Saturday, June 9, 2012

Writing with a Light Outline.

I believe many who consider themselves pantsers really write with light outlines. Maybe they sketch out Act 1 and The Climax, and then jot down alternatives on how to arrive at the ending. Like the pantser, the difficult part of the novel for writers using a light outline is the middle. Characters tend to take over the middle of the story and run amok. Or, a larger problem, they tell you they want to be the Point Of View character in a scene, when a different character has more to lose. I suggest light outline writers read Orson Scott Card's, Characters and Viewpoint.

A good friend commented on the topic Writing by the Seat of Your Pants. I start out with a plan but it doesn't take long before things move of their own volition--even to the point of changing my pov character. 

In short stories, the vast majority of the time there is only one POV character. In novels, there are more than one, not a cast of thousands, but two or three characters in whose POV a scene could be written. If this happens to you, ask yourself, "Who is risking the most in this scene?" Then write the scene in their POV. People who use a light outline know planning is necessary. They'll have fewer rewrites than a true pantser will. But they are likely to struggle with the story line, as things move of their own volition. Personalities low on patience and high in creativity will use the light outline.

Sometimes I think they are the ones who'd like to write three endings and ask the reader to take their pick. A final thought, both pantsers and those using a light outline often write themselves into a corner. It's Page 306, and they don't know how the bloody thing can come together. Eventually, their creativity jams the puzzle together and the outcome is a great book.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

Are you a pantser? Is your approach, just write the darn thing? If so, your personality profile on the Jung-Myers test is most likely high in one of these three areas, intuitive, feeling, extrovert. I hope you went to If not, try it. Take the test and think about how you write.  There is no one right way to write a good novel.

Personally, I dislike methodology, the Snowflake method and others.

At the OWFI, Pam and I shepherded a pantser, a multi=published author who simply sat down and wrote. I can’t write like that. Why? My personality profile is a Guardian-Instructor. I’m extroverted, judgmental, and detailed, no problem as long as I turn out a good book.

What are the advantages for people who write this way? Like Larry-The Cable Guy says, they getter done. There isn’t much prep work. They don’t get bogged down in editing until later. How many of you at one point or another wrote the first chapter of your novel eight times, gave up, and threw it away. Pantsers keep on trucking.

There are problems writing this way. Pantser have to go back and make many corrections. People, places, and things maybe described differently between the beginning and the end. When a beginner writes this way, the middle is a muddle. Sidetracks occur mid-story. They end up either with a novella length attempt or a 500-page ramble. However, they learn and they’ve written something. It is a beginning.

Again, WEW-Whatever Works. If you successfully write great books this way, keep doing that. If you are stuck and trying to recapture your skills, be a pantser for a week. The objective for us all is to turn out great books that we are proud to share.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Various Methods for Writing a Novel.

Explode each of these possible techniques in your mind. Visualize yourself sitting down and actually doing all the preparation these options would take. Ask yourself, "Does this option fit my personality?"

Outlining: Do you have the patience to plot out your whole novel before you sit down to write?

Chapter synopsis: Are you willing to write a paragraph describing what action will take place in each chapter?

Research: How willing are you to sketch out your characters--birthplace, worldview, appearance, skills and weaknesses? How about location descriptions, particular if your novel takes place in a city you have never visited.

Motivation: For readers to empathize with characters, they must understand the character's motivation for their actions. Are you willing to predetermine why each main character reacts the way they will in your novel.

Will you use sticky notes as your reminders? Will you do character outlines, color eyes, occupation, married or single, etc?

I know authors who take months to plan and weeks to write. I know authors who have an idea, sit down and write the whole book from there. In the next few posts, we'll discuss the pros and cons of the main methods of writing a novel.

Between now and then, go to Take the free personality assessment. By understanding your profile, you may gain incites to your reluctance to try some different methods. I occasionally take this profile test as though I were my character. You will be surprised if you do. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Change of Address - Notification

Hey folks, I've been away from blogging for a few weeks. This will change soon. I'm consolidating my blog and my website into one site on WordPress. This new address will be Those of you who are followers of The Heart of a Novelist, should also go to the new site and follow me there, as well. In a few weeks, my blog posts will be leaving this site. In fact, I'll put my next post on both to smooth the transition.

As a teaser, my next few posts will be addressing how novelists construct their novels and the pros and cons of the different approaches. Remember WEW. Whatever Works! If you have published ten Best Sellers with the seat of the pants method. Don't change! I'll have my next post out in three to four days.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Character Arc

In Thrillers particularly, the changes in character arc can be buried if the author isn't vigilant. Many times, characters get lost beneath all the external drama and action that's enveloping the reader. The point of having conflict and tension is for the main character(s) to strengthen and grow as a result of the challenges they face. As an author, I use internal monologue to add emotional conflict and internal challenge to offset external activity. Readers are more interested in internal conflict than external conflict.

