Point of View

I am Writing

When you craft a scene in a character’s POV, every line in that scene has to feel as though it is being processed, chewed, and spit out by that character. Everything that happens in that scene is witnessed, experienced, felt, and reacted to by that character. And so, even the narrative must have “voice.”

CS Lakin

When I first read the above, I had to sit with it for a minute and process it. I loved the way it was written and the knowledge behind it is worth really considering.

I found this in an article about voice, but it is equally important when thinking about which POV to choose for a book and to make sure that you have not head hopped during one scene.

POV, point of view, is one of the most important decisions an author will make about a novel. First person, third person limited, and third person omniscient are the most frequently used POV’s. There are costs and benefits to each one of them.

First person, allows the reader to get to know your character and bond with them. It can make the story come to life in a real way. First person POV typically, has one POV character and would be confusing if you changed characters. First person, can be difficult to write because you know what is going on in everyone else’s head and sometimes it slips in. You have to catch those slips in editing and find a way to give the same information from the first person perspective.

Third person limited can be as intimate as first person if you stick with one or two character throughout the novel. Third person can be difficult because you run the risk of head hopping during a scene because you do write from other characters points of view. Third person limited POV is the most popular choice for authors.

Third person omniscient allows you to write from every character’s POV. The reader can see inside anyone’s head. It gives you the option of having as many POV characters as you would like. You write from a god like perspective. You can tell the reader what is going on in anyone’s head at any time. This can be confusing to readers unless each character has a distinct voice. True Omniscient POV is not used very often.

As hard as we try as writers, some lines or whole paragraphs slip into our scenes that are from the wrong POV. That’s why I love the quote above. It reminds us that every aspect of the story must be told from the one POV.

Doing so increases the bond between character and reader and reduces the possibility of confusion.

Choose Words that Characterize

word rain

Trying to convey how we feel with words can be difficult. You sit with the feeling and think about the words that attempt to express it. Nothing really does though. They come close, but something is always missing.

I’ve spent hours trying to find the right words, construct the right sentence, and make other’s feel the way I do with my words. But that’s backwards. You can’t make other’s feel what you feel. You have to call out the proper emotion from within them.

Isn’t that the same as making others feel how we feel? It’s the reverse actually. Instead of trying to make you feel how I feel, I want to bring out a particular feeling in YOU. This is all very confusing, you say.

If I am trying to get you to feel a certain way at a particular spot in my story, I automatically go to every aspect of the story to get you there. I use the setting, the weather, the body language of my characters, and dialogue. The words I choose to describe all of this call out an emotion in you.

If I want you to feel joy, I’m going to find a detail of joy in the weather that I can bring forward. I’m going to have my character notice bright and beautiful things in the setting and not the cockroach lurking in the corner. The words I use to describe the actions in the scene are going to be bouncy and colorful.

By doing this, I don’t have to tell you that my character is happy or joyful. You already know because it is in everything that is going on around the character. Even if the setting is ugly and dark, if your character notices the one beautiful element it tells the reader how your character is feeling and that your character is more of the optimistic type than pessimistic.

Get your thesaurus and dictionary out and have them ready while you are editing your first draft. If they are easily accessible, you are more likely to use them. As you build your story, chose words that do more than define and describe, choose words that characterize and color.

 

Why Write?

I am Writing

Ever writer has a different reason for writing, and each work in progress (WIP) has its own unique spin on the ultimate reason for writing. If you don’t know why you write, you will lose your motivation and your WIP will languish in a closet and never be finished. One reason is not better than another, what matters is that it’s big enough. It must be unwavering in its determination and passion.

There are a million reasons to write. It’s fun and interesting, and you’re always learning. You get to be in control of what happens and write the story you have always wanted to read. It’s an provides a legitimate reason to travel to exotic places. It pays the bills. It brings notoriety and possibly fame. You want to entertain others or provide them with experiences they may never be able to enjoy otherwise. It may be a combination of all of a few of these or something entirely different.

Each individual WIP takes your ultimate driving motivation to write and slices it like a piece of pie. The more you write the close you get to having served the whole pie.

Whatever it is, staying focused on the one piece while you are creating your WIP is essential to writing tight prose through the first draft and killing your darlings during editing. It acts as your guide, when your characters want to go off on a tangent or when you think that providing a bunch of backstory is “absolutely necessary” despite not being able to work it in and maintain forward momentum in the plotline.

I write ultimately for hope, to never give up no matter how tough things get. It’s the theme of my life you could say because it bleeds out, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life: my day job, parenting, hobbies, and friendships. That’s how I know it’s the correct theme and motivation for my writing. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s big enough.

Each of my novels has an overall theme of hope and then I slice that into a specific challenge for the protagonist to address such as trust, which creates their character arc along with minor characters arcs or personalities to flesh out the slice and force the protagonist to change either negatively or positively. The antagonist can have the opposing arc to the protagonist or just be the central force pushing against the protagonist. The plot drives it all forward creating internal and external conflict.

To find your why, look over your life and see if there is an overriding theme that drives you in your other roles it may be just the thing your WIP needs to get to the last page.

The perfect couple

perfect couple

Running and Writing sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g,

First comes love, then comes marriage,

Then comes baby in the baby carriage.

I may be a little biased, but running and writing are the perfect couple. They rarely fight or argue. The weakness of one is the strength of the other.

Writing requires a lot of butt in chair time, fingers whirling over keys, and brain checking off plot points and character arcs. Butt in chair, adds up to a lot of butt. That’s where running comes in, to work off the butt. Running does a lot more for writing than just working off all the crap you shove in your face while you agonize over what’s happening in your character’s lives.

Running increases creativity and problem solving through clearing stress and flooding your brain with oxygen. Writers block? Lace up and head out the door for five miles. Let go of the writing and let your mind wander. You could see something that will get your muse back to work or something may just pop into your head. Running also helps with sleeping, as writers sleep is the time when we do our best work.

Running can take you physically and emotionally to places you have never experienced. It teaches you to dig deep, stick to a schedule, and build slowly, which are important lessons for writers who sometimes think they can only write when they feel like it. As a runner, there are days when you would rather stay in bed than go out in the cold and run 800-meter repeats (which suck if you’ve never had the experience).

Writers have the tendency to hole up and not socialize much and running with a group or training for a race can get you out the door and around people who don’t inhabit your head. Runners come from diverse backgrounds and their stories of running adventures may fuel your next novel.

All right, so how does writing help running? Runners by their nature like to push themselves to their limits. This is a good thing, when that’s what is on the training schedule, but rest is equally important. Sitting in front of a computer or pad of paper is excellent rest.

 

Cover Creations

digital media

Wow! I have a new level respect for cover designers. Seriously, I have been trying to learn to use Adobe Photoshop to create covers for my books and it is not as easy as I thought it would be to pick up. I understand the ideas behind it, but trying to remember where everything is, what it does, and learn new tricks is hard.

I have to say I have developed a new perspective on pictures and seeing the world in general. I see it in layers! To create a cover, or manipulate a picture you layer pictures on top of one another. When I went for my run this morning, the scenery around me went through my mind as possibly backgrounds, foregrounds and in pieces with other central objects as the focus.

I’m excited to be learning Photoshop, but it is a time suck right now. Eventually, I will be faster and be able to modify pictures and create covers more quickly (I hope). I have searched the local high schools for a community education class on Photoshop, but all they have is digital photography, which would probably help, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Jazz, my 17 year old, took Digital photograph last year. When he saw me struggling with Photoshop, he clicked a bunch of things and made it do, in a few minutes, what I had been trying to get it to do for an hour. He is sweet and willing to help me, but he has his life too and can’t spend hours teaching his lame mom how to use a computer program.

I’ll continue my search for a class because I learn well in that type of environment especially if I doing it while they are. Until then, I will watch Youtube videos on Photoshop on my phone and mess with it on my computer at the same time.

I’ve gone through a few of the Youtuber’s who have created Photoshop video’s for beginners and here are the ones I recommend for anyone who knows absolutely nothing about Photoshop (like me). Learning is enhanced if you can watch and do it at the same time.

This is Kingtuts Pro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZlXagXwcn4&app=desktop

This is Andrei Oprinca https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL236FDF187D1CEB85

There is Baka Arts for more advanced things. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKIPQOlTASJrIWQ9H-i5mA

To be a successful independent author, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn new things, and face truths about yourself that you wish you could hide.

