From Pantsting to Plotting
There are several different ways to write a novel or short story. Some authors sit down and outline the whole novel. They know who their characters are and everything that is going to happen in the story. Some have sticky notes or index cards for each scene. Some just get a blank piece of paper and write as the words come to them. That is me. I am a self-professed pantster.
What’s a pantster? A pantster is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. No outlining. No plotting. No prewriting character development. Nothing.
I started writing Hidden Danger off just one small snippet of a scene I had in my head. I let the story build around that. Fun fact: I didn’t even know who the villain was until at least half-way through writing the book. I started the story and figured everything out as I wrote.
Expecting Danger was pretty much the same way. I knew it was about Maggie’s (main character from Hidden Danger) brother. Sometimes while I’m writing a character will surprise me with something he or she says. For example, in the course of writing Expecting Danger Jake tells me his pregnant wife died two years ago. Woah, there. You can’t just do that in the middle of a series. Luckily, Hidden Danger hadn’t been published yet so I was able to go back and mention it.
Deadly Connection was a bit harder. I struggled with the plot. Lots of brain storming sessions. Maybe some tears. Ok, definitely some tears. Thanks to a tight deadline and sheer determination I was able to get it written.
I’m currently working on a novel I plan to submit to Love Inspired Suspense. And I’m struggling so much with this one. I keep hitting roadblocks. I’ll write a little bit and then be like “Now what?” So, I’m learning to plot. With the help of Susan May Warren’s The Story Equation and the help of an amazing fellow author, I’m on my way to plotting the rest of this novel and meeting my self-imposed August 1st deadline. I’ve made a list of scenes to get me to the halfway point. And I’m excited to write the rest of the novel now.
I’m still learning. Trying to find what fits my personality best. I highly doubt I’ll ever be one of those sticky note/index card authors but I’ve given up my pantsting ways.
You Have Me
So I’ll stand and trust, I’ll stand in faith, I will not be shaken
Waking up in a funk is like drowning in your mattress. Last year, during the pandemic, that happened often to me. I know many others felt the same, but I’d get up, make coffee, and go to my quiet corner. Before I’d pull out my Bible, I’d write the date in my journal, and I’d draw a little box below it. I called it my burden box (meme, Pilgrim’s Progress). I wrote down the things bothering me so that I could get on with my quiet time – to focus on praising God and praying for others. I had to get the me-me’s out — kind of a one-and-done thing. One morning the box contained these words: My book, My writing, My family. Unfortunately, recording them didn’t stop my mind from worrying, and I focused on the negatives.
My book. I’d been signed with a publisher, but my manuscript wasn’t up to par. The books I’d read on writing, and the classes I’d taken over the years, still left me with too much to learn. It felt like I’d never get to where I needed to be for publication.
My writing. I had so many manuscripts that my writing critique group couldn’t wait for me to read. They were anxious to hear the beginning of yet another new story. But the closer I got to publication, it seemed the worse my writing became. I always welcomed critique. The more critical, the better because I learned from it. But after weeks of getting knocked down, I was at a low point.
Then there was my family. I still had them, right? Wrong. Halfway through last year, my family was divided. They were upset at one another over Covid-19 Guidelines and visiting us, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. We especially missed the grandkids!
I talked to many of my friends, and they were experiencing the same. We weren’t all on the same side of the pandemic debate, but we shared similar struggles with our adult children. Sentiments our kids expressed to one another were, “You don’t care about Mom and Dad,” and the other side, “You’re living in fear.” It deluged our family chats. Suddenly, those of us at age 65 plus, having raised these kids and who had lived a lifetime of trials and tragedies, weren’t capable anymore of making decisions about how to navigate life with Covid-19.
I had a friend say, “When did we become so stupid?” We were no longer the respected parents responsible for making decisions regarding our own lives. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone’s nerves were on edge.
But at that time, I thought, my book may not get published, I stink at writing, and now my family’s being torn apart. That was the worst. They represented God’s ultimate blessings. Faith, unity, strength, good health, love, but at that moment, I thought, I don’t even have them.
On top of that, I felt guilty for even feeling that way. So many more were hurting so much worse. So many were suffering the loss of family and friends. Others dealt with the terminally ill. How could I complain? But I continued to despair. I let my burden box overwhelm me, but not for long.
I have a friend who has a favorite saying, “God keeps me on a short leash.” I concur, and He did just that. I made a decision. Since I was wallowing, and I couldn’t seem to let my burdens go, I read some Psalms, turned off the lights, and I chose to listen. To wait.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is 55:8-9
I didn’t wait long at all. God spoke in that quiet, inaudible voice, ‘You have ME.’ I was reminded of His goodness and His love. I’ve always told my kids and friends, If I have nothing on this earth, I have more than I could ever hope for. I have Jesus. Would I believe that? The Lord continued to reach me that morning. I received an encouraging text from a prayer partner, and I heard a song playing by Tommy Walker, I will not be shaken.
He is my rock, my shield, my fortress
He’s my salvation and my strength
The cords of death, they were surrounding me
But He heard my cry for help
He is my refuge, my high tower
He’s my deliverer so strong
The snares of death, they were confronting me
But He heard my cry for help
So I’ll stand and trust
I’ll stand in faith
I will not be shaken
I will not be shaken
My problems didn’t go away, and I had to work through them, but God gently lifted them and reminded me of who He was and is. He pulled me from the miry clay, and he equipped me to face my demons. I chose to recall the encouraging words from my publishers and mentors. I gave thanks for my critique group, remembering how much they cared and how helpful they were. And my family? Read on.
So, here it is, almost a year later, and my debut novel, Shattered Guilt, is published. My critique group gushed over the release, and I received some very encouraging feedback from readers. One texted me privately, and she shared that a passage from my book brought her great comfort as she struggled through daily life issues and that she looked forward to discovering more nuggets of God’s wisdom in Shattered Guilt.. Her words made all the writing struggles worth it. So, here’s the passage of wisdom between a minor character, Miss Ellie, a senior-citizen who uses a wheelchair, and Pastor Brooks.
Miss Ellie stroked the arms of her wheelchair and smiled. “The Lord’s been good, but if you’ll pray for my loneliness.” Her lips pressed together. “I gotta confess, I throw myself a pity party once in a while.”
Desmond patted her hand. “No harm there. The important thing is that you turn it into a praise party when you’re done.”
“I always do, Pastor. Just like King David in the Psalms.” Her eyes disappeared as a big grin wrinkled across her dark face.
That morning long ago, through scripture, my friend, and a song, my pity party turned to praise. God confirmed to me His truth. The strength to believe that I will stand in my faith and not be shaken grew within. He is my all in all. I have many loves here on earth, and God keeps adding to them through grandkids! But HE is my all in all. My truth, my sanctification, my inspiration, and my eternal hope.
And my family? Well, family love won out. That and Covid dissipated. No hard feelings and no grudges remained, I think. Anyway, stressful family dynamics was all that our large brood had suffered, and I’m so grateful. I know others fared far worse, and I pray unceasingly for them all.
These days my, I’m honored that my burden box is filled with prayer requests. Sadly, most are for illnesses, critical and terminal, accidents, aging, and deaths of loved ones. It really is a privilege to go before the Lord for others, but my heart breaks, and sometimes the burden of intercessory prayer is overwhelming. But as hopeful as I am for healing for all, I find joy in praying that those in need would hear the Almighty’s comforting voice say, ‘You have Me.’
“You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands.” Psalms 16:5