In page turning Thrillers, when you think things can't get worse, they do. I'll give you an example from the film, The Mission. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it, and watch the climb scene.

Robert De Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza, a slave trader who kills his own brother for sleeping with his fiancee. For his sins, Rodrigo accompanies the Jesuits on a trek to visit the Guarani people above the Igazu Falls. He serves as their slave. In the pouring rain, Rodrigo carries all the Jesuits' equipment up the side of the Falls. He receives no help. When you think he's made the top, he slips down and must start his climb again. Even though he says nothing, the viewers can hear his Internal Monologue in his face, his body, and anguished cries. He reaches the top with all the Jesuit's things. The Jesuits pick up their packs, and Rodrigo finds redemption.

But the focus is not the rain, the mountain, or the Jesuits. The focus is the human struggle. The man, Rodrigo, has overcome. This is what makes a Thriller. A writer's job is to go and do likewise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giving Characters Life

In my last two posts, we talked about how to create the world of the novel and the unique tension that drives the story. Now we are ready to develop characters. Authors breathe life into their characters before dropping them into their role in the novel. They do this because, once you drop the main and supporting characters into their new world, you lose some control. Come on now. You know it's true. Don't your characters take on a mind of their own once you release them?

So knowing this can be a problem, develop them beforehand. That way you know the life they've led and who they are. I do this with the protagonist, the antagonist, and one or two other supporting roles to a lesser extent. I ask myself: What was their childhood like, their family life, and their self-image in their teens? Who are they now: married, single, successful, a failure, wealthy or poor? How do they feel about who they are now? What do they believe about the world around them?

I'm not God! But . . . in the spirit realm of my mind, I am God to them at this point. I will not vary their back story once I drop them into their new world. However, once dropped, they will argue, disobey, and question me, just as I do with my God. Characters surprise their creators by going off in directions than planned. Many times, your characters are right to do so, and isn't that fun in an insane kind of way. If I've planned correctly, I know where I'm starting. I know where I'm going. I know how to get there. My characters become co-authors within the scenes they're in, adding nuances I hadn't planned.

Authors disagree about things like appearance, readers do as well. A multi-published author friend asked me if I knew what his main character looked like. I didn't, and I'd read several of his books staring that character. "I never describe him," he said. "I'd rather the reader develop his own idea of what he looks like." This worked for him. I'm less secure. I show my characters through the eyes of others and the internal monologues of the characters themselves. To this another friend of mine replies, "Whatever works."

Next time, I'll talk about character arc and motivation that stem from crises and tension. But now it's time for shameless marketing. Here is the link to the Room 1515 YouTube video.

Here are the links to purchase.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Create the Conflict Before You Write the Novel

Is the world of your next novel rock solid? You've picked the time frame. You've chosen your locations and tailor-made them to set the mood--dark, romantic, challenging, adventurous. You're dying to parachute your characters into the fray. Don't. Not yet.

Now decide what beliefs and past histories drive your characters and hence drive the plot. Ever read novels where the bad guys have no redeeming features and the good guys are Dudley Do-Rights, where the good guys always beat the bad guys and you know who to cheer for. The real world is not this way. The more conflicted people and events are the better your novel will be.

Example: In Room 1515, I don't have a true protagonist. I created an anti-heroine, a flawed woman pursuing the enemies of her country, but dissolution sets in when she questions the tactics of her mentors. I don't have a true antagonist. I abandoned the archetypal villain for one who is sympathetic and even likable while being ruthless. Complex characters hold readers interest.

A question from a recent interview asked, "What makes Room 1515 unique when compared to other novels about power-brokers taking over the world." My answer is that in Room 1515 the motive of the villain is noble. He believes humanity will destroy the earth. Greed is keeping nations from tackling the problem of global warming and pollution, and there isn't time to reason with selfish idiots anymore. He'll do anything necessary to rule the world and save it.

Authors need to establish a twist that is different to make their book unique and interesting. Do it before you drop your characters into a battle they're not ready for. We'll talk about dropping them in next time.

I write thrillers, not mysteries. I've been asked, "What is the difference?" I agree good Mystery, Suspense, Thriller novels have aspects of all three. For me, mysteries lean toward the 'who-done-it?' Thrillers lean toward the 'how are they doing it, and how do we stop them?' Suspense to me is tension throughout the novel. If the problem is bad, it's going to get worse. When it does get worse, prepare for the tornado.

Now for shameless marketing. Watch my Room1515 YouTube video to see if you like it.

To buy the book, go to: