Plantsers, Pros and Cons: A Guide for New Writers

It’s time for the final installment of this little guide to writing methods, and today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of being a plantser.

Now, pantser and plotter get bandied about rather freely. But plantsers don’t get quite as much discussion, despite being the group that includes most writers.

So, in case you don’t know, a plantser is someone who falls somewhere on the spectrum between plotters and pantsers.

They do some planning, but go off the rails halfway through. Or maybe they do no planning to start, jumping in to get a feel for the world, and then they step back and iron out some details for the end of the story to make sure everything gets tidied up.

They might do detailed character bibles and maps, but leave the story arcs to develop as they go.

The point is, to some degree, they plan, and to some degree, they figure it out as they go.

There are a lot of things that can go right with this method and a lot of things that can go wrong.

So let’s go over a couple.

We’ll start with the benefits.

1. Freedom to adjust as necessary.

A major part of this writing style is centered around the belief that not everything is going to be planned out perfectly ahead of time. Things may need to change later on, and that’s okay.

This method allows the freedom to step away from the outline as needed.

2. Enough structure to cut back on writer’s block.

Of course, the dreaded block is still possible in any writing method, but having a plan of some sort, even if it’s just five bullet points and a page of backstory for your main character(s), can help alleviate the dread of staring at a blank page.

3. Those blessed A-Ha moments.

With this writing method, those wonderful little epiphanies can happen during the plotting stage AND during the writing stage, spurring you on in either part of the journey.

And now, some of the cons.

1. Meandering plot lines.

All that freedom means that sometimes the plot can wander a bit too far. There’s always the chance that you could get caught up in a tangent, falling down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the main storyline, but it catches your fancy and you go chasing after it.

(Sound familiar? That’s because this is a potential pitfall of pantsing, covered in part one of this series.)

2. Writer’s block.

All that freedom could lead to uncertainty. Details, or even major events, that haven’t been ironed out ahead of time could trip you up later on, causing delays.

3. Rigidity.

You could end up sticking too close to the outline, even when the characters have grown into something different than you originally planned. This could lead to stunted characters. It could also lead to pacing issues if the story or characters develop at a different rate than you originally anticipated. (This might sound familiar, as it’s a potential pitfall of plotting that we discussed in part two of this series.)

Basically, all the potential pros of pantsing and plotting apply, as well as all the cons. Really, it comes down to how you mix and match the two writing methods. The biggest strength of this method is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose exactly which part of the other two to keep and which to discard.

And really, finding what works for you is the most important thing. Every writer is different. We all have different backgrounds and personalities.

There is no one right way to write a book.

That’s important to remember. There are many people who swear by plotting things out, and many who swear by writing by the seat of your pants.

I fall into the latter category, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve written 20 books, if a piece of writing advice doesn’t work for you, throw it out. What’s important is that you finish your book.

The rules about how to write a book are more like guidelines and should be treated as such.

Play around with different writing methods until you find what works the best for you and keeps you writing all the way to the end of the book.

Come back next week for part one of my next blog series, Graphic Design Tips for Authors. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on all my book releases and giveaways, get exclusive content and sneak peeks, and even receive a free short story at sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Pantser Vs. Plotter: A Guide for New Writers

Last week, we covered the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing a novel. And I’ll be honest, it hurt a little to be so negative about my own writing method. But this is going to make up for it.

This week, I get to sing the praises of writing like a pantser (aka a discovery writer).

So, let’s dive in.

1. The story progresses at the exact pace it needs to.

If you write an outline and then start writing, strictly adhering to the outline, things may not happen when the characters and plot would actually get to them.

You may have a moment where a character figures something out that’s meant to be a eureka moment, but your reader figured it out seven chapters ago and has been wondering why the MC is so blind. Or you might have your character piece things together too quickly, completely blindsiding your reader.

As a pantser, revelations and developments come about naturally, thus evolving at the exact moment the story needs them to happen.