 

Connection is Essential

digital media

We all seek a connection with others. Without it we stagnate and go through life performing the same actions without meaning. Connection is what makes everything we do worth doing. The digital age is here and it has changed the way people connect to one another.

In some ways, this has been positive, and in some ways, this change has been negative. We start relationships, friendships and intimate relationships, through the internet more often than we do by face-to-face contact. My 13-year-old son has more on line friends than he does friends at school.

The negative side of this, is that he lacks some of the basic skills of interacting with people in person. You can tell he is uncomfortable in a group of people. He has a hard time talking on the telephone because he is use to bite size pieces of information through texting. Despite my efforts to get him to interact with others more frequently, the problem persists because he is resistant to stepping outside of his comfort zone.

The positive side of this digital communication is that we can reach just about anyone around the world. Anyone can find and build connections with their tribe of people because they are just a click away. If you live in a small town and no one there quiet understands you, you can still find others who do. Digital communication makes it easier for people to be authentic because the fear of rejection is buffered by your computer screen.

Nothing can replace real face-to-face interaction and connection with others. The more you can be out there connecting with people on an individual level the easier it is to market and sell your books. But you also have to be able to engage with others on a more personal level using digital media as well because that is where your audience is.

If you create an individual connection with your readers, promotion and marketing become easier. You don’t have to be as aggressive. Your readers want to know more about you because of the connection. They care about what you have to say because you care about them.

 

do you want your readers to change?

stages of change 2

As writers, we want our books to influence others or at least resonate on a deep level. Over this last week, I’ve ran into the above question twice. Both times, it has really caused me to pause and think about it. Initially, I thought I don’t want my readers to change, but within a second I knew that was not true. I do what readers to change. I want them to change their perspective on the world. The perspective and the particular aspect of the world depend upon the book’s theme.

People change their behavior and thoughts when their core beliefs shift. Influencing someone’s core beliefs is hard work. In order for a story to change a person, they must become emotionally connected to the characters in the book. They must feel the pain, fear, and joy along with your characters. They must go through the cycle of change vicariously.

Changing our beliefs is painful and no one really wants to do it, our characters are the same. The first stage of change is precontemplation. At this point, the character/person doesn’t realize there is a problem or isn’t interested in changing it. Contemplation is the stage where the character sees there is a problem and is thinking about changing it. Finally, the character will take action to change, third stage(midpoint of your novel), and seek out solutions to the problem. This often leads to a relapse (usually at the third plot point) where the character falls back into old ways of thinking or acting before getting back on the horse and facing the problem full on in your climax.

Asking yourself how do I want my reader to change while you are writing can help you map your character’s arc, focus on the goal of each scene, and decide which conflict will ramp up the tension in the most effective and influential way.

 

Failure is an event not a personality trait

failure1

We have to be willing to risk failure to truly live and give back to the world. If there was no risk of failure involved, then there was no challenge to begin with.

Everything I do, I do with all the fervor and passion I can muster. I give it all that I have, yes sometimes that means it comes out all wrong especially when I am first learning to do something. In fact, the worse it comes out, the better because then I’m able to see how much I improve along the way. Of course, I don’t think this at the time. Usually I tell myself how I will never learn it, there is too much to know, I don’t have time to learn it all. Eventually, I stop freaking out and apply myself.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly” G.K. Chesterton.

What does this mean? Why would we want to do something badly? we don’t really want to do things badly that’s not what Chesterton was trying to convey. It’s more like what I was saying above. If we do something badly, but we have put in our best effort, we are going to learn and improve. Failure is an excellent teacher.

When we fail at something, we beat ourselves up for hours and sometimes days. We make it into some huge self-defining moment and not in a good way.

Failure should never be used in reference to a person or a piece of art in any of its many forms. A failure is an event in a specific moment in time. What may be seen as a failure now could be a huge success in two weeks.

If we write a novel and it never sells to anyone but our parents, we just have to keep writing. We have to work hard to get better and produce better stories. Stories that touch the heart of readers. Not everyone is going to like what we produce, and that’s fine because we don’t write for everyone. We write for those who share our passion.

