Pantser or Planner?

All writers are created differently.

We can sit in the same classes, but each of us holds different stories in our hearts and minds. Each of us has our own voice. Each of us has our own process or lack there of when we work on our books.

Thank the Lord we are all so different or we wouldn’t have a variety of stories and books filling the shelves and internet. But no matter how different our process or our stories, there is a rhyme and reason to structuring our novels.

I just got back from the Deep Thinkers Retreat through My Book Therapy where we focused on story and structure. Both Susie and Rachel write fantastic books. Both have different processes. As I sat listening to how they process and plan, I realized that I fall in the middle of their styles. I’m a planning pantser. Like how I just created my own title there?

Planners need an outline, a very specific structure. The story is mostly written before they begin. They just have to weave it. Pantsers don’t like the structure. They have it all in their head and heart and want to sit down and write however the story leads. There is a beauty to both. There is also a danger to both when we overcompensate. It is important to focus on story structure. It makes the story cohesive, focused, and strong. There is also a beauty to allowing yourself the flexibility for letting the scene change.

Historically, I write a very brief outline, focus on some character development and personality, and then hit the page. Often the structure would overwhelm me and make me feel boxed in, so I would toss my hands in the air and just start writing because there I find the freedom to breath.

After this retreat, I have realized I need the structure, I need to plan. I know how and have the tools to accomplish this in a manner that makes my character and plot sing. Then I need to use that to allow the words to just flow.

So where do you fall on the wide spectrum of writers? If you are a planner, plot that thing out. Know the ins and outs of your character. My boss always says to “plan to be flexible,” and I would echo that with your writing. No person, place, or thing is without the ability to change, even if only a little. No matter what you plan, the story will probably change as you write. Enjoy the process!

And for all my pantser friends out there, own it and enjoy! I would encourage taking a little time to make sure it all connects and then rock that flexibility.

I am discovering that I don’t need to follow the process of other writers. They are succeeding with their writing not because they all write the same, but because they have owned their voice, story, and process. Perfection isn’t the end goal. I would argue that connection with reader and excellence in the story is more important. However it works best for you, get that story on the page, write from the voice that God gave you, and do it to the best of your ability as unto the Lord and not unto man.

Are you a pantser or a planner? What works best for you?

When the Honeymoon is Over

When I firJuly 17, 1982 001st started writing…

I was living the dream. I spent an hour every morning adding words to my Work in Progress before our homeschooling day started. There were no deadlines; no one demanded anything of me. I dwelled happily in my writer’s cave, isolated from the world, reveling in the company of my characters.

Yes, it was a honeymoon, and everything was perfect.

But as we all know, the honeymoon has to end sometime, right? For me it came to a screeching halt when I signed that first contract.

 

Just like a honeymoon gives way to the reality of married life, my writing honeymoon quickly turned into the reality of being a published author. But that was all right. I didn’t want to live in a perpetual newbie-honeymoon state in my writing career. I wanted substance. I wanted long-term. I wanted a lifelong commitment.

Thanks to my hard-working agent (hi, Sarah!), I’m on the threshold of that long-term writing life. And that means multiple projects. I’m marketing one book, editing another, writing a third, and proposing a fourth. This is the challenge I thought I wanted back in the writer’s cave days.

picture 3

So how does a writer handle a challenge like that?

Here’s some advice I’ve received from writing friends:

  • Keep writing. Write 1000 words a day. Do the math: 1K per day (without Sundays) becomes 320,000 words per year. Piece of cake!
  • Keep on target. There is no magic potion. Get in a groove. Make that 1K per day a habit. Every day, same time, same place.
  • Keep learning. My 1K per day takes about an hour of “bottom in the chair, hands on the keyboard.” I spend part of the rest of my time reading writing craft books or taking on-line classes. Even after publishing four books, with two more in the pipeline, I still have a lot to learn!
  • Keep planning. I also spend part of my writing day planning the next project. After I turn in the last book for my current trilogy from Revell, I’d really like for them to publish another one. So I’m starting to lay the ground work for that series. I’m also in the middle of planning a new series for Love Inspired Historical. These new projects keep my creative juices flowing!
  • Keep dreaming. Kariss Lynch wrote a great post about the difference dreaming makes in our creative life. You can read that post here: The Importance of Dreaming
  • Keep living. The honeymoon really IS over if your writing becomes an all-consuming passion. Spend time with your family and friends. Give yourself time off.

Every once in a while, I ask myself if my current life is meeting 046my expectations.

Is the challenge I thought I wanted during my writing honeymoon satisfying enough? Is it worth the work? Does it have substance enough for a long-term, lifetime commitment?

