Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Check-In #4

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: 72,956 words and 28 chapters (first draft completed)

Current WC + CC: 73,226 words and 28 chapters (still editing)

I surpassed my overall goal (“get as much of the first draft done as possible by the end of the month”), so yay. 😀 The marathon has been motivating and a lot of fun to participate in. When I started writing this one in early July, I really didn’t feel like I could finish before the end of the year. Earlier this month I became more determined to finish, but I still thought it would take me another few months. So this was beyond awesome.

WIP Issues this week: Despite totally kicking my goal’s butt this month, I actually barely scratched the surface of the goals I set for myself for this week once I’d finished the draft: Edit it all–just a typo-check and minor continuity changes at this stage–AND write the outline for my next project, the shiny new idea that came to me last week. I didn’t get as far with editing as I’d like, mostly because I was busy, and I didn’t even start the outline.

A good thing, though, because the outline for the shiny new idea continues to evolve in my head. It’s important it evolves and becomes something a little different because it’s dangerously close to some been-there, read-that vibes from other books, I think. It’s how I execute it that I hope sets it apart and makes it worthwhile. (It’ll be my first attempt at a straight-up contemporary, no supernatural involved, so that’s why I was unsure I could make it unique enough. Also… I’m actually going for NA instead of YA this time, which I never thought I’d do.)

What I learned this week in writing: I can actually miss writing/editing on days I’m stuck doing work writing instead. ;-; (I’m usually so tired of staring at a computer screen on those days I don’t miss it.)

What distracted me this week while writing: Work. I also beta read 20 chapters of someone else’s work, which was a pleasant distraction. 😀

Plan after the marathon: Finish the first edits, do the beta process, hopefully get it off to my agent, and meanwhile also outline the next project and dive into it soon!

Last 200 words: I can’t share the last 200 written or edited due to spoilers, but I guess I’ve steeled myself and am ready to share the very first 200 words of the book if you guys want to see it.

I’d lived only five winters the first time I saw an infant drowned.

I felt Father’s hand on my shoulder as the horse jostled us slightly, shaking her head and whipping the tips of her silky black mane across my eyes. Father noticed the instinct that took over, the mere moment my eyelids closed despite the how hard I’d fought to keep them open. “Watch, Rohesia. Burn the moment into your mind.”

The shrieking woman held aloft by two soldiers kicked her legs, sending her skirt upward. I noticed the mud that collected among the hem, the strands of straw-colored hair that escaped her kerchief and swung wildly across her mouth. The hair blew with each shriek like curtains in the breeze, the skirt a gale that tore through a field of wheat, the woman the only source of movement beyond the scuffing hooves of the horses beside me.

“The child, Rohesia. Not the mother.”

The soldier by the river tossed the tattered cloth that had wrapped the baby on the ground and held the crying infant as far out in front of him as his stocky arms would allow. One gauntlet supported the baby’s head and neck, the other gripped the child’s body loosely, and I saw one impossibly small leg kick upward vainly.

–Oops, beta reader, I read this over again and changed a few words yet again if you noticed a difference, but yeah…

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Character Voice and First Person Point of View

I’m a fan of first person narrative. I love reading it, and I love writing it, and thankfully it’s pretty common in my favorite genre (YA). There’s something so immediate about first person narrative that lets you slip into a character’s head better than third person, to picture the action from his or her point of view. Through one character’s eyes, you go on an adventure you’d probably never get to experience, you get romanced (sometimes~) and, in YA at least, are free to regress to a younger age when you were just getting used to the unfairness of the world (and overreacting to it), and you viewed things through a not-yet-adult-no-longer-a-child point of view.

I love writing when first person voice is unreliable especially. As the writer, you know your character isn’t seeing things as they truly are, but it’s fine manipulating the reader into seeing things from the skewed point of view, only to turn it on its head later.

My only problem as a writer of first person perhaps? Learning to give each narrative voice its own flavor. So far I have one completed manuscript in first person and two works in progress in first person—the newest will actually have four different first persons at that. I know, I’m crazy, but that’s the story I want to tell. (My other two works in progress are in third person and I’ve yet to become as attached to them, perhaps because I don’t feel as immersed in them.) I’ve seen multiple points of view first person done well (among them, one I’ve beta read and hope you all see someday), and I think I can come up with some strategies for trying to make each voice different. (We’ll see if others agree I’ve done a decent job distinguishing them, since I’ve yet to share more than one first person narrative with a single human being… My cat, though, she’s seen them while getting fur all over my laptop screen.):

  • Try to figure out who the narrator is before you start writing. What makes him or her different from the other characters you’ve written before? What are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses?
  • How would you write dialogue for this character? Chances are, you “get inside the heads” of dozens of characters all the time anyway when they speak to your narrator. This time you just have to think of how the new character would describe everything unfolding in the room.
  • How are they unreliable? Everyone is, to a certain extent. Figure out the “truth” of the scene, and then figure out how the character would interpret that truth. How would they describe a scene in a different way than the last character from whose point of view you wrote?
  • Don’t go overboard with the voice differences. Having one character drop the “g” off of “ings” seems like a good idea to remind the reader that this is Character B speaking, not Character A, but it’s really just distracting. If Character A is serious and Character B takes everything as a joke, there are ways to express that better than speech differences, like smarmy commentary.

