In honor of the holiday season, us Janes would like to give you (dear reader) the gift of great stories. This month, each Jane will post a short story that includes an object that will be passed from one Jane to the next. For some reason, we selected a Moo Cow Creamer. Now, we know you are scratching your heads wondering why anyone would want to write a story that includes such a random object….we wanted the challenge, of course!
Stop by throughout December to see how each Jane incorporates a moo cow creamer into her prose. And trust us when we say that the poor thing is in for a bumpy ride.
The Key: A Moo Cow Creamer Story
I hate white elephant parties. You know, the parties where everyone brings some sort of gag gift wrapped in some ornately deceptive way. The gifts are picked by some preordained method ending with everyone laughing like loons at the piece of junk sitting in their laps. Groan. I’d much rather spend my money on a great pair of shoes, but somehow I managed to get roped into attending three of these damn parties this year.
June’s party was the first on my calendar. Sue, my chauffer for the day, sat next to me on the fluffy, blood red sofa closest to June’s art deco themed Christmas tree. I kicked a piece of gold wrapping paper off my foot, before I leaned in for more coffee.
“So, what’s wrong with your car, Morgan?” June asked before taking a sip of eggnog. Her gift, a princess tiara sat crookedly in her red hair.
“It’s the transmission. Thank God it’s all covered under a manufacturer’s recall. Otherwise there’d be a huge dent in my Christmas spending budget.”
Tony pursed her lips. “Who cares about the car?” She waved her hand flashing a gaudy, green rhinestone ring she picked during the gift exchange. “I want to know more about this steampunk Christmas party and your escort, Charlie.”
How she knew about the party and Charlie was beyond me, until I glanced at June. Her eyes seemed to beg me for forgiveness. Tony had a way of worming secrets out of hidden places.
“Charlie is just a friend. We met at Gear Con in July and the party is sponsored by a local steampunk club. He bought us tickets ages ago. So, what other parties do you all have on your calendars this month?” I tried to sound flippant as I stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter on the pretext of refilling my plate with snacks. The buttery smell of fresh baked Christmas cookies was calling my name.
I pulled out my phone and shot a text to Charlie that read, “HELP. Rescue needed. Can u pick me up ASAP?”
The phone buzzed with his immediate reply, “On my way. 10 min.”
“Well, I heard he’s helped you get in and out of corsets at these conferences,” Sue, my dear friend and traitor, added. Her comment elicited broad grins and eye twinkling from the eleven women scattered around the room.
“Look, you all know my corsets are worn over my clothing and he has been extremely helpful with straightening them out. Especially since it’s extremely hard to tie the front laced ones and impossible to cinch the back laced ones by myself.”
“I’m sure that something other than your corsets is straightening out,” Tony added with a Cheshire cat’s grin.
Everyone burst into laughter, while I thanked God that my brown skin makes it difficult to tell when I’m blushing. I returned to my seat next to Sue and she patted my arm.
“Oh, Morgan, we’re just teasing you. We all know it’s been a long time since you’ve dated anyone. Woody and I were friends, before we started dating. Don’t let friendship blind you from the possibility of something more.”
The doorbell rang and June hopped up to answer the door. After hearing the door open, Charlie’s British accent floated into the main living room.
“Hello, I’m here to collect Morgan. I believe she’s here for a party.”
“You must be Charlie,” June replied as she closed the door, “So nice to finally meet you.” As they entered the living room, June looped her arm through his. With a wink to the room and sweep of her free arm, she announced, “Everyone, this is Charlie. Charlie, meet everyone.” She bounced on the balls of her feet as she released his arm. “I’ll get your coat, Morgan,” she chirped and nudged Charlie forward.
For once, my girlfriends didn’t have a word to say. With wide eyes and gaping mouths they just stared at him. Now, I have to admit, he did look yummy. Standing before us in jeans and a black, tech fabric coat zipped halfway to reveal the knitted scarf I gave him for his birthday. He pushed black, curly hair out of his green eyes and cleared his throat.
“Hello, ladies. How was the party?”
Before anyone could answer, June returned with my coat. “Here ya go, Morgan.”
