What I’m learning about my book

One of the things I am both excited about and frustrated by is the process of revelation. My new book examines a more serious subject than my first and as it is progressing I am seeing how all the elements fit together in a different way. First of all I decided to write this book in first person. I am finding that it is requiring me to dig deeper to show how the characters around my MC react to and interact with him. I am also working harder to prevent what I keep hearing happens so often in first person: boredom. I can see how that would take place since you must remain in one person’s head. That is why I have been working on ensuring his personality is strong and apparent in all he says and does. That has required that I really know him well — his personal agenda, his deep seated desires, his weak points. It has been very interesting developing him and I learn more each time I sit down to write.

The difficult part has been not overdoing his reactions to the external forces coming at him while at the same time showing his feelings in a human way.

I am also struggling with revealing the background info; I wanted to allow other characters to bring out. Writing in first person really limits this and I am having to find creative ways to bring it out without stating it as exposition. This is teaching me a lot of about my writing and making more aware of different techniques.

Since this book is so close to my heart I am determined to take my time and get it done well. I have about five chapters left to complete the first draft and am forcing myself not to go back and rewrite early chapters. But I am re-examining them to ensure they fit together and I am telling the story I want to tell. I am an outliner so I do have a direction; a shell so to speak that is guiding me. But I have enough flexibility to adjust as I go and allow for a lot of creativity.

All in all, the writing advice I have read and heard over the last few years from books and authors and agents and critique groups is all coming together now. It’s a great feeling to know you are working on something that has personal meaning and I hope that once it’s complete it will have meaning to my readers as well.

1st or 3rd?

Lately I’ve been contemplating POVs. Should I write the protag in 1st and stay in his perspective or should I write him in 3rd and allow the reader to see inside a few other heads from chapter to chapter? Most of the books I’ve read caution against head jumping and I get that. It’s jarring to me too; that’s why if I do it I change chapters — if I don’t catch it within scenes, then oops — but I am aware of the rule.

In my current manuscript, the protag makes a life-altering discovery that only he can overcome, so 1st would be great to show his reactions/emotions and his mindset. However, after we get over all that, we still do not know how others feel about it since this discovery also affects their view of him — or their guilt — depending on the character. Therefore, I have been forced to really think hard about how to bring out their emotions without always relying on dialogue. It’s tough. I am used to writing in 3rd so this was never an issue. I had always reserved 1st and even second for my self-help books, but writing a novel in 1st is proving to be quite challenging.

Another difficulty I find in 1st is the past tense. Sometimes I catch myself writing in present when I don’t want to do so. I say ‘don’t’ when I need to say ‘didn’t’. 😦 Thank goodness for editors. 

Then there’s the suspension of disbelief: how can a person tell you a story that happened in the past when he already knows the outcome? Writing so that the reader doesn’t pay any attention is also an art. 

Fortunately for me I have lots of example books I can read to get a feel for it. Some of my fav authors — Gary Schmidt, Jackie Woodson, and even James Patterson (Middle School) are useful to read and re-read to jar the old noggin and get some ideas flowing. 

If you have any thoughts please on this post a reply.

Keep writing!