Monday, May 30, 2011

The Outline-Pantser Hybrid Method

Outliner or Pantser? It's one of the most commonly asked questions/timeless debates in the writing community. Each side has its strengths. Each side has weaknesses. I've tried both. Here's what happened to me (and me alone. Not trying to make any sweeping statements here, guys.)

When I was pure panster, I usually ran into a moment like this:To be 150 pages in, only to crash land into the side of an enormous plot mountain kind of stinks. A lot. Oh sure, you crawl your way out, but it soaks up a lot of time, and drains vital confidence.

HOWEVER, the two times I faithfully outlined my entire book before writing, it ended up like this:I'd be all excited while developing the outline, but when time came to actually write . . .it was gone. I'd squandered that heat on the planning phase.

This has led (over the years) to the development of:

The Outline-Pantser Hybrid Method

Step 1: When Shiny New Idea strikes, take time to ponder before writing.
Even for Pantsers, I think it's a good idea to do this. Daydream about your world, your characters, and possible plot twists. I'm not recommending any single period of time, because some ideas come in more fleshed out than others. Just make sure you have a good grasp on the kind of story you see this becoming. And make sure you have one thing, vital to the OPH Method. . .

Step 2: Wait for that opening scene.
We all know how important the beginning is. Over my years of writing, that has only become more clear. So in this method, you need to have that awesome opener in mind. That scene is going to kick start your enthusiasm.

Step 3: Put your Panster Pants on.
The OPH Method blends the best of each, right? And one of the benefits of being a Pantser is that you really are free to create and fall in love with your story. Work is important, but if there's too much work at the get go, you may well lose steam.

So once you've fleshed out your story a bit in your head, and you have that great opening scene in mind, just go for it. WRITE. Let your imagination free. Go crazy with those first chapters. Fall in love. Be a pantser for all of Act 1. But then. . .

Step 4: SCREECHING halt.
Time to get down to dirty work. Things need to start really getting going now, and we all know how important each chapter is. So, it's time to outline the rest of the book.

This isn't an infallible document that must be obeyed slavishly. And it doesn't have to be incredibly detailed. But now is the time to really make sure you're on the right track. And to make sure it STAYS on the right track.

I know, I know, it's hard. But so worth it. And I actually find it a big relief to have a solid outline. I know that every scene I write from here on out will serve a definite purpose. (Often two or three purposes.) And the best part is, you've already fallen for this story during Step 3, so the chances of you fizzling out now are slim.

Step 5: Finish the book!!
With your outline in hand, dive back into that baby! Chances are, you'll be chomping at the bit. So run free, you majestic stallion. And be energized by the notion that all of this work is going pay off in a VERY sturdy rough draft.

So there it is. My humble method for drafting. It's led to my strongest rough draft to date, and my WiP is going so well, it's almost scary. Maybe it can work for you, maybe it can't. Like I said, different things work for different people. But it's always fun to figure out a way that works great.

How about you? Has your method changed? Have you found your perfect process?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Twin Talk Tuesday

There's a great nutrition book out there called Eat This, Not That, where the author suggests healthier alternatives to classic items at fast food chains. For example: you have to have a burger? Get this one. Not the Double Whopper.

Well, what if there was a book like this for YA romances? We had to try it out. So today, we discuss some of the classic (and dramatically overdone) types of romance in YA books today, and suggest a more nutritious (and less cliche) variety.

Renee: Let's start by talking about Eternal-SoulMates-Love-at-First-Sight love. I'm sure we can all come up with a few examples of this?

Diana: Hmm . . . not really.

Renee and Diana: *laugh uproariously*

Renee: I mean, look, we all know why people do it. Cuz itz romantical.

Diana: Exactly. Plus, unless this is a straight romance, you have a separate plot to move along, and therefore a limited amount of time to establish a great love.

Renee: It's a fast and easy way to try and have the reader root for the main couple.

Diana: The problem is that this rarely happens in real life.

Renee: Except with me and my hubby

Diana: Oh, of course. :) So, you want the Soul Mate feel. What's a healthier, less cliche alternative?

Renee: What if the two characters are already friends? They know each other, understand each other. This gives the basis of "perfect match"ness.

Diana: Yes, and then there is that delicious moment when they realize they have something more.

Renee: Exactly! A moment that could even happen early on in the book, like InstaLove, but it's far more believable.

Diana: I think equally overused and tricky one to get right is the "I-hate-your-guts-until we-share-a-passionate-kiss-then-we-are-lovers" love

Renee: Yeah, equally tricky, and equally abnormal in the real world. I mean . . . nobody is really like that!

