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?

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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!