I gave a still shocked Sue a half hug, before I stood up and grabbed my purse from behind one of the side chairs. As I walked towards June and Charlie, he took my coat from her arm and held it open for me.
“Ready to go,” he asked as he helped me with my coat.
“Yes, thanks,” I replied before turning my attention back to the main room. “Bye girls. Thanks for the ride, Sue, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Heading out the door, as I passed June she whispered, “Call me later, girl. I don’t care how late.”
Now standing on June’s porch, Charlie offered me his arm and I gladly took it. His sleek, red, Tesla S model sedan sat waiting at the curb.
He opened the door for me and paused, “They’re still watching. Let’s give them a real show.” He cupped my chin and gave me a luscious kiss, then smiled as he closed my door.
My lips tingled, as Sue’s words echoed in my mind and the thought of having more than a friendship with Charlie bounced around my brain. I shook my head and pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. No way would he actually want to date me. I rolled down the window, while he ran to the driver’s side of the car, and waved goodbye to the eight gaping heads in the front window and three smiling faces at the door.
As the Tesla glided from the curb, I heard Tony yell, “Friends my ass.”
Charlie and I laughed, as he rolled up my window via the driver master controls.
“You are so bad.” I turned to face him, resting my cheek on the headrest. The new car smell mixed with his cologne tickled my nose. “Thank you for coming to get me, especially on such short notice.”
“First off, I prefer the word, mischievous over bad and secondly, it was my pleasure. I was already heading to Sellwood.” He gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “So, what did you get?”
“Oh, I got a moo cow creamer.”
“A what? Is that some new kind of sex toy?” Charlie wiggled his eyebrows and cut me a naughty glance.
“As a marketing professional, I would have to advise any sex toy manufacturer to avoid the words moo or cow when naming their products. Especially when their target customers are sexually active women.”
Charlie flushed crimson, but he managed a snort.
I pulled the small white cow out of my purse. “See, a moo cow creamer.”
“So basically, that thing pukes cream into your tea?”
“Or coffee. Either way, I don’t have a need for it. It’ll be my gift for Delilah’s party.”
The Tesla silently rolled into my condo’s attached garage. Charlie turned off the car and unlocked the doors, as I fished my keys out of my purse. He pulled his new Christmas costume from the back seat, then we both made our way to the door.
“You’ve been talking about your costume for the past month, Charlie. I can’t wait to see it.”
“It is rather posh. I think you’ll like it.”
Tonight’s ball was our third costumed event. We both seemed to have settled into a routine for getting dressed for the festivities. Charlie walked straight to the guest bedroom, with its own full bath, on the ground floor to change into his costume. I ran up stairs to my bedroom to do the same.
Almost an hour later, I emerged from my room to find Charlie standing at my kitchen counter reading.
“I’m enjoying the first chapters of your next steampunk adventure. Does your main character really have to shoot her opponent in the crotch?” He looked up from the pages to look at me and paused.
I wore a white, scooped neck, peasant blouse over a gathered black skirt that draped in the front and made a bustle in the back. Red fabric and a white petticoat both peeked out at the front and bottom of my skirt. I clutched an open backed, cherry red corset with a holly trim and loose strings to my chest. His black pants, red vest, and white dress shirt matched my costume perfectly.
“Morgan, you look brilliant.”
“Well, thank you, sir.” I did my best curtsy. “You look rather dashing, yourself. Now, if you would be so kind as to strap me into this thing, we can take our leave.” I turned my back to him and glanced over my shoulder. “Not too tight, this time.”
He released a maniacal laugh and cracked his knuckles. “I love strapping you into your corsets.”
He stood behind me and I felt him pull the top strings first, then the bottom, working his way towards the middle of my back. Every so often he would pause and whisper in my ear, “Tighter?” His heated breathe sending a Tesla coil surge of electricity throughout my body. All I could do was nod in reply. When I reached the point where I could barely breathe, he tied the last two strings in a bow and patted my hip.
“All done. Let’s have a good look at you.” He took my hand and walked me over to the framed, full-length mirror in my dining room. “Wait, our jackets and hats.” He walked out the room and returned a few minutes later in his tailored, coat with tails and top hat. My black, high collared riding coat was draped over his arm. He placed my hat on the table, then helped me with my coat.
