Head-hopping

Even though my posts for the last five years are archived on my website, www.brendapoulosauthor.org, I know that it isn’t convenient for many readers to search around for information. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to be re-posting some of those which generated the most questions/comments from readers.

I hope they are useful and encouraging!

Here is the first:

 

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I love to get freebies, don’t you?

Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded several free fiction books.

Some were absolute jewels. Others … well …

That’s the way it goes in the world of “free.”

One of the books contained a LOT of head-hopping. Although the story and characters were enjoyable (that’s why I kept reading) the intermingled flow of dialogue, description, and emotion from various characters within the same paragraph made the story difficult to follow.

A reader shouldn’t have to constantly wonder who is speaking and whose thoughts are being revealed. Avoiding head-hopping is essential for writers—and it is so easy to do: 

  1. In each scene, establish your point-of-view character. Although other characters can be in the scene, can show action, and speak dialogue, only the POV character can share their thoughts and perspective. 
  1. Each paragraph should have only one character. When you want to change characters, simply start a new paragraph.
  1. When you want to change POV characters, begin a new scene.

Within the same paragraph (even within the same scene) don’t allow yourself to hop back and forth from one character’s thoughts and perspective to another’s. 

If you confuse your reading audience in this way, even the most interesting characters and enjoyable dialogue may not be enough to keep them reading to THE END.

Drafting Can Be Rough

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Drafting is the next step in the writing process. Whether you use a computer or a steno pad, whether you write with a pencil or pen, call it a “sloppy copy” or use another form of reference, you cannot escape this step in the writing process.

Using what you’ve accomplished so far in the prewriting process, drafting is the actual writing, chapter by chapter, of your book.

With a few tweaks here and there, all writers vary this stage of writing to end up with what works for them. Whether it is a program, such as Scrivener, or your own version of something else you’ve seen out there, now’s the time to get the old creative juices going. You can use a combination of approaches. After five books, I am still changing mine. 

What I am going to share, now, is how I approach the drafting stage of writing. If it is helpful as a whole, or only in part, use what makes sense according to your writing style, your organizational methods, and so on.

I use my computer at home almost 100% of the time. I found, early on, that using Mac’s “Pages” wasn’t the universally accepted format. You’ll need WORD. You can purchase WORD for Mac from the internet or Apple store, if you, too, own a MAC.

After closing my office door to insure quiet, I consult what I accomplished in my prewriting. I used to use giant Post-it’s of about 18” by 30” or so to keep my timeline,  characters and their descriptions straight. I have recently found it just as effective to use a spiral notebook and list these important details chapter by chapter. Clutter on my walls tended to make me nervous, whereas a simple notebook can be closed and stored in the closet for the next writing day.

Next I write … and write … and write …

I may finish and entire chapter or not, depending on the amount of time I have allotted. But, here is where I differ from most writers. After taking a short break for lunch or even overnight, I re-read my chapter, doing a quick edit of anything that stands out to me. These may be typos, mistakes in point-of-view, changes in scene order, or even sometimes deleting entire sections. These pre-edits serve two purposes: 1) Reading through the chapter gets my head back into the story so that I can continue my writing and 2) Just like the Post-its that previously cluttered my walls, it is a way of reducing what isn’t needed and getting down to story basics. 

(Most writers will tell you to keep writing all the way to the end of the book before going back to tackle any kind of editing. That would be ideal, if I could do it, but I just cannot…sorry, my mind just won’t get going unless everything else is cleared up, first).

Although I might do a little revising in the drafting stage, I find that it is wise to wait to do anything major until I have finished the entire book. Too many things can happen in the course of writing that might seem wise to revise early on; however, lots of difficulties will work themselves out in the course of writing. Save yourself a lot to time and work by sticking to your outline closely. Let your story “simmer” for awhile.

Before closing, I want to mention that I give my book, chapter by chapter, to my critique group. I rely on their comments heavily when editing. If there is something that these other writers do not understand (or like), then I am certain that my readers will not, either.

Next week- revising.

As Promised

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Second half of critique group questions from last week’s post:

6)  CONFLICT:

* Are character motivations powerful enough to create sufficient conflict?