2. Characters can develop at the exact pace they need to.

Following an outline too closely can rush or drag out character development, just as much as it can hinder or expedite plot lines, leaving readers wondering why a character changed so quickly or why they seemed to stagnate for half the book.

As a pantser, the characters grow and change naturally, coping with the events of the story as they happen or driving the plot forward with their developments.

3. Authentic, realistic characters

Now, this is not to say that plotters can’t write realistic characters. They 100% can. It just takes more work ahead of time. By this, I mean character bibles or personality tests taken as the character or extensive mood boards or notes galore.

But when writing, it isn’t uncommon for pantsers to let the characters take the reins.

Which means those characters have to be whole people in the author’s mind in order to make these decisions and act/react in ways that line up with their personalities. They’re just there, like old friends whispering secrets and showing us the way.

4. The story can be changed as it needs to.

Sometimes, as you write, you realize that something just doesn’t work. Maybe you learn something new that reveals a piece of your book to be incorrect or implausible to such a degree that it might ruin the immersion.

Pantsers are accustomed to changing the story as is necessary to ensure plausibility, continuity, and entertainment.

In a situation like this, plotters who choose to stick too closely to their outline could endanger the viability of their story by refusing to change things.

5. Exploration

Pantsers get to experience the story for the first time as they write it, providing a sensation akin to reading. Writing this way means that you still get all the excitement and mystery of creation as the scenes unfold on the page. The writing process is punctuated with epiphany moments where things just fall into place.

Plotters can do that during the outline process, sure.

But epiphanies mid-writing session can really spur you on, and if they happen while away from writing, they can get you genuinely hyped up to get back to writing.

Now, I am biased toward the panster/discovery writer end of the spectrum, as I’ve mentioned that this is my preferred method. But that does not, in any way, mean it’s the only way.

For those of you just coming into this, last week’s blog was dedicated to the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing.

Check that out here for more information.

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn about the writing method that most writers flourish with.

They’re the Plantsers.

And don’t forget to subscribe for a free short story, as well as exclusive content, sneak peeks at covers, and all the details on my upcoming book releases and giveaways.

Most importantly…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Darkness and Grit: Why I Write the Way I Do

It’s no secret that my books play with darker themes and showcase the brutality of humanity.

I don’t mince words. I don’t pull punches. If a scene is meant to hurt, if a book demands a scene that hurts, then it’s going to hurt.

Of course, I do the opposite, as well, writing sweet, tender scenes when the book calls for it.

But I don’t recall ever covering why I write the way I write.

I don’t set out with the intention of writing something so dramatic and dark. It just kinda happens.

But there’s still a reason.

Well, more like several.

I haven’t had the easiest life. I’ve been through a decent amount.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good times, and I’ve known good people.

But I know what it’s like to hurt.

So characters who’ve had it easy their whole lives are hard for me to relate to.

Pretty princesses whose biggest problem is deciding what to wear to the next ball… just don’t work for me. I can’t connect with them.

And since I’m a very emotional person (not that that’s obvious on the outside thanks to social anxiety, extreme introversion, and resting bitch face), not connecting with a character emotionally pretty much damns the story for me.

Characters who’ve hurt, who’ve hit rock bottom and crashed through (because rock bottom is just a muscovite illusion, because things can always get worse), characters who kept falling until they smashed onto a ledge, breaking into a million pieces with their head over the edge staring into the abyss, only to heal just enough to get up and start climbing because they know, yes, things can always get worse, but things can also always get better.

And they know they’ll never have it better if they give up.

Those are the characters I relate to.

So, those are the characters I write. Those are the characters that keep me writing or reading until after the sun comes up.

Because they’re the ones I can identify with.

Writing them helps me get my shit out onto a page. It helps me see the issue as separate from myself because I fictionalize it, changing the details to fit the story, but the emotions are still there.

And that helps me process them.

