I know you’re hoping I’m just going to tell you some big secret on how to write better faster, be more productive, produce and publish 10+ books a year and make your writing flow better and stay more organized. But that isn’t something that just happens overnight or on a whim. It takes time and understanding. I told you we would be talking about writing flow and organization. Well, first there are things you need to know. Understanding what type of writer you are will have tremendous effect on your writing and help you work out your own personal writing plan going forward that can help you accomplish all of those things with realistic expectations.

Some of this may seem elementary, but many authors never take the time to really sit down and be honest with themselves about this. You need to be in sync with who you are as a writer. Writing out of sync will always slow you down and cause unnecessary struggles.

So, what kind of writer are you?

When defining writer types, it’s often classified into three categories: plotters, panters, and plantsers.
Plotters need a story before you write. You need to visually see that story and organize it into a manuscript before you actually write the book. At some point in your school days, I’m sure you learned this concept: outlining. You need an outline or visual map of what you need to write before you can proceed. Without this you may find yourself floundering or stuck, unable to proceed or finish a story.

There are various methods a plotter can use to help organize your thoughts and streamline your writing efficiently. Outlines are one of those. Index cards, whether physical or virtual, where you can write down your plot points and move them around in order as you work through your story flow can also be benefical. Plotters can often write out of sequence and then arrange it all into place like a giant puzzle.

Pantsers do not require an outline to write. In fact, you would just be wasting your time and likely wouldn’t stick to it anyway. If you tried, you’d flounder and struggle to finish the book, or at the very least would give it a robotic and unauthentic feel as you try to force it into this predefined story. Nope, you need to be free to just write and let the story flow through you.

You may even claim you don’t know where your story is headed, but that’s not likely true. If you can’t see the direction of your story as you write, then you probably aren’t a true pantser. If you find you are constantly writing yourself into a hole or in circles, you probably aren’t a true pantser. Pantsers often write from start to finish and thrive on the journey of seeing their story unfold from beginning to end.

Plantsers are a little bit of both. You could lean more heavily towards one side or the other. An outline is too rigid for you, but free flow writing isn’t working either. You need some guidance and direction established before you write, but not as much as a plotter. You might find yourself writing the blurb or a short synopsis first. Perhaps you need a bullet list of important moments within your story like writing beats you need to hit. You might even loosely plot out each act of your story.

You still need to be free to pivot and flow as you go, but you also require some sort of boundaries and guidelines to maximize your writing time. You take the best of both worlds and combine them in your own unique way. You could write from start to finish or by acts, but mostly find you have a natural flow to your story once you’ve defined the bones of it all.

Did one of these resonate more soundly with you?

I hope so, because defining what type of writer YOU are will cut down on time and energy fighting your story. No one way is better than the other. Think of it like this…

Consider sitting around a campfire with a group of people. You’re going around and telling scary stories. The first recounts a timeless story that’s always great and gets you every time (plotter), then there’s that one that comes up with something completely out of the blue, often unbelievable but still sucks you in as they make it up on the fly (pantsers). Finally, the next recounts an old favorite, but deviates and changes things up in a way you’ve never heard before (plantser). All three stories are great. The plotter can retell it over and over. The pantser’s story changes with each retelling. And the plantser tells mostly the same story embellishing it in various ways each time.

Maybe one sounds better to you than another, but that doesn’t really mean that’s the kind of writer YOU are. So take some time and be honest with yourself. A pantser can’t just plot a story and expect to write it without it coming out as robotic and unemotional. And a plotter can’t just sit down and write without it being disconnected and rambling.

Now, I’m actually not big on labeling anyone. No one should be pigeon held into a single category, but understanding your natural instincts towards writing will help in various ways.

          1. Better understanding yourself as a writer.
          2. Help to formulate a smooth, easy, and sustainable writing plan for YOU.
          3. Organize your thoughts more effectively.
          4. Stop getting in your own way trying to do whatever everyone else does. You really are your own worst enemy.
          5. What we all want, efficiency… writer better faster!

Let’s talk quick about some pros and cons that may help guide you towards understanding what kind of writer you really are.

PLOTTER

Pros: Organized. Structured. Uses an outline to prewrite which leads to more purposeful and effective writing. You can reproduce that story at any time. When writing, you can stop and start at any point because the hard work has already been done before you even begin to write.

Cons: Time consuming. You have to account for the necessary time to outline/plot out your story that other writers may skip over entirely. You may not be the fastest writer or able to produce a book a month. You may at times feel a bit of disconnect from your story. It’s hard to pivot away from the outline.

PANTSER

Pros: An undeniable connection to your story. You may even be an emotional writer. Able to write quickly. No need to spend time on pre-steps, just sit down and write.

Cons: Disorganized. Often easily distracted. Sometimes requires a muse or feeling to write. Loss of words are devastating as you struggle to rewrite the same scene in precisely the same way. You may struggle to stay on task and keep your story moving forward. Writing can be chaotic and may require more developmental editing, at least until you become more in tune with your particular writing style.

PLANTSERS

Pros: Organized. Can easily pivot when a story needs it. More flexible. The best of both worlds. Can benefit from both plotter and pantser pros.

Cons: You may struggle to find what exactly works best for you. Prone to stalling at various stages that you may or may not even need. Overthinking things. Could get sidetracked easily and stray off course, especially if you lean more towards the pantser side. Potential to struggle with both plotter and pantser cons.

What type of writer are you, Julie?

I am a pantser through and through. I’m an emotional storyteller, or master of bullshit as my husband likes to call it. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t find use for some plotting and plantsing techniques. more plantsing for sure. I will often take a moment and clear my thoughts with a quick synopsis of a story before writing. I can go back to it and refocus when necessary. And because I do write in one giant world, I find that bullet points of world issues and things necessary to that specific book can be beneficial to jot down too. I don’t always do that ahead of time, but if I need to stop and fact check myself along the way, then I’ll take a few minutes to get those worldly things in order before continuing. So no matter what type of writer you are, you can take pieces of others and create a perfect plan for YOU.

How do you know you’re not really a pantser then if you write stuff like that down? It’s simple. I don’t NEED it to write my story. I may still “plot” in my head and “see” the story unfold like plotters do, but I don’t need to take the time to write it out to remember it. I just intuitively know it. A plotter needs that outline, and a plantser needs some aspect of structure to work through their story. As a pantser I don’t need any of that. I can just sit down and write without any pre-planning. But I can still recognize and use some of their practices to better improve my own writing processes.

I know self-evaluation can be hard and even painful at times. But knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses with writing will help you to create a solid plan with reachable goals in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Last week’s homework was just to sit down and write out that scene that’s been cluttering your headspace. Did you do it? If you did, take a moment to examine how you did it. Did you write a full scene out? Did you plot out some points that you wanted to go back and work through? Maybe a little of both? How you wrote can be very telling of the type of writer you are.

So homework for this week… spend some time figuring out just who you are as a writer. Not who you want to be, but who you are. I would love to be more organized, more like a plotter and sit down and write the next scene my outline tells me to write each day, but that’s not who I am. And trying to be something you’re not will only weaken and delay your story. So be honest with yourself. What type of writer are YOU?

As you figure it out, drop me a comment and let me know which kind of writer you are.