Yes. Oh, yes.

What about your writing life? Are you still in the honeymoon stage, or on your way, navigating through deadlines and contracts? Is it worth it?

The Importance of Dreaming

Ever feel like your writing time has slipped into a series of tasks you are struggling to check off?

1500 hundred words and counting? Check.
Edits? Check.
Social media graphics for the week? Check.
Blog posts written and turned in? Check.
Responded to readers and answered emails? Check.
Laundry, grocery shopping, life things? Maybe check. Kinda.
Maintain sanity? In process.

If we aren’t careful our writing routine turns into a list that can drain our creativity and make us forget why we are writing. I am the queen of time management and boundaries. I have to be in order to prioritize and get things done. But sometimes in the midst of trying to be disciplined and organized, I miss out on the creativity that comes with dreaming. I actually plan time to dream. It’s vitally important to the rest of my list.

Dream a little bigger

Dreaming rejuvenates me.
One of my favorite questions to ask when it comes to writing is “what if.” What if my characters decided to do something totally unexpected? What if my villain surprises everyone? What if I create a setting that puts a unique spin on a scene? What if I created a character that absolutely fascinated my reader? Then how do I do all this?

“What if” is a powerful question, one I don’t ask nearly enough. But when I do, my writing sings more than normal and my creative juices flow.

I also like to story board. I may love words, but I am attracted to powerful visuals. It’s fun to create the scene and cast my characters by scouring the internet for photos that jog my creativity in a greater way. I pin them on a corkboard so that I can see and move them to help craft the story. This helps dream about possibilities. Possibilities are endless in our writing. We just have to seize them.

Dreaming rejuvenates the story.
I like to set a timer and see how many words I can spill on the page before time runs out, but occasionally this depletes my creativity instead of inspiring it. However, when I take time to dream before I start writing, even if I just spend fifteen minutes on a writing prompt, my writing carries a different kind of power and creativity. When I race the timer, my story has quality and quantity. My characters are also deeper and my settings more vivid.

Dreaming rejuvenates the reader.
Letting readers into my brainstorming and dreaming is fun to share with readers. This makes great social media content to excite them and help them invest in the story before they ever hold it in their hands. Inviting them into the dreaming helps them feel like part of the team and part of the journey. If you do this, be prepared to write faster to satisfy their growing curiosity.

Tasks and deadlines are part of writing, but dreaming and enjoying the writing…that’s the most vital part of the journey, for it informs everything else. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, grab a pen and fun notepad, and don’t be afraid to dream a little, darling. I have a feeling you will like the results.

For the Love of Writing

Have you ever been around someone who loves Christmas? I can’t quite rival Santa, but I love this season. I love the scent of cider as we decorate the tree and the chaos of Christmas decorations. I love the music, lights, winter clothes, the Christmas parties, and my dad sharing a devotional on Christmas morning. I love time with extended family, laughing and making memories. I love reading the Christmas story and imagining it from the perspective of the people who experienced it. And I love being around people who love Christmas, because their joy is contagious.

It’s the same way with our writing. When we love the story, our readers love it, too. My third book, Surrendered, comes out December 26. It’s the end of a series, the end of an era, the end of a contract, and a beautiful beginning (I hope) to many more stories to come. Under the pressure of deadlines, pursuing a contract, and learning to market, I can forget the joy of this calling. So this month, I’m falling in love with writing again.

Write what you love

Write what you love.

This year, Christmas also comes with a book release. I can’t wait to share Surrendered with readers. I loved crafting the romance that made me swoon, conflict that made me cringe, and action that had me scratching my head to figure out how to rescue them.

Now it’s time to begin again.

I have a couple of different manuscripts going, but I’m also working on one just for me.  A fairy tale. Even if it never sees the light of day, it makes me remember what I loved about my favorite stories as a kid and what I still love about romance, magic, and characters as an adult. The new manuscripts, the ones editors have requested to see are experiencing new life, as well, as I read and remember all that I love about Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series, Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter Family series, and Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series. I look at what other people love about those stories, too. Then I add my own creativity, a new story idea, and something I love is born.

Write because you love it.

It’s taken finishing the Heart of a Warrior series to finally own the fact that I am a hopeless romantic who happens to write romance. But once I fully accepted that, I was able to embrace my new manuscripts in a greater way. I write because I love it, because I have a story to share, because I love bringing a character to life. I love tossing them into trouble and watching them come out shining like gold because they wrestled and emerged victorious. I love writing scenes with courage, heart, and emotion. I write because that’s how God made me. This month, I am writing for the love of the craft and not for the deadline.