And I know that I’m not the only one trying to figure out their shit. And if seeing it on a page helps me, it’s bound to help someone else.

Next week, I’ll be discussing which themes come up in my new release, A Heart of Salt & Silver. There are… several.

But for now, I’ll leave you with a progress report.

I finished this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads a couple weeks ago, and promptly moved into a round of edits on Allmother Rising. This round will be done with special focus on beta reader feedback. So, it’ll be a full round of edits, but I’ll also be watching for a very specific thing to come up in the book to see what needs adjusted.

I’m about an eighth of the way through.

I’ve also been steadily writing on The Regonia Chronicles. It’s definitely going to be three books. Plus prequels. Two books for the main series is not going to be an option.

There are just too many planets, too many necessary POVs, too much ground to cover (or space to travel through). And it’s all plot-relevant. So, no cutting it down.

I’m currently adding chapters throughout book two to lay some groundwork for book three, then I’ll be continuing in book three.

And I got some incredible feedback on Second to None today. I’ll be making some minor adjustments, but I’m ecstatic.

Stick around for some snippets from A Heart of Salt & Silver on my social media platforms this week, as well as guest blogs and interviews throughout the blog tour.

I’m aiming to have the new cover for Soul Bearer officially available this week or next week, so keep an eye out for that, as well.

Thanks for being here.

It means a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Curse Words: What to Consider

Should you write with curse words?

This question gets bandied about in writing groups far too often. It seems like people are afraid to break certain rules, and cussing is just one of those things where readers either don’t care at all or they care A LOT.

And the people who care A LOT about cussing tend to get super offended by it.

So I see where there might be a bit of trepidation when it comes to putting cuss words in your book.

So, should you do it?

It kinda depends. The answer for me and my books is… Fucking go for it. Lol.

But that answer might be different for you. Which means we have to get back to that “It depends” part.

First and foremost, what age group are you writing for?

I write books meant for adults, so it’s no problem for me.

But your book is going to be a hard sell if you drop a bunch of F bombs in a children’s book.

Unless it’s a “kid’s book” that’s actually meant for adults. Like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Then, it works.

YA isn’t real big on cursing either. Despite the fact that most people reading YA novels frequently use those words, within typical guidelines for that age range, cursing is to be kept to a minimum.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ellen Hopkins might use some cuss words, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I read her books. But she tends to go for the gritty depictions of real life struggles that teens face, so cuss words make sense in her books.

You should also consider your genre and the conventions within it.

Christian fiction isn’t going to have curse words. If they appear, it might be a little slip on the worst day of the MC’s life, and it probably won’t be any worse word than “crap” or “damn.”

And the character will likely regret it.

Unless it’s a reform/convert type book, in which case there might be a flashback, but even then, the foul language would likely be kept to a minimum.

Aside from those things, you should also consider setting. If you’re writing a book set in the Vatican 200 years ago… There probably won’t be any cussing.

Whereas, if you’re writing something in a modern day bar and you don’t include cussing, the flattened dialogue will almost certainly break the immersion.

But do you want to know the most important things to consider when deciding whether your books should include cussing?

It isn’t whether it’ll be embarrassing if your family or spouse or close friend reads it. That should never dictate what you write.

It isn’t whether the market hates or loves it, because there’s a market for just about everything.

The two most important things to consider are:

1. Is it right for the character?/Does it line up with their personality?

2. Is it right for your author voice?

If the answer is yes, then damn the doubt. Damn the fear of what others will say. Write those fucking cuss words.

If the answer is no, leave them out.

It’s really that simple. If it’s the right thing to do for you and your book, just fucking do it. If it isn’t right for you and your book, then don’t.

Give yourself the freedom to write your book the way it needs to be written.

Just be sure to market the book accordingly so you don’t get people who want grit reading clean books or people who expect clean books reading stories that have been carpet bombed with cuss words.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Style

Hey, guys!

