Hey Hey!

Thanks for coming to The Alley. It's another busy week here in The Alley. Before I get to my post for the day, let's take a look at the exciting things going on this week:

  • Monday: My post (see below!)
  • Tuesday: You'll have to stop by to see for yourself ;) 
  • Wednesday: Pitch Contest for ENTANGLED opens (will be open for one week). Get Pitch Contest rules and some information (what does NA mean to Entangled?) from Embrace's Assistant Editor Nicole Steinhaus. Note: Embrace is Entangled's NA line. 
  • Thursday: Guest Post from Nicole Steinhaus
Please make sure to check back this week for all the fun!!!

I'm pretty sure the "panster" versus "plotter" is as big as the "which came first: the chicken or the egg?" debate when it comes to writers. I'm not going to open up that can of worms. I think most writers fall in the middle somewhere, though there are some who are definite plotters and those who are definite pansters.  I tend to be more of a panster myself, though the degree of panster-ness will vary on the type of project. For those who don't know me well, I'm a total plotter/planner when it comes to everything else. I'm a list girl and an outline girl and yet, my OCD planning goes out the window when I write. 

I've recently been working on a project that is very outside my norm. It's required me to try some "outlines". I thought I'd share a few things that may be of benefit to both crowds.  I use the " " because they aren't really outlines, but I suppose the word works if used in a general sense.  So, if you're like me and don't do detailed outlines, or even if you do but want some more ideas, here are some ideas:

-I don't do character sketches. I know, tsk-tsk.  But they drive me bonkers, bore me and honestly, I learn my characters by writing.  But in this specific project,  I found myself needing to know more before I could continue writing and yet I needed to write to learn more.  So, instead of sketches, I tried something else:  "journal entries."  
Some of the questions you could answer, in your character's POV, include:

  • What was your favorite birthday present?
  • What was the worst day of your life? The best?
  • What object in your room means the most to you and why?

 You don't have to use these in the book; rather, they are a tool like the journal entries to refer to in order to get your brain going if you need a jump-start. 

-I don't outline my novels scene by scene (obviously, since I tend to be more of a panster). But one tool I did find, that I sometimes use (once again, it varies on the project, specifically genre or how big the project is) is the ten scenes tool. I read about this in one of the few "writer's help books" I've read. It's in a book titled The Writers Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.
So, what do you do? Write out (however detailed you'd like): 

  • Intro
  • Turning Point #1/PONR
  • Another Turning Point
  • Black moment
  • Climax
  • Ending

 Then you go back and add *hold for math- not my strong suite- I mentioned 1, 2, 3,4,5,6 scenes* so add another 4 that DO SOMETHING.  These are often major scenes and will be before the black moment. They will change the direction, increase tension/problem or force some kind of character change.  
You can outline heavily and use GMC or just write a sentence. Whatever works for you.

The above picture refers to what I'm dubbing as Character Scenes.  I really have no idea if this is something that has a name, I'm sure other writers do it, but I'm sticking with Character Scenes.  Jot down a couple key characteristics of your character. It can be attributes to fears to their deepest and darkest secrets (that's the good stuff, right?). Write a scene in which the character demonstrates that quality (and then write a scene in which they demonstrate the opposite of that quality), or where the character must face that fear.  Like the journal entries, these can be just for reference. And, by the way, the traits in the picture are just examples. Most of the character arc things are going to be related to the: 

  • character's past
  • the character's current situation
  • the character's goal/motivation 
  • and very specific traits (those are my corner notecards). Those, of course, will be the focus. In NA, you'll probably see a lot of 
    • independence (or striving for)
    • accountability
    • change 
Also, you don't have to write out a scene, you can also just list scene ideas for when you can incorporate these traits and motivations etc. 

Does anyone else have any tools or techniques they use? Please share! 

Post a Comment

  1. I've found it really does make a difference in my first draft when I have these main points realized. I use the Plot Whisperer's technique, which is very similar to this, so I know all the basics.
    I know what you mean by disregarding outlines when drafting--there's a magic about writing moment to moment and letting things happen. As long as I know what needs to happen at some point, each scene for me is like this to. It's the zone writer's get addicted to. Love love love it!

    1. I have to admit, I don't know what the Plot Whisperer technique is. I'll have to look it up! There is something magical about getting into that zone :) it's an awesome feeling. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Very detailed and excellent write up, LG!

    I use a grid system similar to this to hash out the major details as well. Then, I basically create a synopsis by writing a paragraph (or sometimes just a sentence) about what I imagine is going to take place in each chapter of the story, hitting on all of the details laid out in my grid.

    It's a very 'living' document that I'll add to and subtract from as I write, but provides me very good/easy way of keeping in mind the story I wanted to tell in the first place. Something that is surprisingly easy to forget during the writing process!

    I'd call myself a 'soft plotter' now, whereas I used to be strictly a pantser. :)

    1. I want to know more about this grid system, EJ

  3. I used to be obsessed with index cards. Now I'm all about the note cards on Scrivener. :)

    Great post!

  4. All my stories start out as one scene, usually something I dreamed. From there, I typically sketch out my characters using memes or questionaries. This just helps me get to know my characters inside and out. When I write the actual story, I skip around. Sometimes I start in the middle of the story and work my way backwards or forwards. I think this makes me more of a "panster," but I always have a vague idea of where I want the story to go.

    I'm definitely not organized and don't use index cards for anything. It is just all in my head. I think my method would drive a lot of other authors insane XD

  5. I know what you mean! A lot of my stories stay in my head until the first draft is done. I typically go linear but as a way to force myself to completion lol. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 10 scene outline! My personal favorite! It saves me every time, even when I have to rewrite the 10 scene outline 100x over. ;)


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