If you write trying to please everyone, you will fail because you are not going to say anything worth saying. You will shy away from anything that may offend the left side of society or the right. Writing isn’t about walking down the middle. It’s about jumping over the edge to reach the rest of the outcasts, your tribe.

cliff jumping

 

 

Book Cover Design

Why do people pick up the books they do? Have you been into a bookstore recently and looked at the shelves and shelves of new books? Or searched on Amazon for your next rainy day adventure?

There are so many options out there for readers, which is fantastic and exactly how it should be, but as an writer it is daunting. Because I don’t want you to pick up any old book, I want you to pick up and buy my book. The one I’ve poured my heart and soul into for at least a year.

I want your next favorite and most memorable character to be one of mine, but that won’t happen if you don’t buy my book, so how do I get you to pick up my book and decide it is the one for you.

When I walk the isles of a bookstore or peruse the new titles tables, I pay attention to what makes me pick up a book. Is it the title, the author’s name, the cover design, or the size? All of these influence whether or not that book ends up in my hand. The cover design catches my eye first, the title comes second, the size of the book is a small factor (An 800 page book is a major commitment for a single parent who works full time). I notice the author’s name, but I’m much to forward thinking to worry about gender of the writer regardless of genre. If I have to choose between two books, the author can be the deciding factor if I have read and loved one of them before.

So cover design, that’s the big one. It’s the one that stops the reader in their tracks. A good cover grips you, pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. Even if the reader sets the book down, the image has buried its hooks in their mind stalking them up and down every other isle.

The genre of the book influences the cover design more than any other outside force. You want the cover to stand out from the ones on the shelves, but not so far out that it calls the genre into question. I’m going to use fantasy covers as an example because that’s what I read mostly. Fantasy covers depict the protagonist in either an epic battle or a solitary pose exuding power and authority with a little (or a lot) of sexual appeal thrown in.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is a good example of this. His covers are simple with one object that fits within the fantasy genre.

game of thrones

Most fantasy books are more like the older covers of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series

sword of shannara 1

But Terry Brooks has caught on and remade his covers to be different from the run of the mill fantasy cover art.

sword of shnnara 2

The age group of your readers also has a huge impact on your cover design. You cannot have a scantily clad woman on the front of a middle grade novel. There is a reason there is a children’s section in the bookstore.

When designing your book cover with an artist or on your own keep your genre and readers in mind, but also be true to your story and characters.

 

Interior Book Design

book design

Have you ever really looked at a book? I don’t mean just the cover of it, but the interior of it too. As a reader, much of the design of a book goes unnoticed, which is what you want as a book designer. You want the reader to focus on the story and not on the format and design of the book.

As I’ve delved into the indie author world, I’ve discovered that interior book design is a HUGE deal for the reason I mentioned above. You don’t want your reader to notice it on a conscious level. So what goes into the interior design of a book?

Font choice is only the beginning. Most people go with Times Roman, which is not a bad choice it is easy to read. Whatever you choose you have to stare at it for a long time, is it easy on the eyes for hours? Because I’d like readers to sit with my book for as long as possible and set it down for reasons other than the font giving them a head ache.

Other things you have to consider is where do blank pages go in a book? Which side of the book has the even page numbers? Is it okay to start a chapter on the left side or does it always have to be on the right? Should I use a header or footer with the book title or author name? how big should the margins be? How far down the page should the chapter begin? Are all of these things the same across genres?

The best way to learn about these things is to spend time in a bookstore and man handle some books. Look at different genres and multiple examples within each genre. There is also a lot of information online about book design and many companies are popping up to help indie authors with formatting.

http://www.bookdesignetemplates.com is one such site. You can purchase different templates to use depending on your personal preferences, genre, and licensing needs. Learning about all of this and how to do it myself has been an eye opening experience and a lot of fun, but it can be very overwhelming as well. If you find yourself getting too overwhelmed with all of it, it may be worth hiring someone to help you with it all.

The last piece you have consider when designing the interior of your book is how do these things change for an ebook verses a print book? Of course you can choose to only publish in one or the other, but as a reader there are books I’m all right with having on my kindle and there are others that I want in hard copy. As an indieauthor limiting yourself to one box is the worst thing you can do for any facet of the whole writing gig.

Thebookdesigner.com is an excellent resource for all things involved in designing books.