As a final touch, I placed my top hat cocked to the side on my head and straightened the holly pinned to my hat band. He stood next to me in the mirror and for the first time, I noticed the moo cow creamer perched on the brim of his hat tilting down. A giggle escaped me and I soon realized how hard it is to belly laugh in a corset.
“What’s so funny, Morgan?”
I laughed even harder.
“Is it the cow? She’s jumping, you see? She’s just tacked on with a bit of thread from your sewing room. She can still be your gift for the next party.” He released a chuckle and put his arm around my waist. We both stood silently looking at each other in the mirror. “We match perfectly, Morgan. We make a perfect couple. I have something for you.” He pulled a silver necklace out of his pocket. A heart shaped lock with its matching key dangled from the delicate linked chain.
I looked into his eyes searching for the joke, wondering if he was serious. What had I missed? I knew that I was Ms. Oblivious, but how did I manage to be completely blind to his feelings. All the thoughts and possibilities that I pushed to the corner of my mind came rushing forward. All this time I denied myself the luxury of thinking that there could be more and then he said the magic words I thought I’d never hear him say.
“I want to be more than friends. I hope you feel the same way, too.” He stepped behind me to fasten the necklace and once again, all I could do was nod my head. He turned me around to face him then whispered, “Happy Christmas, Morgan.”
Then he laid another of his luscious kisses on me. I felt my toes curl in my boots, as I knocked off his top hat and ran my fingers through his hair.
He moaned then broke our kiss. “Do we have to go to this party?”
I shook my head. “Nope. But I do think you have to help me out of this corset.” I gently pushed on his chest and took two steps backwards out of his embrace.
He laughed maniacally and cracked his knuckles, as I hitched up my skirts and ran from the room.
For a chance to win a silver heart lock and key necklace, simply send an email to email@example.com with “The Key” in the subject and your first and last name in the body of the email. Your name will be added to my email distribution list – don’t worry, I’ll only bug you when I have a major announcement or pending book release. The winner will be notified by January 15, 2014. Happy Holidays, Morgan.
National Novel Writing Month is a religious experience for many writers, especially people who’ve always wanted to write but never quite got around to — ya know — actually writing, as in putting words on the page. Even when I don’t participate in the “oh please, God, let me finish” fervor, I appreciate the November energy. It’s a reminder to focus on what’s important to me as a writer: writing!
I approach my first draft with trepidation and awe, like a primitive worshiper at the altar of Story. I can never be sure if my Story God will be a benevolent deity or a vengeful lightning caster, so to be on the safe side, I tend to creep up on my hands and knees with an offering of pre-writing.
Like any ritual (some might call it dogma) pre-writing for me is as much about mindset as actual substance. I want to immerse myself in the sacred space that will eventually become the storyworld. This involves plotting.
Yes, here is where the Catholic plotters and Protestant pantsers part ways with a lot of impassioned rhetoric and occasional heretic burning. I confess, I have been at times agnostic and sometimes written both as pantser (a writer who optimistically believes she will be saved) and plotter (a writer who’s pretty damn sure hellfire awaits if she goes astray). But in the end, I proselytize for the plotters. Us sinners need to know what The End is so we can walk the mostly straight and narrow path to a good conclusion.
My pre-writing ritual is culled from the books of several patron saints of writers, including Debra Dixon‘s GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT, Blake Snyder‘s Beat Sheet, Michael Hauge‘s structure, Carolyn Greene’s Plot Doctor workbook, Robert McKee’s STORY: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, and others. The blood and bones are posted of my website, but the soul of a first draft is the same for every writer, I suspect.
Finding our story is a journey out of unformed darkness into transcendent being. Sure, it might take a few reincarnations and revisions to get there, but it starts with that first transformative draft from blank page to… Well, to whatever you want to believe. And that belief has the power to create worlds without end.
Is first drafting a sacred or profane experience for you? Do you have a favorite curse you pound into your keyboard, or is your typing typically soundtracked by choirs of angels?
Once upon a time, in my eternal quest to figure out what the heck happens next, I checked Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem out of the library. If you haven’t read this book, it tells the genesis of National Novel Writing Month. I read it in October, 2010. NaNoWriMo starts in November. I decided it was A Sign.
I pantsed my way through the 2010 and 2011 NaNos, passing the 50K finish line by Thanksgiving weekend each time, but the resulting stories had so many holes in them they could double for a pair of screen doors.
But in 2012, two things happened that fundamentally changed my process.
First, in January, I purchased Todd Klick’s screenwriting book, Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs to Know. There are a number of excellent books on macro story structure, but Todd’s addresses micro structure. He analyzed more than three hundred films and television episodes and identified the essential action that takes place in each minute. It made a radical difference in the way I brainstormed plot events, because I finally had a cheat sheet – something that told me the kind of things that should happen and in what order, a sort of topographical map of a story’s shape.
I set Todd’s beats up in a Scrivener template and used them to write Northern Light, my first sale.
Then, in October, the month before NaNo, I took Suzanne Johnson’s Quilting 101: Patchworking the Perfect Plot (Even if You’re a Pantser) class. Holy light bulb, Batman! Suzanne’s approach, a character-driven method that lets you sneak up on your plot, growing it organically until you have a blueprint of your story, resonated with me in the same way that Todd Klick’s book did – and they dovetail perfectly!
Using Suzanne’s Patchwork technique laid out over Todd’s story beats, I was able to zoom through my 2012 NaNovella in twenty-one days, and start on a second one. I hadn’t laid out the second story using the same system, and it was unbelievably painful. I wanted my beats! I wanted my relationship arcs and story threads! Later, I started that second story over, using the Patchwork/Startling methods and was able to finish the first draft in less than two weeks.
I had always believed I was a pantser to the core, but with the results of using these two strategies, I discovered that blasting out five hundred, five thousand, or fifty thousand words is a lot easier if I have a freaking clue about what I’m doing and where I’m going. That means preparation. That means something that looks one heck of a lot like an outline.
Know what? I can live with that.
I pimp Suzanne’s class whenever she’s teaching a session (I’ve taken it three times now). I likewise point people to Todd Klick’s book and website to see the magic of the story beats.
I know that everyone’s writing process is different, but if you ever have trouble figuring out what the heck happens next… Take this class. Buy this book.
Seriously. They’ll change your life.
I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), because I finished my very first manuscript by signing up for NaNo many years ago. Since then, I’ve finished quite a few first drafts. Writing a new story is like learning to dance with a new partner.
The words appear in my mind, smile coyly, and then twirl away just out of reach. I stare at the blank page, desperate to capture the graceful swirls and movements I just witnessed. My clumsy fingers try to hit the keyboard in the correct sequence, wanting to move as gracefully as Karina Smirnoff on Dancing with the Stars, but instead my rhythm is more like Steve Wozniak’s.
I hit the delete key and start over.
We stumble along, the words and I, stepping on each other’s toes. There are some painful moments where I grasp the words too closely, hold them too tight. They disappear off to dance with someone else. I chase after them. For a little while I dance with some other words, but it is awkward.
Eventually, the words return and I’m back in the groove. Or, at least trying to find it.
By the third chapter, we’re pretty much stepping in synch. I still have to count the beat and spend a lot of time looking down at my feet (fingers). This is the “beginning foxtrot” part of our dance routine. We know the steps, we’re even executing them fairly well but it’s still a little jerky and we are not able to add any flair like armmovements.
And then we hit the sagging middle. The very, very, low-hanging, super sagging middle. I’m trying so hard to keep going. Now I’m using my arms too much and the rest of my body is out of synch. The words have pretty much given up at this point and I’m stabbing the keys on my own. This is the moment I wonder if maybe I should never, ever, show my current WIP to anybody. I should probably only do this writing thing in the privacy of my own home, and keep it a secret.
Luckily, just like Andy, I keep on writing/dancing.
Somewhere in the last third of the draft, the words and I are hitting our stride. We’re not yet of polished professional quality, but we’ve found how to move gracefully in sync. At times, it is even quite hot. There are still timing issues to work out, some structural problems to solve, but the main thing is that we are having fun and I’m writing with a huge smile on my face.