Diana: Except me and my hubby...;)

Renee: lol

Diana: This kind of romance often feels like another quick trick to manufacture tension.

Renee: What's our fresher take on the I hate you/ I love you romance?

Diana: Well, I think you could keep that tension of the people disliking each other, but then have something happen that shows a better side of the person. A moment that doesn't have anything to do with hotness or dreamy abs.

Renee: Yes. An "aha" moment that isn't "aha I'm attracted to you," but "aha, you're not as bad as I thought." And this leads to attraction. (And dreamy abs.)

Diana: Like Beatrice and Benedict!!!

Renee: Yes!

Diana: Preferably with Kenneth Brannaugh as Benedict :)

Renee: Mmmmmmmm-hm.

Diana: Okay, now the final overdone tension-maker: the Love Triangle.

Renee : dun dun DUN

Diana: Well, the love triangle actually has many different varieties, but all we see is the "MC chooses between Two Hotties" variety.

Renee: So true! Keep the triangle, but mix it up. How about "MC loves Hot Math Tutor, but he loves the redheaded Next Door Neighbor, and meanwhile Hot Lacrosse Player loves MC, but she's unsure how she feels about him?" It's a love triangle, and therefore it has the same kind of tension.

Diana: Even more, I think!

Renee: I do two. The options are endless.

So there it is. If you really love the basic idea of Soul Mates, Love Triangles, and the Love you/Hate you romance, don't despair! You can still have it! Just write this, not that. ;)

And now, we're going to throw one at you guys.

The milquetoast Bad Boy.

Who we are told over and over again is Teeeee-rouble, but around the MC he acts more like a smitten golden retriever/ Sir Walter Raleigh-putting-his-cloak-over-the-puddle-for-the-Queen-to-walk-over type of guy.

How do we make him fresher? Any ideas??

Monday, May 16, 2011


So as you may know, I spent all of last week running around Disneyland like a little kid. Was it amazing? YES. Was it outrageously fun? YES. Was it magical? YES!!!! Seriously guys, I'm pretty sure I invoked the magic of Disneyland. Why? You may ask. Because while I was there, one of my most awesome friends, Kasie West SOLD HER BOOK TO HARPERTEEN!!! A TWO BOOK DEAL!!!

CLEARLY, I did this. I awoke the magic of Disneyland, and sent it on the tailwinds to New York City! Oh, and it also might be because Kasie is a brilliant writer, with MAD SKILLS at dialogue, who wrote an amazing and clever book. Yeah . . . that helped too. ;)

Go over and party at Kasie's blog!! Dr Peppers on me!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mysterious Disappearing Post

So...does anyone know where my last post went? I signed in to respond to the great comments on my last post and, much to my surprise, the post is no where to be found!

This is very weird... I can only think of a few logical explanations:

  1. The post was so bad that a group of readers rallied together and had Blogger remove it.

  2. My alter ego Vanessa took over my body in the night and deleted in order to drive me crazy.

  3. I am in my very own episode of The Twilight Zone and any minute now one of my daughter's baby dolls will peer around the corner holding a large knife.

OK, now I'm freaked out. Tell me I am not the only one to have posts inexplicably go missing...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heroes vs. Villians

I am supposed to be taking care of the blog while Ren is gone. Sorry... I am doing a pretty poor job. I'm like the baby-sitter that watches TV the whole time.... Anyway, today I have been thinking a lot of about villains and heroes. They are both fun to write, but have unique challenges.
For example, how do you write a villain that is not two-dimensional? Do you give you villain a "human side"? Or, harder still, how do you write a hero that has flaws and is likeable?

In my first attempt at writing- the epic Rosaline...*cough cough*- I gave her so many flaws that in the end, when she was shot (yes that's right, I shot her in the end of the book), I was glad to see her go.

Its a careful balance. How do you keep it in check? Who are some of your top villains or heroes?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Historic Moment

It's late here, but I couldn't resist writing a quick post expressing my feelings on this historic night.

I'm sure you've all heard by now that Osama Bin Laden has been confirmed dead. I've spent the last two hours on Twitter, just celebrating with my fellow writers. Not necessarily celebrating the death of a individual, but celebrating the symbolic victory for America and the entire world.

Do you remember the swell of patriotism and unity after 9-11? It's my deepest wish that everyone take this moment to recapture those feelings. I almost never talk politics on this blog, but I can't deny that the bickering and ugliness on BOTH sides has been making me crazy lately.

I hope, I wish, I pray that we will take this moment to come together.

To forget petty politics and policy quibbles, and celebrate the things that matter.

The country we love.

The freedom we enjoy.

The men and women that give their lives to make sure we have that freedom.

My heart is full tonight. God bless America.