Welcome to Romance Weekly! If you’ve come from JJ Devine, then welcome. If you’re starting here with me, howdy! Let’s get to this!
1.) Was there a defining moment in your life when you knew you were going to become a writer? If so, what was it?
The short answer is no. I never knew I would become a writer. I’d wanted it since I was in the sixth grade, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to get published. I don’t think it was until I actually was published that I figured out I was going to become a writer. And even then, because I suffer from imposter syndrome, sometimes I still wonder if I’m going to become a writer, and that’s after four published books.
The long answer is that there was a moment when I decided I wanted to try. My son was two, and my husband decided he was going to start writing apps. And I remember looking at him and saying, out loud even, “I think I can write a romance novel.” I surprised even myself that day, because I never thought I would admit that out loud. That i wanted to be a writer, that I thought I could be a writer, and that I was actually going to try, despite my insane fear of rejection. It’s funny, because after I said the words out loud, I set out to doing just that: writing a romance novel.
2.) When you write a story do you see it unfold as one big picture, or do you add layering in subsequent drafts?
I layer in subsequent drafts. I’ve been known to change a story 70,000 words in, which is crazy, and don’t do that. I usually know where I’m going to end up, but how I get there changes with each draft.
3.) How many drafts do you usually write before you send your work to your editor?
Heh. It depends on the book. I usually edit as I go, and rewrite chapters as I write them (finish a chapter, then go back and re-read, edit a little, fix some more, etc). The bare minimum is three. The first one to get the story down, the second complete re-write to make sure that I don’t have any issues with continuity (though that happens anyway, when, in subsequent drafts, I change something and forget to fix a word. I’m still kicking myself over that one). The third draft is where I run the entire document through autocrit to catch over used words, make sure I’m not using too much passive voice (actually, my major failing is “it/there” and “that”.), and cut out all the damn sighing. Once I start looking for it, I start thinking, “OMG, my characters all have asthma or COPD!” It’s ridiculous.
Typically, the work you are reading is a third completed draft, followed by two rounds of edits, and another read through. And even then, errors get in. By that last round of edits, I don’t see them anymore. That’s what beta readers are for, I suppose, though it’s hard to ask when you’re on a deadline and you know you’ll have to tell someone, “Oh, hey, I need this back in four days. Can you do that kind of turn-around?”
Why not go see what the lovely Leslie Hachtel has to say on the subject?
This week’s questions are from Ronnie Allen! Let’s get to it.
1. When do you decide that you’ve done enough editing and changes would now be making it different, not better? So it’s the time to submit.
That’s a good question. I’m never certain it’s “done enough.” The only time I don’t feel the need to tinker with a project is after it’s been published, and even then, I find errors and things I should change. It’s one of the reasons why I have a problem with reading my stuff after it’s done. I can always think of something I could have done better, or done differently.
I guess what that means is that I’m a terrible person to ask this question of. I tinker until the darn thing is published, and then I generally wish I had tinkered a little bit more.
2. When and how do you accept change advice by rejection letters and critique partners?
It depends on the advice. When a publisher gives me advice–especially when they’re rejecting me–I generally take it unless it would change the overall tone of the story. After all, they’re saying they don’t want it, but they took the time to give me advice on what could be done to make it better. That sort of advice always deserves a second look. The only time I disregarded this advice was when I wrote an urban fantasy, and the publisher asked me to re-write the entire thing as a YA, focused around a single scene in the story (that didn’t even have the main characters in it, since they were both adults). That’s not asking for rewrites or giving me advice about how to make THIS story better; that’s asking me to write and submit something completely different. I ignored that advice, though I’ll admit, the story she wanted would make a nice, gritty NA.
As for changes suggested by critique partners? Well, it depends on the changes. Most of the time, I listen to what people tell me. If it would change the entire storyline, well, no, I won’t change that. But if it’s a change to make it flow more logically, then sure, I’ll look at reworking chapters or scenes or sentences to make it work. I think it’s important to listen to what everyone says with an open heart, but to remember that the work is yours. Take the advice that is useful, and disregard the rest. At the same time, I think it’s important to remember not to view your words as so precious you refuse to part with them or make changes. No one’s work is so good that they couldn’t use and editor, and no one’s story is so perfect it can’t use improvement.
3. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your day or do you create your day around your writing?
Gads, that’s a hard question. Work days generally look something like this:
6:00am: Wake up. Check Facebook. Try to think of something witty to say, something engaging and interesting and awesome. Usually fail. I might settle for silly.
6:30: Get out of bed and into the shower.
7:00: I’m READY! Oh wait, my hair’s still wet.
7:15: Ah, hell. That’s good enough. It looks the same regardless of the effort I put into it anyway.
7:30: Do dishes, throw something into the crock pot for dinner, make lunches, feed kids.
8:15: Leave for work. Hopefully, the homework was done and checked the night before, otherwise I’m checking it in my office at work. And none of us like that.
8:30-4:30: Work. If I’m lucky, and ate lunch sitting at my computer, I got it all done. If I’m unlucky, I’ll be writing IEPs at midnight. Again.
5:00: Arrive at outside client’s house or a kid activity. It depends on the day.
6:15-6:30. Home. Throw down backpacks and eat. Unless it’s Cub Scout night, in which case the boy and the hubs grab it to go, and head out the door. Or, the kids might have swimming after we see the outside client, in which case we go there instead, and get home around 7:00.
7:00: Check homework.
7:15: Tell the boy he has to do it over, because it’s super messy.
7:45: Tell him he can type it, because it’s just getting worse.
8:00: Everyone to bed. Husband and I chop the vegetables for the next day, if we’re on top of things. Afterwards, I’ll break out the laptop. Get distracted by the piles of laundry. Maybe start a load.
9:00: Girl child complains she can’t sleep.
9:10: I put in headphones and start to write.
9:45: Oh, look, the siren call of Facebook!
10:00: Just this one tweet, and then I’ll get to it.
10:15-12:00: I’m writing! If it’s going well, I might go until 2:00am. Which, by the way, is insane. Don’t do that.
Non-work days often look this:
6:00 Wake up. OH MY GOD, I’M SO TIRED! Oh wait, it’s Saturday. **Snore**
6:30: Boy child walks in, wearing (if I’m lucky) pajamas and a Darth Vader mask. “Mom, can I watch a show?”
Me: “Bananas are on the counter. Don’t forget to do your flamenco dancing. And beware the octopus.”
Boy child, breathing heavily: “Right on, my son. I’ll watch Star Wars. Oh, and Mom?”
Me: “I need to give the unicorn a bath.”
Boy Child, in his best Vader voice: “Uh huh. I am your father.”
Because I am asleep, I can’t explain the physical impossibility of this, but whatever. His father, who is awake during this whole exchange, thinks it’s hysterical, and won’t ruin the moment with things like logic.
7:00: Wake up again. Why am I singing The March of the Sith? Go back to sleep.
7:15: Children walk in: “Mom, we’re hungry. Can we eat chocolate for breakfast?”
Me: “The dog barks at midnight. Are you wearing underwear?”
Girl Child: “Chewey, that means yes. You are wearing underwear, aren’t you?”
Boy Child: “Mostly.”
Girl Child: “Good enough. Come on, let’s go before she wakes up.”
Me: “Wha?” **Snore**
8:00: I get up for real this time. Am miffed because all of my chocolate is missing, and Chewey looks like Poirot, with his giant chocolate mustache. I make breakfast anyway. I make pumpkin pancakes. Unfortunately, everyone wants eggs and toast.
8:30: Do dishes, and contemplate doing more chores.
I usually get the opportunity to write until about 11:00, when I have to take the Girl Child to Girl Scouts. But then I get to sit in the library at the university and write for two solid hours. It’s lovely.
2:30-6:00 Is family time.
6:30: Daddy time and a movie. I write while hanging on the couch with the children.
8:30-????: We all head upstairs to bed. I put in headphones and write until I fall asleep at the computer. The two pages of eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee will have to be rewritten, but hey, it works for now.
That’s it for me! (I say “that’s it!” like I wrote some short little ditty instead of the multi-page manifesto that is actually vaguely embarrassing. Or would be, if I had any sense of shame left)
Since you’ve had enough of me, why not head over and see what Josie Malone has to say?
It’s time for Romance Writers’ Weekly! This week’s questions are from Jo Richardson. Don’t know her? Go check her out here.
How often do you write?
Short answer: As often as I can.
Long answer: Depends on your definition of writing. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t write something. But it might be reports for work, it might be papers for school, or it might be fiction. It depends. If we’re talking only fiction, I shoot for every day, but I’ve been known to take time off from it, too. Sometimes, my fiction gets put on the back burner for a little while while I sort out my life
2. Do you think it’s important to your craft to write as much as you can, and as often as you can?
Yes, with the caveat that everyone has the right to a break. If you’re burning out, recharging your batteries might be a good thing. Also, I sometimes think that people who try to put out vast quantities of writing often suffer from what I’ve called “first draft syndrome.” If quality is suffering because the goal is quantity, I don’t see how that will improve your skills as a writer.
Writing, like most things, is about balance. There must be a balance between quality and quantity. It’s important to write books, but it’s also important that those books are well-written and thoroughly researched. Otherwise, books go to print that aren’t ready. And I think it’s more important to put out a quality product than to be fast and put out a bunch of them.
Then again, I’m a relatively slow writer (it can take me three months to two years to finish a manuscript, and I’m pretty thrilled with myself if I complete a full manuscript and a novella per year). So you can take my issues with quantity with a grain of salt. I’m not a “let’s get this mother cranked out so I can get started on the next one” kind of author. I want to love my books, and love takes time.
3. What is your opinion on the saying “if you don’t write every day, you’re not a writer”?
Short answer: I think it’s bullshit.
Long answer: I’m a speech pathologist every day of my life. But I don’t practice every single day. I take days off. When I got sick a couple of years ago, I took six weeks off from work. It didn’t make me less of a speech pathologist. I didn’t somehow misplace my degree, experience and credentials during surgery. And, weird, when I came back to work, I remembered how to do my job.
I’m also a writer every day of my life. If I take a day off, I’m still a writer. Dedication to craft can take many forms. I recognize when I’m burning out–and if I’m burning out, I’m not producing quality material.
Sometimes real life infringes on all aspects of one’s professional life. Sometimes, you’ll need a break from writing, sometimes you’ll need a break from the day job, and sometimes, you’ll need a break from your kids. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to recognize burn out and do something about it.
I don’t believe that there is one way to be successful, and only one road to publication. I’m not that author who feels that only Big Six pubbed books are work while; I don’t think only literary fiction is worthwhile. I think a “real” writer is one who takes her craft seriously, who actively tries to improve, and who is actively pursuing publication (but that doesn’t mean that she has to be querying at this very moment; it means that the intent to query is there as a serious goal).
Actually, my title is not precisely true. What is true for me may not be true for you, and that’s okay. There’s more than one way to be successful, and more than one definition of success. As a writer, I think I’ve (finally) figured out what success is to me. Not that I wouldn’t love JK Rowling money, but the money is not how I define success for me.
(But if a publisher WANTS to throw that kind of money at me, who am I to turn it down?)
In any case, my young writer friends, here is my advice. It’s imperfect, and lord knows I haven’t always followed it, but I try.
1) Join a writers’ group.
I sort of succeeded and sort of failed at this one. I went to a local writers’ group, but they were all about literary fiction and memoir, and I got the sense they weren’t overly impressed by genre fiction. Thing is, I like genre fiction. I didn’t want to be told that my writing was subpar because of what I write. If my writing is subpar, it should be because of how I wrote it.
So I joined an RWA group in a town about three hours from where I live. I went for about two years, but it proved too hard to get there on time. Also, I got tired of getting lectured for being ten minutes late, when I had left the house before dawn to get there. So, kind of a fail there, too.
But, I joined RWA national and a couple on line chapters. I’ve gained loads of good information from those sources, so that is helpful. And I’ve found a critique partner, which is lovely. But I think my writing journey would be easier if I were a more active member (I’m a bit of a lurker).
2) Get a critique partner.
It took me a long time to do this. But getting a critique partner helps you see where your writing is falling down. It has helped me tighten up scenes, re-
work awkward sentences, and helped with pacing. All of which is necessary if you want to get published.
Speaking of published, there’s a bit of advice out there about making sure you’re ready before you start querying. Yeah, no. No one is ever ready to query before they start. I queried before my book was ready. You will, too.
But, if you happen to get a rejection from an agent or an editor that gives you advice, I suggest you take it.
That being said,
Your book will never get published if you don’t. If you have rewritten the same book 15 times, but are planning on tinkering with it just a little more until it’s absolutely perfect, you will never actually query. Here’s why:
A) Your book will never be perfect.
B) if you firmly believe in the perfection of your book, you’ll be more resistant to taking an agent/editor’s advice and make changes. And trust me, you need to make changes.
C) Striving for perfection is admirable. But, since A) is true, if you don’t let your baby go and start querying, then you’ll NEVER query. Save that next set of rewrites for after the first or second wave of rejections.
4) Keep writing.
Is that manuscript done? Set it aside and start something else. While you’re waiting for responses to your query, write that next book. It will be good for you and all of your manuscripts.
5) Don’t give up.
The only thing separately published writers from ones who aren’t is persistence. The only thing keeping you from achieving success is you. No book of yours will ever be published if you give up. Maybe it won’t be your first or your second book (both MS number one and MS number two are gathering cyber dust in my computer. I could probably query number two again with a few revisions. MS number one isn’t ready. And possibly never will be).
So if it’s not your first one, maybe it will be your second or your third or your fifth. Just keep in trying.
That’s it for now. Anyone else have advice they’d like to share with the group?
Hey everyone! It’s that time of the week again: Romance Weekly. Find out what your favorite authors think about the questions below, or discover new-to-you authors! Let’s get to it!
1. Do you prefer to write futuristic, contemporary or historical romances and why?
I tend to write historicals. I’ve written one urban fantasy, set in modern-day San Francisco, but it didn’t go anywhere. It’s still sitting on my computer, awaiting rewrites and, perhaps, submissions at some time in the future. For now, I’m sticking with historicals.
The first book I ever wrote as an adult (also sitting on my computer) was a historical. I guess I chose that genre because I love the history aspect of it, and I cut my teeth on historical romances. My first one was Julie Garwood–The Bride, I think, but it might have been The Gift–which I followed up with Savage Thunder by Joanne Lindsey. I discovered these books when i was sixteen, and, by the time I hit my junior year in high school, I’d read all Julie Garwood’s books. By the time I was twenty-one, I’d read Julie Garwood and Johanna Lindsey in German (it was more interesting than reading a freak-ton of Rilke. And sure, I like the tortured aspect of Gruppe 47 literature as well as anyone, but I can honestly say they didn’t inspire me to learn to read in German nearly as well as Johanna Lindsey did.)
So I guess that, as a History minor and an English Lit/German major, I was sort of destined to write historicals. I loved reading historical romances, so I guess I figured I’d love writing them. And I do. 🙂
2. What is your favorite time in history and how and why does it inspire you?
Um… Good question. I’ll admit to a certain fondness for the Victorians. They were totally wacky. For instance, the occult was really popular during the Victorian era: go to church Sunday morning, hold a séance Sunday night. Very prim and proper, and repressed sexually, but then, the treatment for hysteria was orgasms (and you went to the doctor for it!). It just seems to me like the Victorians are a study in polar opposites. Also, I have a particular fondness for the Old West, so I guess that’s part of it, too.
But I’ll admit, I loved the research that went into Highland Deception, which is set in Scotland in 1725. So, I guess that’s a close second.
3. How has your life experience contributed to your writing?
I’ll admit, I struggled with this question. I’ve traveled in Europe, and I’ve graduated from college, and all that fun stuff. College and travel opened up my eyes to new and different ways of thinking, and I suppose that that’s important if you want to be a writer. I think, because of that, I am better able to take another person’s perspective, which is necessary if one wishes to write well-rounded characters.
Getting married gave me insight into the character of men. Granted, I’ve been married since I was 22, so I guess my experience with men is limited, but I know one man like I know the back of my hand. I know what he thinks, and how he feels, and I know what he looks like when he’s upset. Being married for as long as I have (almost 17 years now!) has, I think, really helped me to write my male characters as men, and not mere caricatures of men.
Having children… Well, a baby changes everything about you. It just does. I’m the same person I was before, but I’m also… different. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to submit and suffer the potential rejections if I hadn’t had kids. I think just the act of giving birth made me less self-conscious, but having that baby? I’m so much stronger now–personality-wise–than I was before I had them. Before, I would have said that I’m “nice.” I was a good girl, and easily embarrassed. I hated to be wrong. I hated just the thought of someone thinking I’m not perfect. I tried really hard to be everything to everyone. To be the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect employee.
And then, I had a two-year-old.
I’ve done the walk of shame out of the grocery store more times than I could count (very smart, very volatile children = very loud tantrums in the store). I’ve been barfed on, had one kid have a diaper explosion (and I mean explosion–it was disgusting) at a restaurant in San Francisco, and gotten pee in my eye while changing a diaper at the mall.
It has been an exercise in humility. It made me realize that I am not, nor will I ever be, perfect, and I would kill myself if I kept trying to be. I think that the thought of rejection might have done me in, if I hadn’t gotten over my need to be viewed as perfect. I’m not sure I ever would have submitted in the first place, because I would have been deeply ashamed if someone didn’t think my work was up to par.
I’m a published author because of the kids. They’re the ones, really, who gave me the strength to do that.
Many of us tell ourselves that it’s just temporary, just until we can get our big break. Sure, I’ve been guilty of that, too, but over time I’ve become more realistic.
And here is my reality: in 19 years, I will retire from my day job.
The good thing about this is that I love my day job. I don’t think I’d quit, even if I could. So the idea of retiring in 19 years isn’t especially heart breaking for me. I’m not slaving away at a job I hate while I wait for the big break. I have a job I love at a site I love with coworkers I adore. And you can’t beat the clientele for cuteness (3-6 year olds, now that mine are almost seven and nine? Awesome. I get my baby fix every day. Not many people can say that). So I’m not sad about that.
But here’s the reality, folks. Writers don’t make a ton of money. Certainly, not for the hours we put in. For a long time, I felt bad that my books hadn’t taken off. Sure, I never expected to be the next Dan Brown or Sylvia Day, but I thought a little extra cash on the side would be nice.
Last year, I did pretty well comparatively. Not enough to retire on, or even enough to put down a down payment on a new car, but it was enough to buy myself a new laptop, so that’s something.
I don’t write for the money. I don’t teach for it either, because I won’t become rich doing either one. The recognition of all that work is nice, but I write because I love it, because I have a story to tell and I’m the only one who can do it justice. Since I’m no bard (no one needs to hear that from me), I guess writing is the way to do it.
So, to all of you who are aspiring: the odds are you won’t become rich writing. But just because the majority of writers never hit it big doesn’t mean that Lady Luck won’t smile upon you. Or me. Even if it takes more than 19 years to do it!
It’s late on Sunday night, and I’ve been contemplating writing.
I write–mostly–historicals. Sure, I’ve got an urban fantasy in there, but my published body of work–and, indeed, most of my work–is historicals. My work of late hasn’t been pure historical: Wandering Heart had the occult in it, and light paranormal elements, and Jessie’s War is a steampunk. Still they share a common thread with The Marker: They’re set in the Victorian era in the West.
Right now, I’m branching out a little bit. It’s still an historical, and it’s got some light paranormal elements to it. Not full on magic, but, like Wandering Heart, there is the suggestion of magic. Of things not always being what they seem. I’m branching out a little bit more than usual, because, unlike the others, it’s not set in the West. No, the latest WIP is set in Scotland.
In any case, it’s almost done now. Almost. I’ve got maybe three or four more chapters to go, and then it’s done. I’m super excited to share it with you.
But I’m thinking of changing gears. Maybe write something different. Or maybe write something that wraps up every genre into one book.
A Scottish vampire duke goes to the American West, becomes a cowboy and solves mysteries in an airship. With lots of hot sex!
So, what are your favorite genres to read? What do you look for in a good story?
In case you missed it, here are this week’s sites for the blog tour. You can win a pocket watch pendant, a choker, and a copy of my book, The Marker… All for showing up and leaving a comment. Cool, huh? And don’t forget to check out Jessie’s War. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
My friend, a wonderful story-teller, Tracy Hewett Meyer, has invited me to share details of my next big thing–or, what I’m working on now! I’m actually in first edits of Jessie’s War, and thought, hey, I’ll talk about that!
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is a good question. I’d been toying with the idea of writing a steampunk for quite some time, and had the thought I’d write something western, since I’ve been enthralled with that particular genre for a while. One day, I was looking at a map of the mines underneath Virginia City, Nevada. Suddenly, an entire scene popped into my head, and I started writing what I would eventually call my “western steampunk romance.”
Incidentally, that first kernel of an idea? It’s chapter nine. And, to this day, one of my favorite scenes in the entire book.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The actress to play Jessie would be Julia Jones, from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (a movie I’ve never seen–gasp!). i like the almost haunted way she looks at the camera in this picture; let’s face it, Jessie is pretty haunted, for a number of reasons. As for who would play Luke? I needed someone with the gravitas to be able to pull off a secret agent during the Civil War. Someone who can play tough and menacing and brooding. Because, like Jessie, Luke has been through a lot in his years at war. And he’s missed our Jessie like crazy, but she’s having none of it!
So, while it’s not a perfect fit, I picked Christian Bale.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Jessie’s War is due out from Musa Publishing in January of 2013. I have another work I’m thinking of self-publishing, a paranormal YA I’ve tentatively titled The Grey Witch. But I guess we’ll see how everything pans out! I’ve been very happy with my experience with small presses so far (Soul Mate Publishing and Musa Publishing), so while I wouldn’t say no to an agent or a New York Publisher, I’m not unhappy with where I am!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took about three months, for 120,000 words. I wrote like a crazy person. And then I tweaked that draft for another six months, and completely re-wrote the thing twice, changing from third person to first person and back again. It was an interesting experiment. You guys will have to tell me what you think of the final draft!
What other books would you compare this story to with the genre?
I’d say there are elements in it that are similar to Native Star by M.K. Hobson, other elements are similar to Alchemy of Desire by Christa McHugh, and other elements are similar to The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. I think in terms of writing style and setting, it’s probably most similar to Native Star, though Jessie’s world isn’t magic based. Necessarily. 🙂
Before I tag fellow authors so they can write about their next big thing, I’d like to thank Tracy for tagging me. Her books, Wren’s Fantasy and Trust of the Heart are super fun reads! (Trust me, I’ve read them!)
And so, I’d like to tag Brooke Moss, author of The What If Guy, The Carny, and Bittersweet. I’m really hoping she’ll tell you about her YA project, which, I can tell you, is absolutely stellar!
All right, so this post is actually more about me and my preferences, rather than what makes good writing.
Lately, I’ve read a couple (2 or 3) books that use both first person and third person narratives. In the books I’ve read, it’s been first person for the heroine, but third person for everyone else. In one of them, the third person narrator wasn’t even the hero. It was literally everyone BUT the hero. His son. His mother. His best friend. I was shocked when the cat’s narrative wasn’t among them.
I HATE THIS.
In the first novel I read that had this construct, I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting experiment, but… ugh.” I firmly believe it was well done for what it was, but the transitions were jarring.
To me, it’s a lot like having too many perspectives when you haven’t written an epic. It smacks of either author hubris, or an author who doesn’t have enough plot to make it all the way through, so she has to go back and add something. Or, worse, an author who falls in love with her male lead (or other characters), but doesn’t have the ability or the desire to show us why the hero is such a great guy from the heroine’s perspective. We simply must have his perspective, too. Only, not in first person.
I think I could have handled it better if I’d had multiple first person POVs. Better than having both first and third. It’s either a clever literary device, or it’s laziness. And either way, you don’t want your readers thinking about your motives while they’re reading your book. Because that means they’re not paying attention to your story.
In the next book I read with this same construct, it was even more jarring, because the third person narrator was unclear. As in, it would start with the hero alone in a room. Okay, it will be from his perspective, right? Then, a friend of his comes in, and we get some stuff from his perspective. Is it omniscient? Uh, no. It was omniscient for about three lines, but, for the most part, it was a limited third person from a minor secondary character’s point of view.
This is for purely selfish reasons, but I beg of you: DON’T DO THIS.
I’m not saying this as a writer. Both of these authors had Big Six contracts, and I’ll be honest: sure, I’m published, but I don’t have one of those. They probably got advances, and I didn’t. This isn’t about writer jealousy or sour grapes.
This is me, Meggan Connors, the reader. DON’T DO THIS.
Both books had good stories behind them, stories I really liked. Both books are Book One in a series. Both books had a huge marketing campaign behind them (okay, there may be sour grapes about that).
But what I remember the most about them? The 1st person/3rd person crap. I wanted to like this device, because I liked the stories. I enjoyed the first person story A LOT. I did finish both books, which says something, because, given how short my time is lately, if I loathe a book, I put it down. I wasn’t always this way–I used to finish every book I started, no matter how much I loathed it. But now, I have too much to do, and too little time to do it. It’s why I’m currently having a love affair with my crockpot. Without the crock, my family would never eat.
I don’t want my readers remembering more about a craptastic literary device I used than they do about the story.
Because I’ll be honest, I didn’t buy Book Two of either series, and I don’t really want to. Not because the stories and the world building weren’t great. They were. But because every time the story transitioned, I had issues. Every time it would start out in third person, I’d think, “Oh, no, not again.”
If you want to write in third, then write in third. If you want to write in first person, then do that. But don’t do both. Make up your mind and stick with it.
So, I’ve been reading a book by a NY Times bestselling author, in a genre I normally enjoy.
The main story is solid. That’s not the problem.
The problem is with all the other stories.
In this case, when I’m discussing point of view (POV), I’m not talking about head hopping, which is a completely different problem (and one this author doesn’t really have). In this case, I’m talking about having too many point of view characters.
I’ll tell you, you give me more than three POV characters, and I stop giving a shit about any of them.
I’m about two-thirds of the way through this book, and honestly, I feel like I should have put it down about one hundred pages ago. I know of too many people who, in my same position, would have done that and then written an absolutely scathing review about it.
See, every chapter should drive the story forward. If you have too many characters, each with their own stories, you run the risk of losing sight of the story you sold on the back jacket. And that, my friend, is cheating your reader out of the story she bought.
In the case of the book I’m reading, sometimes the secondary POV characters are contributing to the main story–which is something I detest, by the way. If one of the main characters doesn’t know this information, then I shouldn’t either. Either have someone tell them (from the MC’s point of view), or the information really isn’t that important. Not only that, but I despise it when an author has the villain’s POV in the story, especially in fantasy/sci-fi, because it smacks of author hubris. “Look at how clever I am! Look at my world building! You wouldn’t know this if I didn’t totally spell it out for you!”
Let me figure it out with your characters. I don’t need to know everything if they don’t. And if they don’t ever figure it out, then I didn’t ever need to know it.
But in this story, more often than not, they’ve got their own story lines. I’ve read books like this before, and I’ve never been so bothered by it as I am in this case. I mean, I’ve never particularly liked it, but I’ve read it and not hated it. This time, though, I find myself dreading chapter and scene breaks, because I never know whose POV I’ll be in next. Will it be the hero? The heroine? One of the hero’s brothers? The heroine’s brother? Or, even, the heroine’s brother’s friend’s love interest? (I’m not even exaggerating on that front)
It’s getting to the point of being obnoxious.
Okay, it is obnoxious.
To me, having so many Point of View characters says a couple of things:
1) The author thinks: “I love these characters and I must write about them!”
2) The author doesn’t have enough plot or conflict in the main story to carry an entire book.
3) The author really didn’t know where her story was going.
4) The author lost control of her story.
5) The author didn’t care enough about her story or her readers to fix it.
These are not things you want your reader thinking, in general.
So, here’s my advice: keep your point of view characters between one and three. Really, no more than three. And if you’re writing a book that you would consider a romance, that you’re planning on selling as a romance, don’t have more than three POVs. I might even caution against that, because generally, a romance is between two people. Nothing that happens in the story should be from someone else’s point of view, because in a romance with two people, what does a third person’s POV do to drive the story forward?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a review to write.
PS As an aside, I finished this book today. The secondary stories weren’t even wrapped up. With so much energy spent on telling these secondary stories, to not wrap them up in this book is a cheat.
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