This is the feeling I hold on to as I take a little break and then start the editing part of the project. Sometimes, while I rewrite, I have to hold on very tightly re-remind myself that this is fun. But now the moments of that perfect synchronized movement, the joy soaring through my body, and the big smile on my face happen more often and keep me going enough to finish the project. And hopefully, the audience (readers) will experience the end product with as much joy (tail wagging) as I did while creating it.
What type of dance does your first draft process most resemble?
Every first draft is leap of faith. And every tumble down the long hill of creation is dogged by personal demons. No matter how many books, short stories, scripts or novels I’ve written, wrestling my thoughts to form is filled with battles and challenges. How do I rise to these challenges?
I rise well with gin.
Hunter Thompson rose with a fifth of Wild Turkey by his side, according to my husband who likes to tell stories of the “Fear and Loathing” author who spoke to his U of O class back in the 1970’s. It’s hard to imagine Thompson tussling with a first draft, though it might be said he wrestled a lot of issues, many imaginary.
Yet here’s the thing, we all wrestle with them. For each of us it’s a different story. Crappy childhood, loss, longing, complicated commitments, health matters, it’s all part of life’s journey. For writers, sorting through it all can be a tricky matter. Is it any wonder writers and vices seem made for one another?
As hard as I might try to pen a sparky, comedic heroine facing hilariously difficult circumstances, the truth is… the best humor comes from pain. And through pain we learn. And laugh (after we’re through it).
I employ two techniques to wrangle my inner demons (Thompson, I think, would approve of both). The first is my Mad Max move. Aiming my cerebral car at the fear, I put petal to the metal. Phobias and buried traumas bounce over the hood. Later, I can check the roadkill for psychoanalysis (that’s what editing is about). Speed is everything to get to the finish line of the first draft. It’s messy, but gets the draft home.
My other trick is to invite the demons in. In horror movies this is ALWAYS a mistake. Demons are very seldom friendly to humans and word counts. That’s what the gin is for. Writers long ago discovered this. It insulates us from the pain of self realization. Shakespeare drank mead. Absinthe was popular with bohemians in Paris. Every writing era had its stabilization/motivation libation.
So what is my master plan for filling those blank pages? Drive when I must and drink when I can. Sometimes I’ll run the demons down, but I prefer to meet them on the field of battle at my local watering hole, from four to six in the afternoon. It’s much more civilized. And even demons like a good happy hour.
Jamie Brazil is the author of Prince Charming, Inc. and other novels.
When you buy your first home, some women dream of a Chef’s kitchen, or a spa bathroom, or a closet big enough to be a guest room but all I wanted (and could afford) was a industrial sized Dry Erase Board to cover a bedroom wall. I just knew it would solve all my writing problems. See, I am the type of writer who never leaves home without a notebook so that means that pieces of my story are within 50 random notepads all over my house. It’s like an Easter Egg hunt trying to find all my notes as it’s not unheard of to find part of a page depicting vampires battling to save earth from aliens who faint at the sight of blood with a sidebar note not to forgot that my Victorian heroine is allergic to horses. My notes are as scattered as my brain hyped up on Halloween Candy.
Me and Dry Erase Board, say Hello to love at first sight and Goodbye to white space. It doesn’t take me long to cover every inch with a colored sticky note. I make notes from the character’s point of view, denoting the date, location, and time of each day scene. I gleefully draw connections with colored markers to make sure my characters fall in love at the right pace and create enough drama to evoke character growth.
When it’s finally done, it turns out that I’m done.
Before I would go to bed at night and the first thing I saw in the morning was that blasted board. It mocked me with its color coded goodness. After a while, I can’t take it anymore. I pull out sheets of white paper, that should be covered with my story but instead I transfer all my notes and shove it into a drawer.
I swear that I’m done with writing forever. And I completely mean it until I have one of those dreams again. Writers understand what I’m talking about. The scene is so vivid, so clear and it screams for me to find a notepad and write down all the juicy details. It’s the kind of dream that would look awesome in a book and then the vicious cycle begins again.