What other tips and strategies do you have for writing different first person points of views? Share them with me!

Posted in Writing

Was I Here or Was I There? Tricky Narration

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of beta reading a friend’s latest manuscript.I’ve done this in the past with her works, but this time she thought to ask, “Why do you keep changing my ‘here’s”to ‘there’s, my ‘this’es to ‘that’s, my ‘last night’s to ‘the previous night’ or ‘the night before’?” We’re talking in her first-person past-tense narration, by the way. I leave them alone in dialogue or in internal monologue, and I would have left them alone in present-tense narration.

But why do I change present-tense words to the past tense? Especially since, as I’ve been doing some editing of some of my own work lately, I still find instances of ‘here,’ ‘this,’ ‘now’ and the like in my own narration? (Which I then promptly change, but still, when I originally wrote them, they must have seemed natural to me!) And we both have found examples of the present tense in past tense narration in published works. She found one that had both “this” and “that” in the same sentence and it didn’t make much sense to me!

But that’s just it–I guess I change these words because they don’t make sense to me. I know that narration isn’t supposed to be a literal representation of the character talking about what happened in the past. (Who speaks in novel form, for one?) But that’s how I picture it. The character sitting with you now, in your living room, for example, talking about things that happened to them last week, last month or years ago, somewhere else. To me, if the narrator says “here” in the narration, she’s talking about your living room then. If she says “last night,” she’s talking about the night before you’re currently reading, not the night before action that took place days, weeks, months, years before.

My friend says she pictures the narrator like “cataloging” the events in real time, so she’s still talking about the past, but it’s just happened. She’s still wherever “here” is, she’s still one day away from “last night,” she’s just talking play-by-play as things happen, only in the past tense. So in other words, where my friend would write something like:

This key in my hand was how I was going to get out of here.

I’d prefer:

That key in my hand was how I was going to get out of there.

And if I wanted some immediate thought with “here” and “this,” I’d change it to internal monologue. Of course, this is editor-me speaking. Writer-me sometimes forgets that and I don’t catch it for a long time. And other readers don’t change it, either; it’s not necessarily “incorrect,” it just sounds weird to me!

Have you noticed the changes in tense in your writing or in published works? Do you prefer one style over the other, or haven’t you thought about it before?


Posted in Writing

Hearing Your Manuscript’s Voice: Narrative Mode

The work-in-progress that’s been getting the most attention from me lately (despite occasional feelings of this-sucks-itis, only overcome by thoughts of but-you’re-practically-almost-finished-so-keep-going) is in the third person. And it’s actually the first time in years and years that I’ve written a story in third person. It’s so confusing to my brain that I accidentally wrote in first person for a few paragraphs the other day… Never mind that I have two main characters, which is actually part of the reason why I decided to tell the tale in third person. That, and it’s middle grade and the MG books I’ve read tend to be third person more often than not.

My other WIP is first person, although I can’t even blame that for mixing up the two works, as the main characters WIP #1 are about as different from main character in WIP #2 as can be. Still, besides the fact that WIP #2 is YA and a good chunk of the YA books I read are in first person (as is the manuscript-on-submission), there is absolutely no way I could tell this story from any other point of view. The story literally hinges on his perception of the world; from anyone else’s, there wouldn’t be as much of a plot. Any filmed version of the story (ha ha) would have to adjust to the way he sees the world; I don’t even know if it could be done. The voice of the manuscript is essential to the story as a whole.

I think that’s what I like about first person narrative, even if it isn’t always so integral to the plot as it is in WIP #2. Yes, I know that third person narrative scenes tend to have a POV or two, but you may not get so deeply entrenched in a character’s head, and feel all of those messy feelings and biases as the character reacts to the situations you throw at him or her. Third person works better for WIP #1 because the plot is more important than any character’s POV, but still, I wonder if the feeling of detachment I have as I write it is what’s slowing me down. (Manuscript-on-submission’s best words-written-in-a-day stat: about 10,000 [I kid not…]. WIP #1: about 1000…. If I’m lucky…)

How do you find your manuscript’s voice? Do you prefer writing first or third (second seems like a choose-your-own-adventure novel to me, but I’m sure it’s been done effectively!) or switch freely between the two from work to work? Do you prefer reading in any particular narrative style?