POV Choices

I’m continuing to plug away at my detailed outline, but today I ran into a bit of a quandary. I just couldn’t think of a way to write a particular scene using the main character’s POV. It would be reading about some thrilling action as reported by someone else. For the scene to really work, it needed to be seen directly from another character’s viewpoint. 

I had already been wrestling with the decision to keep a singular POV throughout the novel, or find a way to use multiple POVs, with the main sticking point being that a majority of the scenes will be from the main character’s viewpoint. It’s predominantly his story, after all. 

Now that I know I pretty much have to use multiple points of view, I guess I’ll need to assign PIV to the scenes, group them into chapters where feasible, and try to keep them balanced, not giving any character too few or too many scenes (other than the main character who will get much more scenes than anyone else). Oh, and structure the story so that I establish that there will be multiple POVs early.

Why yes, I do sometimes approach creative writing from an engineering perspective…

The April (and before) Update

After the cruise in February, my interest in the project faltered. I was having trouble with some key plot points. Since it is a murder mystery, and some of those plot points involved details of how the crime was committed and how those details lead to my sleuth figuring out “who dunnit,” it was growing more and more difficult to continue writing on the project. I realize now that I need to come back to it and put together a more detailed outline. 

In mid-April I forced myself back to the keyboard. I was looking through the projects I had started but had not completed, and ran across on that I had been trying out the infamous Snowflake method on. I decided to try the next step in the method, a high level outline of the novel, five to six paragraphs at most. Funny thing happened though. Instead of a high level outline I found myself writing a rather detailed one, roughly a 250 word paragraph per scene. While doing so, there were a few days where I surpassed 1000 words written in half an hour. Wow! I guess those were parts that had been stewing in the back of my mind for a while. I’ve hit the “mushy middle” so the pace has decreased somewhat, but I’m still making forward progress and liking the result.

Now it’s May, traditionally my busiest month of the year at my workplace. I’m hoping it won’t affect my writing, but it has in years past. It would be nice, though, to see this outline to completion. No commitment at this point to immediately turn around and start writing the actual manuscript though. I don’t react well to locking myself in to a particular course of action too far in advance.ūüôā

Disciple over Inspiration

The words were hard this morning. I’m working on a detailed outline of my current “work in progress”, and I’m in the “mushy middle” part of the story, the part that is glossed over when come by up with the big idea for the story. It’s the “step two” of the joke with the punchline, “Step three: profit!” And because the words were hard I was more susceptible to distraction than I’d like to be. Watching the pigeons building a nest in the tree right outside the window. Fussing with iTunes trying to get it to sync my iCloud account so it would play music. Fine tuning my “movie scores” channel on Pandora. Analyzing the less-than-happy dream that I recalled when I woke this morning. I’m amazed that I managed to make my word count goal at all, and more so that I barely went over the thirty minutes I have planned for my daily writing.

I read somewhere recently that one should not rely on motivation since motivation is fleeting and not under willful control. One should rely on discipline instead since that is something that one can control. I agree and would include inspiration in the list of things that cannot be relied upon. If I were to rely on inspiration and motivation to bring me to my writing desk, my word count output would be measured in the low four digits per year. It’s discipline that will get me to where I want to be.

February Report

Well, I did not do as well in February as I did in January. You can probably guess with a high degree of accuracy the day I left for my eight day vacation, and you can guess it took me a while after the vacation to get my butt back in the chair, but I did eventually return, so yay me!

But the writing isn’t going so well right now. I believe it’s because I don’t have a good handle on the timeline of the novel yet. I’m finding my scenes are coming out lazy and full of directionless dialogue. You know how two friends who have known each other a good long while can chat away for hours without really saying much? That would be my characters. I need to spend some time putting together the timeline for the novel so I know where each scene belongs and know each scene’s purpose. I hope this weekend will afford me that time (if it’s not all eaten up with my prep for FOGcon).

Stumble and Fumble 

My first “gold star” writing day since the cruise. I had a couple silver star days earlier in the week. Part of it comes from not having certainty around the overall plot in the novel, but most of my hesitation around getting back to writing was depression-related. It’s a lot harder to get butt out of bed and right into the chair when I’d rather sleep through the entire day. 

 What got me back to the writing desk? A candle of all things. Part of my “writing ritual” is to light a candle when I sit down to write. (Usually immediately after turning on my light therapy device.) It wasn’t exactly a new candle, but also not really and old one. As I was packing away the holiday decorations I ran across a storage crate full of candles from the previous house. Neither the fact that we had a plastic crate full of candles nor that it hadn’t been opened since we moved eight years ago is at all unusual for me. In this crate was a beautifully decorated glass candle holder I had purchased in New Hope, PA, many years ago. There was also a baggy with the remains of a raspberry scented candle that had burned through the bottom leaving quite a bit of rosy pink wax behind. I like to recycle candles when I can, so I popped a new wick into the holder, melted the wax on a candle warmer, and poured it into the holder. After it had cooled, voil√†, a new old candle. The thought of being able to enjoy that Summery scent and see that candle holder gleaming with light was enough to bring me back to that desk. And as long as I was there, I figured I could type a few words into the manuscript… 

January 2016

 January was a pretty good month for writing. 18 gold star day (days with at least 500 words written on the current project) and 3 silver star ones (days with anything accomplished on the project). By the end of the month, I was 10K words into my targeted 80K. Not bad!

