Monday, February 13, 2012

Writing Outside the Box with Janice Hanna Thompson (and me)

I admit that I have a unique writing style. For those of you who have been following The Writers Alley for a while, you know. Not only do I like to genre-hop, and write two (or more) books at once, but I also write the story out of sequence.

Come to find out, I’m not as unique (read ‘crazy’) as I thought I was.

Last Wednesday I had the wonderful opportunity to spend about four hours with author Janice Hanna Thompson. If you don’t know, Janice is the author of the Weddings By Bella series and the Backstage Pass series. She’s published nearly eighty books, both fiction and nonfiction, throughout a wide variety of genres. Her newest fiction endeavor is a historical novel that takes place on the ill-fated Titanic.

She’s also known as a wonderful presenter and her website is evidence of her teaching skills. Check out her writing helps at

So, how are the famous Janice Thompson and the infamous Pepper Basham similar minds? ;-)

We write in the spark of the moment.

It’s kind of like pantster with ADD. :-)

Janice has a whole presentation about it and she’s going to be featured on The Writers Alley soon to explain it, but here’s the gist:

Within the first chapter of a novel, Janice goes through and looks at hints she’s written that foreshadows scenes for the future. Then, with the spark of creativity fired up from her first chapter, she writes on the spark. She takes those bits of scenes and writes them out. They don’t have to be chronological.

She writes out the scenes and then, like a master puzzler, goes back and pieces the story together.

Now, why is this interesting?

I do the SAME thing!

It was the first time I’d discovered someone else whose brain works like mine. I know, poor Janice, right? (All of you Alley Cats will know how to pray for her now ;-)

What is good about this style of writing?

- Instead of sloshing through the dull parts (like we have fifty pound turkey’s on each foot), we get to jump from one creatively active scene to another

- Gives the writer a sense of forward motion

- Fits the strengths of a writer who has mental ADD and needs continual mental activity

What might be some negatives of this style of writing?

- Finding momentum to go back and connect everything once you’ve finished

- Tricky puzzle piecing in the end :-) (This can be a pro instead of a con if you are like me…and like puzzles)

- May not suit different types of writer-brains.

I KNOW Janice will have a lot more to share (and in a much more refined way), but what do you think?

We’ve talked about writing styles before – what is your style? Do you ever incorporate some of these techniques or does this sort of writing style make you want to crawl up in a corner and weep?

Do you think it’s genre-specific or could it spread throughout all genres?

And THANK YOU, Janice for a FABULOUS evening. Not only were you extremely fun and generous, but you let me talk like a madwoman (and taught me so much through the process).


Mary Vee Writer said...

For once I am beating Sherrinda to the first comment--that's because I am visiting in the east today.
I'm glad you met Janice and am looking forward to her visit on the alley.
I only did one manuscript in this fashion, it was a choose your own adventure style. As i finished a scene, I stuck the pages to my wall in my basement. When I finished the book, I moved the scenes around until everything fit. I think i was one of my most favorite books.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh my goodness...Mary beat me. :) I stayed up late reading and kept hitting the snooze for an hour! Ha!

Okay, I have to say it is a little disconcerting to find someone who is like Pepper. *snicker* Just Kidding!!!!

I think it is so cool how Janice and Pepper do things, but I would feel lost. I am a slow and steady, start at the beginning and push to the end kind of gal. And none of this two and three stories at once...whew! :)

I love how we are all so different, yet are able to create fun stories that people will love. Well, at least we know Janice writes stories that people love. :) I happen to LOVE Pepper's writing and believe this is her year!!!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I had no idea there was a competition going on between Mary and Sherrinda. Will be watching the first comment space closely from now on.
I wrote my first novel a bit haphazardly -- somewhat chronologically, somewhat as the ideas sparked.
Yeah, it was fun ... and hard work to piece it all together.
So this go-round I plotted out a map for my story -- and I am finding there's still room for creativity and "oh, I need this chapter here" moments.

