Craft, Fiction, Novel, Writing

Who’s telling your story … and when?

In my last post, I said it was time to write my next book. Some of you may have noticed a post or two in the last few weeks indicating I’d already started that book. If you go back a few months, I talked about another book I’d started. Yeah, I’m having problems making a decision and sticking to it.

Last night, I opened one of the books and read the opening. I liked it, but something was off. I felt distanced. So, I closed the file and went to bed. Of course, I couldn’t fall asleep because I kept trying to figure out how to fix the problem. I finally drifted off considering a change in point of view.

Most of the time, I write in close third. That I recall, I’ve never written in second, but for certain pieces, I’ve used first person. This morning, I opened a copy of my new manuscript and started changing the POV to first. After a few paragraphs, I stopped to listen to the reader in my head and discovered she was proposing another change.

Without looking through dozens of files to tally them, I think I’m safe in saying I usually write in past tense, but my inner reader suggested present tense for this novel. I haven’t studied point of view and tense. I mean, I know the differences, but I’ve read only a little about how the various combinations affect the story—or rather the reading of the story.

Fortunately, I hadn’t written very far into the book, so I don’t have to change much. I’m enjoying the challenge, but will the changes work? I don’t know. The short opening scene will probably need to be moved further into the book. Maybe I’ll substitute a new one. I may have to break my vow and seek feedback from a writer friend or two at this early stage.

I hope you’ll share your wisdom on tense and point of view with me. I know I have writing books on the shelf that would help, but I also know if I open them, I’ll be distracted for days. So …

Discuss, please:  Do you have a favorite POV or tense to write in? If so, why do you favor it? Have you ever forced yourself to try a new tense or viewpoint? Is there a certain type story you think works best in first person present tense? Is there a type you’d hate to read in that POV and tense?

Craft, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Reading, Scene, Writing

Are you writing with zest?

Nothing like a sex scene to get you in the mood! That was the original title of this post, but since it’s partly about subtlety, I nixed that one. Plus, it occurred to me how many disappointed searchers Google would send here.

As usual, I have more than one iron in the fire. I’m working on my next novel, and yes, I did write a sex scene today, but if you’re familiar with my writing, you know I love the art of the tease. In her review of The Brevity of Roses, Christa Polkinhorn said: “And, without any explicit love-making scenes, she creates a highly charged and sensuous atmosphere.” Yes, I do, and I’m doing it again in the next book.

Another thing I’m working on is determining what I do well in my writing. According to at least two of my beta readers, one of my strengths is subtlety. I expect my readers to think—not the drain your brain, reach for the how-to on literary analysis kind of thinking. I like to serve them delicate layers of meaning and just enough detail to incite their imaginations. I want to invite them into the story.

I’ve also just started reading a book that more than one person recommended to me before I finally took the hint. It’s Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and here’s a passage that jumped out at me:

“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is—excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.”

So yes, I’m writing again with zest and loving it. And writing subtle sensual scenes adds a little gusto … as well as alliteration apparently.

Are you only half a writer?

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Craft, Family, Imagination, Real Life, Writing

Creating, one way or another

What a week to start a new book. I’ve had only one uninterrupted day so far, and no writing will occur on this day or night either. Don’t misunderstand; I’m not complaining. I’m still accessing my creativity. Two days this week I worked on a major craft project. Emily wanted us to make a doll. Great! Then she saw a stuffed filing cabinet in a book and wanted to make that. Darn.

Of course, she doesn’t use the sewing machine, so the actual work fell to me. Her role was head designer. The “doll” she chose was not in a craft book, meaning there was no pattern or directions, so I had to create my own.

In typical Emily fashion, she wanted a modification. She wanted the file drawer to slide in an out, with removable file folders. Barely had I mused aloud how we could manage that on essentially a stuffed rectangle, when she came up with a solution. She’s a natural problem solver.

The original cabinet was tan and gray … a boy. Not too exciting. Then we went shopping for the materials, and I found out Emily was thinking bright pink and lime green. Cool! I decided, since our file cabinet was a girl, she should have eyelashes and hot pink lips—instead of heavy eyebrows and huge teeth like the boy version.

A tiara was Emily’s final touch. Mine was a second-degree burned index finger (glue gun accident). But surely, I also gained some new brain cells with all that that designing and engineering.

Cute, you’re thinking, but this is a writing blog. So does this have anything to do with writing? Of course it does. Writing takes this same kind of imagination. Good writers use their crafting skills to take a tan and gray idea and transform it into pink and lime … with a tiara!

How are you using your literary craft supplies today?

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Advice, Block, Craft, Doubt, Fiction, Publish, Short story, Writing

A story! A story? A tale of fear!

All my sources tell me that, as a new indie author, I need to publish more work soon. Writing a novel is not quick work for me. I have a story that might run novella length—might. I haven’t written it yet, of course. Another option is a short story collection.

Until the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big short story reader. I’ve written some, but they were for my own eyes. But, in the last year, I’ve greatly increased the number of short stories I read. I also read articles on how to write short fiction. I’m still not sure I get it.

I’m also not sure why I don’t get it. It’s almost as though I have a mental block. I think I write a beginning, middle, and end, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me. Is it a vignette? Is that a story?

Does a story require a moral? A lesson? A reason to exist? Am I over-thinking this? Probably. I fear I can’t write short stories. Then again, I fear I can’t write anything. FEAR.

I’d like to say I bravely take up my pen keyboard and wield it like a sword, but that would be a lie. The truth is I sit here quivering. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story.

That’s what I’m busy with nowadays. And I thank Christ Craig for her recent post reminding me that I have to face that fear or I’ll never know if I’ve written a story at all.

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Craft, Fiction, Novel, Writing

When is a writer not a pantser?

Novel writers often divide themselves into two camps: Plotters and Pantsers. As I wrote a reply to a comment on my last blog post, I realized something about myself. I don’t think I’m a true pantser. I’ve always identified myself as one because I don’t write a detailed outline, or make a colored-coded story chart, or any of those other traditional methods of writing the story before you write the story.

But if a true pantser is a writer who sits down at the keyboard with only a vague story idea, some character names, a location or two, and hopes some entity known as The Muse will take over, then I’m not a pantser.

It’s true that as I’m writing, I’m often surprised by what a character says or does, at how a plot point veers in a direction I hadn’t expected. I start with a single file. In that, I might sketch out character “bios”, but mainly so I can keep names and ages straight. I also record bits of dialogue that come to me,  and the proposed opening and ending sentences, or maybe even paragraphs. And eventually I write a detailed scene list, but not until after I’ve written the scenes.

I guess that sounds like a pantser, but the truth is I’ve lived with the story for months—at least—before I begin to write it. I’ve mentally processed the basic plot, key scenes, and details of each character. And I’ve revised all of those, sometimes more than once. Essentially, before I ever start writing the book, I’ve seen the movie played out in my mind.

I don’t know why I never related this to the more tangible actions of a plotter. Maybe it’s because I’ve tried the formal outline, the index cards, the organizing software and it always seemed more trouble than it was worth. I felt it killed the thrill of writing, but maybe it was just that it seemed redundant.

So yes, I plan, but I’m “open to suggestion” also. Does that mean I’m a plotser? Or maybe I’m just a normal writer.

Your turn: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried to change your stripes?

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