Point of View

Do you remember this from English class? Stories are almost always told from a first person or third person perspective. In a first person story, it would be about what I did, my experience. “I went to the store.” A third person story would say, “She went to the store.” Second person would be you, “You went to the store.” Second person is hardly ever used in novels.

When I first wrote my novel, I wrote in third person, mostly from Jake’s point of view (POV), but sometimes from the POV of other characters. As I’ve been working on enhancing, clarifying and editing the story, I began to wonder whether this was the most effective way to tell the story.

Maybe I needed to change so everything was from Jake’s POV? If I did use the POV of other characters, did I need it to be balanced among the characters or would it be OK if it was mostly from Jake’s POV?

I brought this question to my writing group. After reviewing several scenes, they came up with a different suggestion. Perhaps Jake’s scenes should be first person and the others should be third person. Wow! I’d never considered first person. Could Jake tell the story himself?

POVThe next day, I decided to try it out. I re-wrote the first scene in the book. I liked it. First person gave me a better way to share information. It started out as an exercise of changing pronouns, but before long, the characters had more to say.

Six days later (SIX!), I realized I had a problem. The story cannot be told by Jake unless he survives at the end. I’m not saying whether he does or not, but haven’t you ever read a book where at first you don’t know at first if the storyteller will survive until you realize he had to in order to write the story? I have; it kind of takes all the fun out of it.
Another six days later and the story is back to third person. I’m still deciding how many characters’ Points of view I will use, but that will not be hard to change if I decide to do so. In the meantime, those scenes are better for what I learned from the characters when they were talking. I’ll carry that forward as I move through the rest of the book.

 

Thanks for following the journey!  I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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What Ending?

Coin TossSince I started my book, I wondered what the ending should be. It was approaching hurricane season. There were pirates in the area. The boat was a large one to sail alone. He could have faked his disappearance.

During my NaNoWriMo, I decided on an ending. Recently, I changed it. I decided my first ending was too predictable. I did some research to check credibility and then I changed the ending. (Oh, that we could do that in real life!)

Have you read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes? I just finished it and loved it. CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT HERE. It doesn’t end the way you’d want it to. I thought she’d figure out a way to make the happy ending believable, but she doesn’t. The story is better for it. I’m sure it would make for a lively book club meeting.

I continue to change the novel and add depth. I don’t imagine I’ll make another change this significant. Or maybe I will. If I think the story will be better for it.

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Writing Group

large writing groupA few years ago, I joined a local writing group at the library. There were probably 25 people in the group and I think we met twice a month. After a few visits, I gave up. There were just too many people. We only shared our writing every three or four meeting because there were so many of us. Also, I think it made the members less invested in one another’s work. Lots of criticism, little support.

A couple months ago, I decided to try again. What I really wanted was a writing partner or two or three; no more. I wanted to be part of a small group of people who would work together to support one another in our writing projects. I looked online to see if such a group existed nearby, but found nothing.

I posted inquiries to the Facebook groups for the Chicago Writers Association and the Chicago NaNoWriMo group. I heard from several people, but most wanted to meet at times inconvenient for me. Before long, though, I heard from two people, one from each group, who were interested in the same type of group I was.

small writing groupWe started meeting late last year and I believe we will really hit our stride in the next few months. We are at different points in our books, but we seem to be helpful to one another anyway. We also write from a couple different genres and that’s OK, too.
Being part of a group helps keep me on track. Also, I turn to them for general feedback or help with specific questions. I’m also gaining new resources and learning about marketing.

These people are the first people who have read any part of my book. Sharing it was scary. I know the book needs work. It’s like a skeleton that still needs muscles, organs and skin. I worried they wouldn’t recognize that I know this and think what I had written was lame. However, they were very helpful, generous with suggestions, constructive criticism and praise.

Our next meeting is a week from Wednesday. I’m working now on strengthening another section of the book for their feedback. It still makes me nervous to share, but I know it’s good for me and good for my book.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

 

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NaNoWriMo Revisited

Once again, it’s November, a month known to thousands around the world as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Last year, there were 325,142 participants, including me. Crazy writers all over the world work to write a
50,000 word novel in 30 days. Roughly 20% of those who begin end up achieving that goal.

nanowrimologoThe Sea Beckoned was born during NaNoWriMo. By the end of November, I had written 50,361 words of a novel with a day to spare. They weren’t all great writing, but it was a start. After my initial edit, I was down to 42,000 words. During NaNoWriMo, it’s all about quantity, not quality. After November, editing starts.

