantasy, superhero novels. Plus there's a female protagonist. I'm hooked and eager to read. But I'm also curious, so I've asked Dan:

 Do trilogies start with all three books planned out, or do they grow as you write them?

The answer is... yes and yes.

The Gray Widow Trilogy is a good example. I technically got started on it back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth (1996), when I had only ever had comic books published and didn’t really know anything about writing novels. (If I’m being honest, I didn’t really know anything about anything back then. Twenty-five seems so YOUNG to me now. Get off my lawn!)

Anyway, I originally intended the story to be a comic book, but when I couldn’t find the right artist with whom to collaborate, I decided to turn it into a screenplay. So I went out and bought a bound edition of a couple of Quentin Tarantino’s scripts, hoping to use them as a template—and I read his introduction, in which he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Look, film is a collaborative medium. If you want to have total control over your story, write a novel.”

I took that to heart.

At the time, all I really wanted to do was get the whole story down on paper. I thought maybe, *maybe*, if I was insanely lucky, I might get it published at some point, but it was really just about finishing the story.

It took a loooonngg time for the first book to find a publisher. Over the course of the next two decades, and multiple major rewrites, the story kept evolving in my head, even as I was writing and co-writing a number of other original novels, tie-in novels, and film novelizations. When I finally struck a deal with Seventh Star, the general story in my head had gotten a good bit bigger. Big enough for about three books, I thought.

I knew who the villains were, and what they wanted: they were extraterrestrials carrying out a secret weapons experiment designed to modify human DNA and create military archetypes to be used in an interstellar war.

I knew who one of the affected humans was: Simon Grove, a young man whose genetic Augmentation was supposed to turn him in an Infiltrator, capable of altering his body to look like any other human. But the process went wrong for Simon, and turned him into a vicious, bloodthirsty, less-than-human killer. (Simon actually came to me in a nightmare when I was about twenty.)

I knew *very* well who the protagonist, Janey Sinclair, was: a young woman who’d suffered loss after loss in her life, and who’d promised herself she was going to use her Recon Augmentation, which allowed her to teleport from one patch of shadow to another, to try to prevent other people from experiencing the same kind of pain she had.

I even knew who Janey’s love interest was going to be—the assistant manager of her apartment building, Tim Kapoor—and the haunting secret from Janey’s past standing in the way of them being together.

And I knew, down to the last word, what the last line of dialogue in the last chapter of the last book was going to be.

So I told Stephen Zimmer that I had plans for a trilogy, we signed a deal, and I was off to the races. The first book was already in the can, after all.

The second book had a lot of concrete parts, but... there were still some significant hazy bits, too. I’m the kind of writer who thinks about a story for days, or weeks, or months, and then slaps it all down in a rush once everything makes sense. So I ended up spending about seven months of the year I’d been given to get the second book done just thinking about it. Once I’d worked all the hazy parts out in my head, that left what amounted to a bunch of typing, which I did all during the autumn and part of the winter. The second book came out on schedule. I ended up following roughly the same pattern for the third book.

Knowing where the story ends is crucial for me. I’m the opposite of a “pantser,” I guess. I outline relentlessly, talk out plot points with my wife, drive around and listen to loud music while my subconscious works on the story. But ultimately, knowing where the journey ends lets me build toward that, and I always know where the journey ends before I ever set foot on the road. It’s sort of like going on a cross-country road trip. It might take a while to get there, and maybe you’ll veer off course a few times and discover some fun roadside attractions, but if you know where you’re going, eventually you *will* get there, and when you arrive it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

To sum up:

My trilogies start out mostly planned, since I know what the story is and who the characters are before I ever start writing. But along the way, as interesting bits and pieces present themselves to me, I’ll let the story feed off of them, too, which allows the books to grow while they’re being written. So, are they planned, or do they grow as I write them? Yes and yes.

Thank you Dan, and what a cool answer. I've always liked to say I'm a "pantser" with my writing, and I can really relate to listening to music, waiting for the characters to tell me where they're going. But if I plot too much and write too fast, the characters demand rewrites and it all goes wrong. So instead, it takes forever (nearly) till I'm ready to put finger to keyboard and get going. By then though, I know where the story ends--which makes me a "plotter" instead. Then those characters just create diversions and road-side attractions instead of distracting me. So maybe, like you, I'm the opposite of a "pantser" too. I love yes and yes answers!

And now, an introduction to the books...
The final installment in USA Today Bestselling Author Dan Jolley’s Gray Widow Trilogy, Gray Widow’s War, is featured in a new blog tour set to take place August 13-19. Featuring a great heroine in Janey Sinclair, the Gray Widow, the series is action-packed and appeals to readers of many genres.
With aliens and genetic mutations in the series, the Gray Widow Trilogy encompasses science fiction, urban fantasy and superhero fiction. The covers for this series were done by Dark Horse Comics artist John Nadeau.

About the author

Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007, and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website ( and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

Where to find him: Author Links:
Twitter: @_DanJolley

About Gray Widow’s War: When Janey Sinclair vowed to use her ability to teleport from shadow to shadow to protect the city of Atlanta, she only wanted to spare others the kind of agony she’d endured herself. To prove that not all suffering is necessary. To heal the splinter-edged rifts in her own heart.
But soon Janey realized she was part of something much larger. Something that spanned the globe…

And reached beyond it.

The forces behind Janey’s Augmentation—the authors of the grand experiment striving to use human DNA as raw material in a vast intergalactic conflict—have arrived on Earth. And if the planet is to survive, Janey Sinclair must unite friends and foes alike. Humanity itself hangs in the balance, as Janey wages the GRAY WIDOW’S WAR
Gray Widow’s War is book three of the Gray Widow Trilogy.

Where to find it: Links for Gray Widow’s War
Amazon Print Version
Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble

Fnd out more. Follow the Tour!

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