Friday, May 13, 2016

Advice to Writers + How Pantsing Can Help You Write More + A Giveaway from ARGOS Author Philip W. Simpson

We're excited to welcome Philip W. Simpson to Thinking to Inking! Today, he shares how becoming a pantser helped him become a more prolific writer, as well as advice for those of us still slogging it out in the query trenches. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of Philip's latest release, Argos.

Guest post from author Philip W. Simpson:

Pantsing vs. Plotting and How it Can Help You Write More Books

I’m much more of a pantser now than I used to be. I’ve just about finished my 9th novel and to honest, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next. I just know that when my fingers hit the keyboard, ideas come. Some are good, some are bad but I just get the draft down first. I can look for inconsistences and poor writing later (and trust me, there’s going to be a lot).

I planned my first three novels meticulously but I have found over the years that I don’t like to be restricted like this. Often unexpected ideas come during the writing process. This initiates a somewhat awkward confrontation between the pantser and planner parts of my brain. One is saying ‘you have to do this because it says so here. See!’ and the other one is saying ‘bollocks to that. This new idea is better. Go with it.’

The pantser often wins out. In fact, I think the planner has given up. Once they’ve done a rough outline i.e. main character starts at this point, get him or her to the end point in the most interesting way possible—then their job is done. The pantser takes over. So, what I’m saying is don’t restrict yourself. Who cares if you write yourself into a corner. Ben Okri once gave me some good advice which was essentially this: writing yourself into a corner is an opportunity for creativity and for some of your best writing to emerge. You are literally forced to come up with some inventive ways for your characters to get out of their dead end/and or sticky situation.

Advice for writers slogging it out in the query trenches:

If you’re looking for an agent, do your research. I checked out Editors and Predators. Look for feedback from other authors on chat sites. Make lists. Look for books that are similar to yours, check out the authors and find who they are represented by. If they look legit, I’d query them. Make more lists.

Many agencies and publishers hate multiple submissions. And I do mean hate. Check their submission criteria. Every one is different. Queries are fine. Send out lots of queries (cover letter, blurb, a bit about yourself—once again, check their webpage to see what they require). Never send a partial or full ms until they ask for it. Some are fine with multiple submissions. Keep a spreadsheet listing with dates and either query, partial, or full. And outcome obviously. One of my spreadsheets has 50 odd entries.

If you do get an offer, however, you must, MUST, let other agents know. If you don’t, you run the risk of being blacklisted. Also, it gives other agents a chance to get in an offer (a multiple offer situation—makes all authors swoon).

To reiterate: do your research. Look for writers who write for the same genre and market. Find out who their agents are. Check out their website. Research individual agents and find out what they are looking for. Tailor your query letter to them i.e. “I see that you are looking for …. And that you represent…” Agents hate form letters (even though they send out form replies). Only send them your ms if it’s the genre they are after. Otherwise, you are wasting their time and yours. Only put things in your cover letter that are relevant. Don’t tell them that you worked at McDonalds in the holidays. Do tell them if you won awards or have been previously published. Don’t tell them that your mom loves your work. Keep a tab on who and what you have sent. I once made the mistake of sending the same ms twice to the same agent because I hadn’t updated my query spreadsheet. He was not impressed. Most of all, if you think you need an agent, be persistent. Don’t give up! Take on board any feedback (you probably won’t get much).

The Process of Writing Argos

I got the idea for Argos from a page in Homer’s Odyssey. This is where Odysseus returns after twenty years to his island of Ithaka and finds his loyal dog Argos still waiting for him. He’s lying forgotten and dying on a dung heap but sees Odysseus, raises his head, wags his tail and dies. I cried when I first read it and have cried every time since. I love stories about dogs and I love first person narratives so hence the reason I chose to tell the story from Argos’ eyes. Besides, I had a blank canvas of twenty years to fill in which gave me creative license.

I’m a full time elementary teacher and as a matter of necessity, I have to write fast. I write in my holidays and weekends. In a two week term break, I can write 40k words so Argos took me around 4-5 weeks to write. You have to remember that I already have a pretty strong idea of the story in my head.

This is not too dissimilar to the writing process for my other books with the exception of last year. I was lucky enough to have a sabbatical last year where I completed my Masters in Creative Writing. The course work for that was to write a novel. I wrote it fairly quickly (4 months) but then had the luxury of spending the rest of the year reworking it. It was a fantastic experience. I wish every year was like that.

Argos by Phillip W. Simpson
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books

Loyalty has no limits

Raised from a pup by Greek hero, Odysseus, Argos has come to learn the true meaning of love and loyalty. But when Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War, little does Argos know it will be 20 years before he sees his master again. With Odysseus gone his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, are easy prey for neighboring kings and the Gods themselves.

But Argos was tasked to keep them safe until Odysseus returns and that is a promise he is determined to keep – whatever the cost. Told through his eyes, Argos recounts the story of his life – his pain, his joy, his triumphs and failures; his endurance in the face of hardships almost too great to believe.

Above all else, Argos strives to do what is right – and to remain loyal to his King when all others have given up hope. To live long enough to see his beloved master one more time.

This epic myth of love and loyalty proves that a dog really is man's best friend.

About the author

Phillip W. Simpson has written over 50 children’s books for both middle grade and young adult readers. He has a background in Ancient History and Archaeology, and has partially completed his doctorate in Archaeology. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. When not writing, he works as an elementary school teacher.


  1. Lovely piece!! Simpson's Argos sounds like a great book! A must have for my future reads!

  2. Lovely piece!! Simpson's Argos sounds like a great book! A must have for my future reads!


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