I wrote at home, in coffee shops, on vacation, in airports and airplanes, on Thanksgiving Day and even in another country. At the end of the first day, I had written 2,252 words. It takes an average of 1,667 words per day to get to 50,000, but I knew I would have days when writing would be difficult so I tried for 2,000 words each day.

Writers who finish 50,000 by 11:59 on November 30 are considered “winners”. You can see my nifty Winner badge in the right sidebar of this page.

This year, I chose not to participate. I really loved the adrenaline rush of my work last year, but I know right now I need to concentrate on the book at hand rather than start something anew.

I wish the best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers this year. Everyone who signs up is a winner in my eyes. Whatever they have written by the end of the month, it is more than they had November 1. Good luck to all!

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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Character Names

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the characters have pretty much named themselves. The more I got to know each of them as I worked, it was easy to find the right name. I’ve read articles about naming characters and the different approaches. Scrivener even has a random name generator. But, I’ve always loved coming up with names.

Yesterday, though, I realized I’d made a mistake. One of my characters is first generation Irish. I’d named her Stella. I thought the name really suited the character I had in mind. I had a sense of how Stella would think and how she would act.

RoseUnfortunately, Stella is not an Irish name. Today I’ve been surfing, looking for the another name that would work for my character. It’s not just that it has to be Irish, It also has to suit the personality of the character I’ve created. I’ve come up with five names and I’ll need to think about them for a while.

I think names do matter. William Shakespeare’s Juliet declared, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But then, she meant that even though Romeo came from the house of Montegue, the enemies of her family, he was a good and worthy person and his name didn’t define him. I think it may not have made him a bad person, but it did define who he was.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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It was a dark and stormy night…

CastleRight now, I’m going through each scene in my story and reviewing the setting. Where does the scene take place? Have I identified the place? Have I described it so the reader can get a feel for it?

I’ve already identified the towns or cities where scenes take place, but what I’m working on now is more specific. And more integral to the action and the story.

Setting serves different purposes. First it grounds the scene. Readers already know (or think they know) something about what will happen based on where it occurs. Is it a conversation over dinner at the kitchen table? Or in an elegant ballroom? Is it a seedy motel room or a suite at the Ritz? A dingy front hall or an elegant foyer?

Setting can also tell readers something about the characters. One of my characters has an office in his home and that office is paneled with dark wood and the shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling are overflowing with books. The walls are covered with diplomas and citations. The room smells faintly of pipe smoke. Does that tell you something about the character? Does it surprise you to know he is a college professor? Probably not.

I’m also considering weather, time of day, light, and even the smell of some of the places. A scene that happens on the street in a blowing snowstorm has a different feeling than one that happens on a front porch on a summer evening. Really, the same thing can happen but it would have a different feel. I’m working to make sure what I write feels the way I imagine it to be.

If I’ve done my job well, the setting will enhance my novel and be as important as any character in telling the story.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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Status Update

I’ve had a lot of questions about my novel and where I am or how I’m doing, so today I’m going to share an update. Each day is a little different and as I’m writing this, I realize I should have a better plan as I proceed. I guess that will be my next step, to identify all I need to accomplish and a logical work sequence.

I’ve been working on fleshing out my characters. It is interesting that as I do, I realize what is important to each character. This helps me enrich the story with more details. I can also see that subplots will develop as I get to know each character better.

There is more research to be done on the various settings in the book. I knew much of the story would take place in New England, a part of the country I’m not very familiar with. I have resources to help me, but I’ve had to pick locales based on proximity to the shore, to each other, and to a Coast Guard station. Once I think I have a good location, I check the demographics of the town back in the time that part of the story takes place.

researchI’m constantly checking online for information about life and culture during different time frames. I’ve looked up how young people would have dressed and what religious celebrations were common at the time. Did I mention I love Wikipedia and gladly contribute during their fund raising drive?

Accurate details help make the story real to readers. I know it would distract a reader if I referenced something that didn’t actually exist, such as putting seat belts in a car from the 50’s. During my research, I’ve also found interesting details to incorporate into the story.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’ll try to share some of what I learn as I write.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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