* Is a potential for conflict established that is strong enough to move the story forward?

* Are the motives understandable?

7)  DIALOGUE:

* Is the dialogue between characters natural, purposeful, interesting, engaging?

* Does the dialogue contain emotion in a way that narrative cannot?

* Are the character’s voices distinct? Does each one have a different way of expressing themselves? Are their voices appropriate for the setting, genre, and time period?

* Is the dialogue believable?

8)  NARRATIVE AND POINT OF VIEW:

* Is the narrative well-placed with the dialogue, not overwhelming the reader?

* Is background information presented at appropriate times and in the correct POV?

* Is POV clear and consistent?  Are changes smooth and logical?

*Should I use a different POV?

9)  PACING:

* Has the author dropped the reader into the action?

* Does the story flow smoothly, freely, and logically?

* Does every scene move the story forward?

10)  STORY:

* Are the story ad plot elements compatible with the genre?

* Can you picture each scene in your head?

* Is the purpose of each scene clear?

* Does each scene move the story forward?

* Does the story hold your interest?

* Does everything in the story build logically, plausibly, and believable toward the end/climax?

* Where do you feel the story is heading?

* Do inspirational elements grow organically out of character or plot?

Sharpening the Ax

When reading my friend Dee Kincade’s blog a few days ago, I decided to ask her if I could have her permission to reprint it on my site this week. She has hit the nail on the head with her ideas on the importance of time spent in preparation for writing. Thanks, Dee!

A quote from Abraham Lincoln “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” 

The first time I read this quote by Abraham Lincoln I thought about the mountains of Colorado where my husband spend many hours each summer getting wood for the winter.

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When we decided to use wood as our only source of heat, my husband talked to friends, researched the best chainsaws, and studied the different types of axes. Before he went out for the first time, he had to learn the art of where to cut the trees—uphill side or downhill. Do you notch the tree on the side of its lean, or does it matter.
I took the liberty to change President Lincoln’s famous quote to fit authors: “Give me six months to write and I will spend the first four learning how to do it.” Though it doesn’t quite fit, there are some basics that we all need to know before we sit down to write. What about the following? I didn’t know about ALL of them when I started writing.
Genres?
Age group?
Three acts?
Point of view?
Show vs. Telling?
Manuscript set-up
What is acceptable in the current market?
I’ve seen people who’ve decided to write for the first time sit down and do just that. Later, after spending several hundred hours and dollars they have their book line edited. Only to have the manuscript rejected because they hadn’t taken the time to learn before they went out to chop the keys of their keyboard. Now they had to do back and learn the skills.
After the first year, my husband would spend a weekend each summer filling the gas cans, cleaning out the stove and flue, and sweeping up the wood chips from the previous year.  Next, he’d oil the chain saw, and sharpen the chainsaw and ax. Then he was finally ready to go to the forest and cut down the dead trees. The preparation, took as much time as it did to chop the trees. However, it was time was well spent.
As writers, not only do we have to learn the craft, but we need to continue learning, stay up to date with changes in the market, and study new techniques.
How do you stay current with new trends and stay in learning mode?
 A note from Dee:  I write Christian fantasy books for Young Adults and the young at heart. If you’d like to
find out more go to www.deekincade.com   I hope to see you there!

Balancing Act

If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books somewhere in your house that keeps getting taller. It seems like every book you read is replaced by one or two more!

The fact is, writers like to read. Need to read.

I’m not just talking about pleasure reading, which is a “given”. Every writer I have ever met has told me that it was the love of reading that sparked within them the desire to write.

No, I’m talking about reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence.

Once I started writing, I quickly realized the necessity of erecting two stacks of books. One I dubbed “Pleasure”; the other, simply “About Writing”. I have a rule concerning these books: Read from both stacks, simultaneously, so that I fulfill my need for learning AND for enjoyment.

So, what’s next on my stacks? James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are on top of the “About Writing” stack. And for pleasure, next up is Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.

So, whether you keep an actual physical stack of books, like I do, or simply a list of “Must Reads”, my suggestion is that you try to balance your reading. After all, didn’t you hear this expression as a child? “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”

 

Please visit http://www.spiritual snippets.com and http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com to see what is going on there.