So, I’m in several writing groups, and the big one on facebook (Fiction Writing, 90,000+ members) has had a lot of posts asking a pretty similar question, here lately. “I have an idea for a story, but there are already so many stories like this out there. Should I even bother writing it?”

Such a loaded question, but a very simple answer.

As long as you’re not just straight up stealing someone’s work, write your story. It won’t be like the other stories, because it’ll be yours, written with your voice, in your style.

Who gives a fuck how many werewolf stories there are, or how many accidental baby with a billionaire stories have been written. If you have an idea about an accidental baby with a billionaire werewolf, fucking go for it.

Because your individual writing style and voice will change it, and make it unique.

Individual writing styles vary so much that it’s insane. Some writers even use different styles for different types of stories.

So, as long as you have a clear style and voice, you can write whatever you want.

Seriously.

Whatever you want.

Writing style let’s you get away with some serious shit.

Hell, at one point in his short story, “The End of the Whole Mess,” Stephen King forsakes spelling, punctuation, and every rule of grammar. And without that section, the story would’ve been…meh.

With it?

The story was phenomenal. I think back to it frequently, even though I read it like 5 months ago.

I’m not going say why he does it, or when, because it’s a pretty major plot device. It MAKES the story.

But it happens. Every basic writing rule…gone. And because of the style the story was written in, not spelling anything properly or bothering with punctuation…it enhances the story rather than taking away from it.

Side note…the shit you want to get away with has to be intentional. Don’t just bury your head in the sand, and refuse to learn about writing. Don’t pretend rules don’t exist or apply to you.

Don’t be that cocky.

If you’re gonna break a rule, don’t just say, “That’s how I write,” and expect everyone to think it’s awesome. Lol. You need to have a reason, and an understanding of how it affects the story.

Now, if you want an example that doesn’t seem so unattainable (because Stephen King is pretty high up there), my personal writing style is meant to be like you’re in the mind of the character. It reads sorta like a mixture of thought and direct experience, even when I write in third person for the sake of clarity when switching points of view.

Therefore, it’s rife with sentence fragments and occasional repetition. Because people don’t think or experience things in perfectly composed sentences.

I use curse words and sarcasm. Since I write very naturally, it makes sense. People curse. People get snarky sometimes. It happens.

I use enough description to get the point across, but no more, and only stuff the character would notice. Writing the scenes in such a direct way means that the character isn’t going to pay attention to the type of fabric every other person’s clothes are made of, or the type of trees in the careful landscaping at someone else’s house. Not unless they’re a seamstress or landscaper. Maybe not even then, if their mind is otherwise occupied.

And I pack the stories with emotion and dark subjects. If the story calls for gore or violence, well, it’s gonna be in there.

Not everyone wants to focus on trauma or battle scenes. Not everyone wants curse words. (Clearly, I don’t mind them. Lol.)

The book I’m currently reading (Winterhued by E. H. Alger) is in a genre that I write in a lot (fantasy romance), but is nothing like my books.

It begs to be read in an old English accent. It’s got beautiful, flowery writing and rich description. So far, it’s stayed away from heavy battle scenes, and focused more on the interpersonal goings-on of a besieged castle.

Had I written about a besieged castle with knights and a princess and ladies-in-waiting, it would have been a very different book aimed at a different audience. But Alger wrote it, using a different style, and a different voice, and different ideas.

Not writing it because other people have written about castles and knights would’ve been silly and sad.

It’s beautiful, and there’s no substitute. The author’s voice, the author’s style, and individual spin on things are what make the book unique.

So, to sum up, if someone else wrote about a vampire that used to be a viking and is also an angel (yeah, seriously, it’s been done. It’s a seven book series by Sandra Hill) that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

Because it won’t be the same story.

Write what you want, even if someone else wrote a story about the same general principal.

So. Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- I haven’t read that series by Sandra Hill, but I love the title for the last book. “The Angel Wore Fangs” is catchy as fuck.