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh, this is so interesting! Actually, I developed a whole twist to my novel when I was writing my first chapter and came up with this line that sounded cool, but didn't have anything to back it I decided to play off of it and make it work (because I liked the way it sounded so much!) No matter how often I outline what is going to happen, those pesky but welcomed sparks get in the way and light up a whole new path for my story! ;)
Thanks for sharing!!

Patty Wysong said...

I'm glad I'm not the only crazy one. LoL. I tend to write an opening scene then I jump to the end and write the as much of the end as I can. As I write that, I make all kinds of notes in the margins about events or things to include (Sammi grumping or throwing a fit about going to bed, a scene with a chocolate shake...). THEN I go back and write a couple key scenes and then I can start piecing it all together.

It's like a quilt in my mind.

When I try to start at the beginning and write "from cover to cover" I shut down totally.

Great post, Pepper! Looking forward to Janice--love, LOVE her! =]

Pepper said...

Cool Mary,
A Choose-Your-Own Adventure? Love it!

I know it's a unique way of writing, but I think it works particularly well for those of us who have real trouble staying focused. :-)

Pepper said...

Thanks, Sherrinda.
Not sure I'm ready for 'my year' :-)
And I just kept feeling bad for Janice, knowing her mind was like mine.
Poor Janice....

Pepper said...

I LOVE the way God keeps variety in his kids, even down to story creation. Just another reason to be awed by Him and HIS creativity :-)

Pepper said...

Have you been Sparkin'? :-)
(btw, that has a totally different meaning in Appalachia)

Yep, those sparks are distracting - but (for me) instead of fighting the sparks and losing momentum, I follow them. It works. (Sounds like you might be a little ADD too ;-)

Pepper said...

PERFECT description - "It's like a quilt in my mind"
We stich scenes and them sew them together for a full picture. :-) Love it!

Joanne Sher said...

Mark me as another Janice lover (she's SO awesome!). I'm not sure I hop around QUITE this much, but I'll start at the beginning, and if I get stuck, I'll hop ahead to another scene that fascinates me. When that one dies, I'll either go back to the first or start a third.

Casey said...

Oh excuse me...*wiping tears*

Deep breath.

I'm trying to get myself back under control again.

;-) Oh dear, I could NEVER write that way, it does make me want to crawl into a corner and cry. But it takes all types. ;-) LOL!

Sooo glad you guys had a great time, but I knew you would. :D

Unknown said...

Wow, what a fun post! Love hearing about different writing styles. I'm impressed with you and Janice, Pepper. I don't think I could ever write that way. My brain craves order. Maybe someday, I'll be brave enough to branch out from planning out my story and writing it, mostly in order. :)

Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to reading more from Janice.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Uh, yeah, I'm a planner, though I do understand your aversion to writing through the "boring" or less exciting parts. I have to write chronologically, though. I'm such a step-by-step list person, so I think taking a step out of order would just throw me off completely! I have to know what's been revealed at such-and-such a point in the novel, etc., before writing a scene.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Pepper,

I wrote my very first novel this way and let's just say it was a disjointed mess! LOL.

After 5 manuscripts, I finally figured out that I need a linear and detailed outline to write by. That works best for me!

Glad there's so many ways to write a book!


Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, it's so cool you got to spend time with Janice! I think your writing style sounds fun, though I doubt I could write an entire story that way. I'm a plotter and it works for me. However, it does take out a bit of the creativity that comes with spontaneity (and I know that from experience too...when I used to be a pantser :D).

Sarah Forgrave said...

Would I be un-Christian if I said I'm jealous you ladies got to spend 4 hours together? It sounds like so much fun!

And you know your writing style stresses me out just reading about it. But I've gotta say, roll with whatever works, right? :)

Can't wait for Janice's post!

Chihuahua0 said...

Hmm...interesting style. Unfortunately, I prefer a more linear writethrough for the rough draft. But I am jumping around this current draft.

Charlotte Brentwood said...

I write in a very similar fashion. Sometimes I don't even have the first chapter when I start. I just write the scenes as they come to me, generally starting with that first exciting spark of a story idea. Then after I have a reasonable amount of material and a good idea of my main characters, I'll try to plan out what's happening. But even then I still don't write chronologially, try as I might. My brain just wants to skip ahead.

It's like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle.