Confessions of a Pantser: Revisiting Rancho Viejo
I’ve often wondered if I made Blake wish he’d never posted his email address in Save the Cat!
I’m a dedicated pantser, you see. And when Blake generously offered to mentor me, I think possibly to see if Save the Cat! could save me, I don’t think he realized what he was in for.
I insisted that if I planned too much, I would lose interest in the actual writing. I balked at beats, loglines—even at the idea of having to come up with a “high concept” idea. I thought the concept was something you tripped over somewhere along the “journey.”
Oh, I know there are a few of you out there nodding along—that’s why you’re here. To see if there might be another way. A way that helps you actually get finally produced or published.
I have to admit that to this day I tend to prefer slow, enigmatic character-driven films. Plots that meander and just… stop. Scenes that feel like watching paint dry on a very humid day.
Nevertheless, I let Blake tirelessly “beat” me into one of the most exciting—and devastating—moments of my writing life. I’ll never forget the call I got, letting me know that Lifetime wanted to produce Rancho Viejo, the script I’d written under his tutelage.
And I will also never forget the call I got explaining that Lifetime was going through a complete regime change. And new regimes don’t like “leftovers.” Rancho was shelved.
We all eventually recovered. And when Blake and a few producers asked me to read scripts for possible production, I discovered that his hard work had made me very, very good at spotting solid scripts and fixing not-so-solid ones. Save the Cat! really could help writers break a bad story down and build it back… better. (Where have I heard that before, I wonder…?)
I am also absolutely sure that all of that training is the reason why two of my most recent Wattpad novels began to be noticed not just by readers but also by some of the “powers that be” on that platform.
In fact, a Wattpad rival offered to publish a novelized version of Rancho Viejo last month, too. And this time I was the one who said, “No.” And sent it off to another interested and very important publisher—fingers crossed…
But it’s the novel Wattpad has fallen in love with, King of Her Desire, that I took on with a kind of focus that Blake would be so proud of. Oh, I still did it my way. It’s a “romance” that does everything a romance should and a lot of things a romance usually wouldn’t.
But I wrote a serious logline and a few rudimentary “beats” first. And I was careful to craft a compelling and “telling” Opening Image and to State that Theme early and let it guide me all the way through.
And because I took the time to do all that, I found myself cruising confidently into all the “bits” I’d balked at before. I could feel when it was time for Fun and Games or to make my readers feel All Was Lost.
I really believe that’s why the Wattpad editors have begun “grooming” King for bigger and better things. They have their own publishing company and production studio now—they’ve partnered with Netflix quite a few times and other companies are cozying up, too. And they’ve hinted that King has production potential.
Of course, there are lots of hoops to jump through first. And as one of the oldest members of their Wattpad Star program, I don’t have the millions of followers that some young’uns do. I “do” Tiktok et al, but… I’d rather be writing. And I write mostly, now, for love.
But God, it was lovely feeling Blake there reading over my shoulder again for a little while. And to feel everything coming together just as he’d tried to tell me it would, back when…
Working on another even more “high concept” one we talked about but never got to write. The adventure continues, Blake…
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