There are some authors who combine the best strategies of both Planners and Panters. (By the way, if either of those terms are new to you, check out the other two blog posts in this series before reading this one!)
These kinds of authors are big on plot, but bigger on the heart behind the plot. They value good structure, but they also treasure the impromptu and know that sometimes moments of brilliance can’t be planned. Enter: the Hybrid!
If you’re a Hybrid, you always plan out your stories and novels in advance. In the beginning phase, you are a sold-out Planner—character sheets, outlines, index cards … the whole enchilada. But somewhere along the planning process, the urge to write overwhelms you. You have to dig into the story with both hands, whether the outline is ready or not. Sometimes you just can’t plan these things.
Like a hiker who uses both a map and the stars, you have good, old-fashioned story sense and you rely on prominent landmarks to guide you through the story. Sure, you have a map just in case you wander off the trail, but why bury your head in an atlas when you could be enjoying the scenery?
The advice I have for you is particularly personal, because yours truly is a Hybrid! Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned:
You need more than an outline to keep the story moving.
Sure, Planners may be able to easily crank out a story with a well-developed outline and plenty of research. But for us Hybrids, it takes a little more.
Supplement your outline with a scratch pad of messy ideas. You don’t have to organize your notes or even try to fit them into the plot. Just keep your notebook handy for your random inspirations, much like a Pantser would. This will help your mind feel free to relax and invent new ideas without the pressure of logically puzzling them together.
Go ahead—wander a little.
You will very likely come up with ideas while writing the story that don’t fit into the plot at all. But this is the fun of being a Hybrid! Since you only use your outline as a general guide, you are free to enjoy the scenery. If you get lost, you still know where you are going, so all you have to do is head for the nearest plot point and bingo—you’re back on track again.
Writer’s block is real.
Don’t get surprised when it happens, because it’s a fact of life. That’s the risk we Hybrids take when we start writing the story with only a skeletal outline!
If you refuse to get discouraged when writer’s block hits, you’ve won half the battle. Remember, you just hit a snag in the outline, that blank spot in the map that you never filled in—you’re not a failure. Don’t dis yourself and decide you are a terrible writer, because you’re not.
Spearhead the problem instead. Identify what is stopping you from moving forward. Do you simply not know what should happen next? Often I will hit a place in the story that baffles me, but I know exactly what’s supposed to happen afterwards. To keep moving, I’ll skip to that part and start writing the next scene in my outline. Momentum is key! Skipping a chapter is ALWAYS better than giving up. After all, you will have a much better perspective on that chapter on your second draft.
Sometimes Writer’s Block hits you a lot harder than simply not knowing what happens next. If you simply can’t think of a single word to write and feel physically ill at the sight of your manuscript, you might have creative burnout.
What do you do when your battery goes dead? Plug it in! Watch some movies. Read some books. Take a nature walk or stroll through the mall, just to observe and watch, not to create. Stop thinking about your story for a day, two days, a week. Then you can return to the story with a fresh perspective and a full bar of energy.
There’s my humble advice for you! If you are a Hybrid and have more advice that I didn’t cover here, share your thoughts in the comments below. What strategies do you use to be a successful Hybrid writer?