Others will love it, too.

It’s important to hole up and remember to write because I love it, to write a heart story, but the beautiful benefit is that even when I close the door to my writing closet and let everything I love and am passionate about spill out on the page, I’m writing something that others will love, too. People connect with emotion, with stories that make them think and dream and imagine. They connect with vulnerability. When I write for me, I  am ultimately writing for them. Out of the overflow of what I have learned as a writer, as a person, as a woman made in the image of Creator God, my experiences, quirks, and imagination pour onto the page and the creativity of the reader is captured.

In this Christmas season, a time of joy and celebration and thanking the God who sent His Son to earth, I’m celebrating in a different way – with the gifts he’s given me. I truly believe when we write what we love because we love it, then others will love it, too.

So You Want to Write a Book

photoHave you ever experienced that awkward “oh” followed by the nodding of the head and a slight pitying glance cast your way right after you tell someone you are writing a book? Maybe it’s just me. But it happened more often than not when I shared this little secret of mine: I wanted to be an author. But not only did I want to be, I was trying to be.

Now that my third book will soon hit shelves, those pitying looks have changed to looks of surprise and some pretty fun conversations. I continue to get contacts from friends, friends of friends, and strangers asking, “How do I write a book? Will you help me?” Originally, this overwhelmed me. A lot goes into writing a book. Where do I even begin to teach this? How do I know who will be dedicated to pursue this to the end? Major shout out to the mentors who took time to teach me. The sad truth is that not everyone who wants to write a book or says they are writing a book will ever finish it or see it published.

So how do you avoid falling into this category of a “wanna-be” or “wish-I-had?” No formula is perfect, but this worked for me and this is what I give people who ask me how to start. I had a lot of missteps. I spent a lot of money on training and books. Lost a lot of sleep. Cried a lot of tears. Wondered if I could really do this. Fell in love with characters and settings. But the bottom line is…I tried. And I’m still trying. My writing journey is still a work in progress. But I am always willing to help those who try. My guess is, if you are taking the time to read this, on some level you are serious about making your dream a reality.

  1. How bad do you want this?
    • Know that this is a long journey. How bad do you want it? Have others affirmed this gifting in you (other than your mom)?
    • Ask why this story should matter to others.
  2. Learn how to develop a story.
    • Buy books. Take classes. Do writing exercises. Join a writing group.
    • Write a couple of short stories. Study dialogue, plot, character development.
  3. Brainstorm your idea.
    • Determine what research needs to take place
    • Buy books on the topic/Check out the library
    • Write down your ideas/get something on paper
  4. Start writing.
    • Most companies won’t look at your work until you are finished. Finish the book. Write, rewrite, write again.
    • When you are finished, research publishers that print in your genre. Look into agents that represent your genre.
    • Purchase tools on writing a book proposal.
    • Pray; and be ready for rejection. If this is something you really want and others have affirmed, then keep going
  5. Connect with other writers in your stage.
    • Local writer’s groups are a great beginning, and there are also some online!
    • Develop relationships with people who love story.
    • Ask people to critique what you have, and request honest, tough feedback. Then change your work accordingly.

Prayer + Passion + Perspiration = Success

Keep writing!

Writers are Readers

Writers are Readers Kariss LynchI’ve been a bookworm since I could hold a book. Between my dad and Dr. Suess, I was breezing through rhymes and learning to recognize words from the time I could talk. The love for reading never changed but the time available to read changed drastically, especially when I began to work full time and write books on the side. I know I’m not the only one juggling a hectic schedule (can I get an amen?). As writing time increased, reading time decreased until it trickled to almost nothing with the exception of the occasional holiday.

Big problem.

For a writer, reading is mandatory. It ranks right up there with learning proper grammar. My writing began to suffer without a constant intake. In May, I wrapped up writing Surrendered and hit pause on future projects. My tank read empty in glaring red letters. I needed fuel. I needed to rest and read.

So I picked a genre I didn’t write, chose authors that are highly recommended but whom I’d never read, and I drank in the pages. Since May, I have read over 90 fiction books, and as I read, new stories came to mind. I remembered why I love writing. I remembered the power of a story. And I learned a few things in the process.

1. Read To Learn 

As book after book came to an end, I began to read reviews and reader comments. I discovered what today’s reader loves in a hero, the longing in our hearts for something bigger and grander than ourselves, and the craving for romance to be earth-shattering and enduring. I specifically read YA and NA books. This audience is the rising generation of readers, and they are reading a lot. I want to know what they like and don’t like. Concentrating on this genre helped me spot patterns that I can now apply to my own writing.

