Are you struggling with a story you’re unable to finish?

“Pantser” or “Planner”?

Pantsers pile up the pages without rhyme or reason (yes, from the seat of their pants) then get overwhelmed when they try to organize them later.

Planners tend to create an outline or eke out a chapter then get paralyzed because they’re afraid of trusting themselves to just get into the flow.

Most writing coaches will tell you to just put in 750-1000 words a day religiously regardless. But habits like that can be forced and can actually keep you from tapping into your real core, the subconscious, which is where your vision lives and is the source of flow.

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, the answer is not about achieving word count or following a formula.

We all get blocked

Pantser or planner, we all get blocked. And usually the solution is the same: to deal directly and powerfully with what is blocking you.

Let’s talk about two common obstacles and one uncommon one.

The Shoulds

Many of us, as writers, are driven by “shoulds”.  We often believe there is a right way or a better way or somebody else’s way of telling our story. Writers who read a lot of books about writing get confused:  Open your scene with action, start with character, start with stakes, start with dialogue. There are a thousand rules to follow. 

The thing is--if you’re reading the classics or studying the great books in your genre, it will become apparent that nobody is actually following any consistent rules. The most exciting and challenging thing for a writer is to find their voice, but when we’re following others, we’re on their track, not ours.

Don't be attached

Whether you’re writing from an outline, a set of plot points, or a single scene, it’s essential not to hold it too tight. One of the most effective ways of doing that is this:  When you sit down to write (not edit), be willing only to go forward. This will generate momentum.  You will probably go through what I call a “warm-up” period when your writing will seem silly, stupid, irrelevant, boring, or just plain bad.  This is the part that takes courage.

(Sometimes I have to stop and order my inner critic out of the room—literally. I’ll even get up and slam the door for effect.)

If you just write steadily, allowing whatever to come and don't stop to evaluate or question it, you’ll find a natural focus will evolve. What I’ve discovered and many other writers have found is that it helps to hold our work loosely, which means you’re willing to let it come and go as it will.

An early mentor told me once:  ”You’re always where you need to be and on the way to where you’re going. There are no wrong turns.” When I heard that, I thought, “Easy for you to say, you’ve written five books. I’ve written zero.”

Hitting bedrock

Bedrock blocks are beyond ordinary blocks. They have to do with deep-seated, unconscious resistance.  For example, if you are writing about a subject that was taboo in your family or is taboo in the culture, you may feel stopped. You may not know why. 

Ask yourself:  Am I crossing into forbidden territory I was never allowed to speak of or acknowledge? Incest, violence, a family secret, or abuse of any kind?  Mostly likely those around you were in denial and you learned to go along in order to survive.

So the first thing is to acknowledge it and then allow ourselves to feel the fear and other emotions that come up:  Rage is a big one. If it’s held back, we’ll stay frozen. Use inquiry. Get information. Ask questions.

Break the spell

Lastly, break the spell: Give yourself permission to cross into the zone. You are a writer. You are free.

The Value Of A Book Manifesto

When aspiring authors start writing, their work is often not cohesive. They find themselves going off in unfocused directions and find it difficult to create a structure that supports their story or subject.

When you create your Book Manifesto, you have a blueprint you can work from. This blueprint helps you stay connected to your core passion and reason for writing. And when you come up against those pesky demons of doubt and discouragement—as we all do in the writing life—you can hold to your vision and resolve.

Hope you find it useful. Have questions? Send ‘em on over:



1 Like