So I had a dream. A man goes all out to propose to his girlfriend, even going to the extreme of wearing a rented Knight in Shining Armor outfit. He greets her in the street, struggles to go down on one knee without poking someone with a sword and proposes. As the woman opens her mouth to say yes, all we hear is the sound of shotgun. This is the start of “Shotgun Wedding” but no babies were involved or injured in the making of this wedding.
The white space on my board is gone. It’s NANO time!
50,000 words or bust! See you in December.
It always starts the same way…a love scene in my mind between the hero and heroine. There is passion and a hint of anger. What is not present is the story that binds it all together into a manuscript. This is how I’ve written eight of my nine manuscripts, a vision that stretches into a story. There are always a lot of starts and stops. Rewrites and rewrites. So this epitome of pantsing, is it really so bad if I have the discipline to make it right in the end?
In my day job as a multimedia representative, one of the things I do is to give classes to Realtors on how to write ads. As I tell them, “What’s an ad, but the home’s story? Describe the home and all the possibilities so that someone can actually picture themselves living there.”
I use my own home as an example. It is predominantly decorated in butter yellow, sage green and geranium red. But you don’t stop with that description; you take it to the next level. “With the colors of Tuscany throughout, you’ll be able to vacation in your own dream cottage as you embrace the warm butter yellows, cool sage greens and vibrant, passionate red accents…”
I tell my Realtors that it is like baking a cake. Without the correct ingredients, added in the right order, what do you have? (Have you tried adding sugar to the cake batter right before it goes into the oven instead of creaming it with the butter? Bad idea. You’ll soon realize your mistake when your cake comes out of the oven with a caramel burnt bottom.)
Just like a little ad that tells the story of a house, writing a book should be done in the proper sequence. Map out the plot; know your characters down to their birthdays, eye color and personality traits. Watch your character arc, make sure it spikes in just the right spot. Know the goal, motivations, yadda yadda…
Unfortunately for me, I don’t practice what I preach. Maybe pantsers don’t follow recipes, because they create recipes in their own unique way.
I realized late one evening that my office was having a potluck the next day. I didn’t want to go to the store, but a readymade store bought cheese platter was prevalent in my mind if I couldn’t pull something together with my sometimes well stocked pantry.
I opened the cupboard, grabbed salt water cured ripe green olives, artichoke hearts, Italian salad dressing mix, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sundried tomatoes. From the fridge, I grabbed green and red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls. A few open cans later, a little draining in the strainer, a whack-whack of the knife, a brightly colored bowl purchased in Italy filled with items happily resembling the Italian flag in the colors of red, white and green… I had an “antipasti salad”.
I’ve made that salad half a dozen times, and it is always a crowd pleaser.
By the same token, I don’t follow the recipe when it comes to writing manuscripts. But, in light of having an agent, I have a strong desire to please and the need to raise the level of my proficiency when faced with limited time. Therefore, this pantser is going to try something different with manuscript number nine: I’m plotting.
But no matter if you are a pantser or plotter, embrace what makes your recipe a little different than everyone else’s. Now get cookin’!
It’s NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as November if you live in the real world instead of your head. NaNoWriMo is something I’ve never tried and probably never will. It’s too much like having a gun pointed at my head and I prefer the Bouncing Betty wired under my chair. But for a lot of people, NaNoWriMo is how they get words on the page and maintain accountability.
Not me. Once I know where I’m going, I can get there just fine. Some of you may notice that I’m using out dated terminology in my title. That’s ’cause I like to kick it old school. Trust me, the bitches in my head prefer it that way and I cater to them as much as possible. The logical one likes to shriek at me that if we don’t have a map, we’ll just chase ourselves in circles. The chill babe drawls out that it’s all about the journey. I usually duct tape them together and shake them until we agree on one very salient point: It’s all about the story and we have to write one. Then we all take a drink and grab some writing implements.