February is shorter, and I am on vacation for a week of it, so we shall see how the numbers are for this month. I hope to bring my writing machine with me on the trip, and I intend to spend some time each day working on the project. Check back in a month to see if I followed through on my intention…

And again…

It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up. - Vince Lombardi

This is me, getting back up. 9000 words on a new project….

Getting back into the saddle….

I’ve been managing to sit down at my writing desk for several days over the last couple of weeks. The first couple of days, I merely reviewed what I had done so far on my current WiP (Work in Progress). The next few days were spent brainstorming scenes in the novel. I’m targeting 40 scenes, half of which should deal with the main plot, the rest on supporting plots. (I’m very much a Story Engineer.) Unfortunately, I’m stalling out on details of the main plot, so I decided to take the plunge and start simply writing in one of the scenes I know has to be there. I haven’t written much in a while so my 523 words took me a while longer than usual, but boy did it feel good.

(And yes, I did get some lightbox therapy in at the same time.)

Now if only I could figure out the events of my primary plot, I’ll be a happy guy. Well, “happy” in terms of where my writing is going; no promises in any other aspect of my life. Since the genre I’m writing in requires a well-laid out and integrated plot, I don’t want to try and write by the “seat of my pants”. Besides, I like to have a rough map of where I’m going before I commit words on paper, even if half-way through the journey I stop and draw an entirely new map.

Beginnings: Person-ality

One of the more crucial decisions that needs to be made when starting out working on a novel is to choose what point of view you’re going to use for the work. There are many choices, each of them have strengths and weaknesses.

First Person always seems easiest and most natural for me. However, it does limit me in many ways. The reader can only experience other characters’ emotions and thoughts from the protagonist’s point of view, which isn’t always accurate, and it can be much harder to surprise the reader. If the protagonist does something “off screen,” the reader might rightfully feel cheated. This is especially true in genres in which readers expect to be able to either puzzle out the ending before it arrives, or enjoy looking back and seeing how the ending was inevitable from the first scene.

I never write in Second Person. It’s too weird for anything other than “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, and maybe porn.

In Third Person, there are technically several choices, but practically these days, there is only one, namely “Third Person Limited“. Third Person can lack the immediacy of First Person, but in my experience it’s less prone to telling instead of showing. It also allows you the ability to dive into the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters. However, to do it right, you need to limit it to a small number of characters (unless it’s one of those million-page epic fantasies), and they each need similar amounts of “screen time” to make it feel balanced. If your antagonist is one of your viewpoints, it can be hard to introduce him or her early and not give away too much of the plot.

(There is, of course, , but that’s really fallen out of favor lately. Books written in that point of view always seem quaint and old to me, like they were written in the time of Charles Dickens or F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s worse when the author takes on a very personal narrative voice, addressing the audience as “Dear reader” and so forth.)

It’s important to give a lot of thought to this choice as you set out with novel planning. If you choose poorly, you could find yourself having to rewrite significant portions of the novel mid-stream. It’s a lot of work, and I’d rather avoid it if I can.

So, day one of a new work, and as I’m writing up my plot point cards, I’m thinking of how I’m going to tell the story. What to choose, what to choose….

Works in Progress

I’m finding these days that when I’m free-thinking about my writing, my mind rotates between four current projects. It can be difficult to keep my undisciplined mind focused on one of those projects for more than a couple of weeks. Since I’m not making major progress with any of them, I’m okay at the moment working for a week on one of them then jumping to another and making a week’s worth of progress there. Eventually, I hope one of the grabs me and makes me focus on it. If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to need to find the discipline to focus without that particular inspiration. I’m not in a hurry, though, because each time I jump from one to the other, I’m finding new depth, new details that make the story more alive and vibrant. I’m an unabashed planner, not a pantser, but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and plan out the level of detail necessary to make the work three-dimensional. By having several balls in the air as I juggle the stories, I feel I’m allowing the muse that typically drives pantsers to do it’s magic.

For posterity’s sake, here is a brief run down of my current WIPs:

  • “ACoS” – A fantasy story in the mold of many gritty yet epic fantasies, this one is the furthest along. I actually have a full draft completed, but as I was writing it, I was aware that there are major problems with the plot, and not enough going on in the background to satisfy me. This one is intentionally set aside for a while to let my subconscious percolate on it for a while.
  • “P!” – Unabashed space opera, and one that’s been fluttering around in the back of my head for a while. I have the overall arc of the story understood, but each time I go back to it, I find more nuances and details that I want to capture. The characters are evolving and deepening with each pass over the skeleton of the work, and if I focus on anything soon, this will probably be the one I work on.
  • “TAaM” – Originally intended to be the script for a web comic, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make it work in that format. (It probably could work, I just don’t have the skill to make it work.) However, it’s coming along well as a novel. It’s a contemporary work with a lot of gay overtones. It could work well as a YA novel, but I’m not going to pigeonhole it before it has had a chance to fully germinate.
  • “FP” – My foray into murder mysteries, but with a burly gay male protagonist. This was today’s focus, as I realized some details about the victim and how he ties in with other characters in the work. Mysteries need a certain level of convolution, and should be filled with a certain level of misdirection. This is challenging for me, since I tend to be a straightforward writer. However, it’s a good challenge. If I can write a good mystery with fully believable characters, many of which could be the killer, it will help deepen my writing in my other works.

So, four different works, in several different genres.

I’m kinda crazy, aren’t I?

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