2. Read To Recognize

Every author has a different style, different voice, different way of thinking and dreaming, a different way of spinning the story on the page. Once again, I began to spot patterns from the author. I loved to identify reoccurring themes in their writing and then visit their author page to see if anything in their bio bled into their stories. I paid attention when my heart or brain keyed into particular language or how a specific story unfolded and made a note to incorporate elements of that in my own writing. One of my professors in college said that the best writers steal. I stole a lot this summer, but in the end, it shapes my own style, creating something unique.

3. Read To Enjoy

There’s something beautiful about unplugging and simply sinking into a story, especially Surrendered Heart of a Warrior Kariss Lynchone that is well crafted. My to-do lists and schedule fled as I jumped on the page and experienced the action with each character. Every time I put down the book, I rose more refreshed to tackle the world and more excited to unlock the stories bubbling within me. Reading helps me unwind and escape, but it also helps me dream. It makes me better.

I’m wrapping up a steady season of reading and diving back into my edits for Surrendered, but I’m doing so with renewed energy. I’m excited to see what happens as I begin new projects. If you’re stuck on your manuscript and feel dry and drained with new ideas, get off your computer and grab a book. Dream a little. Rest a little. Learn a little. I promise it will be time well spent. Then jump back to your story and see what happens.

Happy reading!

Planning a Book Release Party

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, an author does much more than just write. In fact understanding this was my biggest learning curve once I penned my John Hancock on my first contract. You are a writer, editor, marketer, publicist, your own biggest cheerleader, and your own worst critic. Not to mention the fact that you have multiple voices talking to you at one time as you write. Don’t worry…that’s normal. Kind of.

Book Release Party - Shadowed Kariss Lynch
This year, I added “party planner” to my growing writing resume as I prepared for the release of Shadowed just two short months ago. When Shaken released in 2014, my friends planned a sweet party to celebrate. This year, it was my turn to grab the wheel. Only I had no idea where to begin! But like all things in this writing journey, the learning curve is steep, the lessons memorable, and the end result rewarding.

The release party doesn’t have to be stressful! Here are some tips I picked up along the way.

1. Choose a theme.

I planned two different parties with the help of loved ones. I wanted to theme the parties, so I selected decorations and small touches according to the audience. Since some of the major moments in Shadowed are centered around sunsets and the ocean and an opening scene with fireworks, I found decorations that flowed like water and paper décor that resembled the pop of color bursting in a dark sky. It was a fun way to set the stage. For the second party, we decided to go with simple and elegant to fit the audience coming. We chose a room lined with windows overlooking downtown, decorated a center table with roses, set up a sidebar with refreshments, and left an open space for mingling and signing books.

2. Delegate the details.

I still didn’t pull this off on my own. In fact, I had a moment where I almost threw in the towel. But friends and family came to the rescue. Friends volunteered to bring refreshments and plastic ware that fit the beach theme. Others donated door prizes like Fossil watches and a hand-lettered quote from Shadowed framed beautifully. Another friend set up a photo booth complete with reading glasses and chalkboards that represented different plot twists. Party-goers could grab their favorite pair of reading glasses, a chalkboard with their favorite plot twist, and enact the scene on camera.

3. Send the invite.

Gather those around you who weathered the journey with you. Those who sat through the tears and endless plot conversations, the ones who left meals on your doorstep, or talked you off the ledge when you wanted to quit. Let them celebrate this win with you! As excited as your readers will be, these people will be even more excited for you, and let’s be honest, you couldn’t have reached this accomplishment without them. Then, encourage them to bring their friends, friends who may just be curious about you as an author, who may just want to come for the party, and who may just walk away as fans of your work. Use Facebook or Evite to send a mass message so that folks can easily respond

4. Remember the journey.

Don’t forget to hit pause in the craziness and excitement Shadowed Kariss Lynchand remember. Remember from whence you’ve come. Remember the winding road that led you to this point, the road that seemed to never end and had too many bumps to identify. Remember that writing is your calling. Remember the One who gave you the story in the first place.

5. Celebrate!

Bask in the joy of completion, of your baby entering the wide, wide world. Ask a couple of your confidants to keep an eye on the refreshments and remind people to turn in their tickets for door prizes, then cut loose and celebrate. Share your heart, speak of the journey, talk about the story, smile, laugh, sell books, giveaway a few, and praise God for the gift of completion, of release day, and all He taught you along the way.

When all is said and done, clean up, sleep up, then hit the desk. You’ve got another manuscript to finish.