Now what? I like to build a world around my characters first. I need me some rules for them to follow or break into sharp painful bits while they crash through beautifully terrifying scenery on their way to success. Once that starts to wail like a banshee in need of a soul to devour, I figure out how to ruin my heroine’s life. That’s the first plot point. I use the same tool as C. Morgan, Michael Hague’s Six Point Plot Structure. If you don’t know it, give it a look. It’s been an enormous help in figuring out how to write a coherent novel. After that, it’s all about how to make my character’s lives absolute hell so they can appreciate the gift that love truly is by the end. For me, it’s all about the Happily Ever After. But you have to earn it.
How about you? Do you like happy, sassy? Dark and angsty? What makes you continue to put words on the page?
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In honor of the efforts put forth by The Office of Letters and Light Programs – annual sponsors of NaNoWriMo, the topic for this month for the Janes is: How do you approach your first draft?
My Split Personality: Plotter & Pantser
Among writers, at least in romance writing circles, it is very common at conferences to hear someone ask: “Are you a plotter or a pantser?” The techno-weenie, geek girl in me longs for the structure of a well thought out plot, but the artist in me wants the freedom to fly by the seat of her pants.
How do I appease my split personality? When writing my first draft, I do a little bit of both. In a nutshell, my process is to plot the ‘big rock’, turning points of my story. Then like a kid hopping stones to cross a creek, I pants my way from big rock to big rock. Knowing my ultimate destination / climax and the mile markers along the way, helps me to write tighter and keeps me from falling down rabbit holes.
I use Michael Hague’s Six Point Plot Structure to hash out my story acts and turning points. (I created my own Excel spreadsheet based on Mr. Hague’s diagram.) But note: I do NOT cling to my first draft of turning points until the bitter end. Often my characters reveal a new and more intriguing twist that has a ripple effect through the rest of the story. I also get amazing insights during plot storming sessions with my closest writing buds.
So what are you? Plotter? Panster? Or a split between the two?
Dearest Reader–We have a guest at See Jane Publish. Please welcome the lovely Danielle Barriga as she blogs about her fear. Take it away, Darling Danielle!
Half the fun of Hallowe’en is choosing your costume, but deciding what to wear to my first RWA meeting was downright scary. What should a budding romance writer wear out in public, anyway? Probably not the yoga pants she usually writes in at home.
I spread my entire wardrobe across the bed, trying to pick the perfect outfit. If only Costumes-R-Us carried something for romance writers! In my fantasy world, the ideal writer’s costume hid among slithery stacks of cellophane wrappers containing neatly folded nurse and French maid uniforms.
Back in the real world, I debated between my Columbia dress and a blazer, as if making the right choice would land me on the best-seller list. As if this was my only concern. As if fears of long, winding plots leading nowhere, books that were never finished, and mountains of rejections didn’t lurk in the shadows of my mind.
And then it was done: I was dressed and sitting in the parking lot of Portland Community College, watching people walk into the building where I would attend my first Rose City Romance Writers meeting. It was like junior high all over again.
“Maybe I should have worn the Columbia dress,” I said to Flip, my real-life HEA.
“I don’t think it matters,” he said, looking around. “They must have given you the wrong address. Where are the heaving bosoms, the ripped bodices?”
At least I’ll never have to worry about Flip not being on board with my career change. He’s even willing to sacrifice one Saturday a month so I can come to these meetings, getting (and, I hope, eventually giving) invaluable, concrete support. But right then, for my first public appearance, I just wanted to look the part.
No matter how often we say that looks don’t matter, they do. Our image is our calling card; we are all walking billboards for ourselves. The best interviewing tip I ever got was to dress like you’ve already been hired; looking like you fit in is half the game.
A trio of women hustled past, all wearing skirts. Maybe I should have gone with the dress. Flip sensed my dithering and, in a true demonstration of tough love, kicked me out of the car. My boot heels clicked across the asphalt parking lot. I pulled open the door and found myself inside a typical college building, room numbers posted beside each door.
“Looking for the Rose City Romance Writers?” A woman waved me over. She ushered me inside, slapped a nametag on my lapel, and pointed me to a seat. I’d done it, I thought. She’d seen me and known instantly that I was a writer! Then she patted me on the shoulder. “Good thing I found you out there. You looked pretty lost!”
I scoped out the room and my heart skipped a beat. There, front and center, was my Columbia dress. On a woman who – you could tell just by looking – was most definitely a romance writer.