Saturday, January 7

Welcome, Laura Browning...

The Word Wranglers are happy to welcome Lyrical Press author Laura Browning today. Laura has some great insites to share.

I feel sure there’s not a writer out there who would sit back with a superior smile and say with confidence, “Everything I do is perfect, and I need change nothing about my writing process or style.”

I remember once reading an article about Barbara Cartland and a writing process that had her turning out books about every two weeks, or so it seemed. There was a reason for that. She had a formula and it was one that worked. Would it still work in this day and age? I don’t know.

As a writing teacher, the process fascinates me because I encounter so many students who have no idea how to begin a writing assignment. As a journalist, the process fascinates me because deadline pressures forced me long ago to internalize almost every single part of the pre-writing that occurs between gathering information and writing a finished product.

I remember the first time I heard the terms “plotter” and “pantser” and I thought what the devil is that crap? (Well, maybe not in those exact words—I did spend a good portion of my adulthood in a newsroom after all.) Once I got the explanation – pantsers are more the stream-of-consciousness beings of the writing world, while plotters are the accountants – I had that “Aha!” moment and realized: I’m a pantser.
At least, I thought I was.

I come up with an idea, start writing and, gee, what do you know, I’m eighty, ninety pages in and it looks like I have a book.

There’s one problem with that.

Sometimes I write that much and realize I don’t have a book; I have a piece of crap with no real conflict that is headed nowhere. Those lonely files sit abandoned on my flash drive, kind of like the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special.

Not keen on wasting time, unless it’s in the pursuit of housework avoidance, I began studying the ways of the plotter. Do you know there are writers who actually have charts and binders and posters with color-coded sticky notes? If you’re one of them, I admire you, but I also find you just a tiny bit frightening. I feel overwhelmed with paper already, so I’ve had to come up with my own sketchy version of this because I did finally become exhausted by trying to find where I’d referenced a secondary character’s eye or hair color fifty pages or so ago.

Enter the secondary story file – it contains brief notes on a character’s appearance, background and personality traits. As I introduce a character, I add a paragraph with the vital statistics in that file. In series, I’ve actually even developed family trees (Thank you Catherine Anderson for that – you saved my pantser butt.) But this file is usually no more than two pages long.

Do I see the merit in being a plotter? Very definitely. I tried it on a short story, even going so far as to create a plot summary listing each major scene. I wrote the first draft of the story in six days. Cool. So as I continue to write, I also continue to define my process. I can honestly say, I no longer consider myself a pure pantser, but even when I do make an effort to plot out a story it sometimes takes on a life of its own.

And you know—that’s okay. I look at it as characters coming to life so I’m not totally in control of how they’re going to arrive at that HEA—I just know they’re going to get there.

My newest release from Lyrical Press, Bittersweet, is a pantser product, which my very patient editor helped fine tune. I can honestly say it is probably the last story in what I call my woodpile that is purely pantser. You can check it out at Lyrical Press. You can also find me on my website at
my blog
or follow me on Facebook and Twitter (LauraBrowning4).

I’d love to hear your comments on your writing process!


  1. I like being a pantster but can't always remember things so instead of a notebook, I use mindmapping software to keep track of everything.

    I have sections for Characters, Places and Plot Points. With my latest WIP I'm going to be adding a section on Culture (covers government, religion and magic system).

    I don't like to work on things ahead but I need to fine tune those sections so I actually have to have a plan and can't just wing it.

  2. I'm a pantster. ALways have been, always will. I CAN NOT PLOT. It makes me crazy. I know where my story is going and what happens. That's all.

    Thanks for coming by WW today.

  3. Thanks for sharing your advice, Laura. My process is little bits of processes I've picked up from other people and mashed up into my own. I do a WIP notebook - which I may or may not refer to once I'm writing, I make a WIP Playlist which I may or may not listen to, I make a collage of pictures that relate to the WIP in some way...but mostly I'm a pantster - what I come up with in the planning stages may or may not make it in to the book...and I've learned to be okay with that.