Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Do you ever just sit back and wonder if you're barking up the wrong tree in regards to this whole writing thing?

I've been wondering that a lot lately. Well actually I'm feeling trapped. I have so many good stories and characters in my head, but I worry if I have the skill to convey them in a marketable way...or even a readable way for that matter.

I've been thinking a lot about my ability to craft plots. I want to write historical fiction first and foremost, but I also adore a good impassioned love story. It's an essential element to all of my novels, but I fear now that I'm wandering into the no man's land of genre. I mused on this subject before and was feeling like I may have come up with a plan for tackling my genre bending ways. I was stamping Rebel Heart as a historical fiction with strong romantic elements. It's a genre according to the Romance Writers of America folks. Well I should say that it is a category in their annual unpublished writers contest (acutally it's fiction with strong romantic elements). But it can be recognized all day long but if an agent doesn't think they can market it, you can kiss your chances good bye. I'm starting to see the allure of e-publishing! Although how hypocritical would it be for me to pursue e-publishing when I've never read a self-published book? And how do you differentiate yourself from the hacks? I don't want people to think I have no talent. I'd rather remain unpublished if that's the case.

This of course begs the question: what if I don't have talent? I'm such a sparse writer. I feel sometimes like I lack the ability to draw readers in. My prose isn't elegant (for the most part) nor is it overly descriptive. There are places where I force myself to elaborate on scenery and in the process come aross as very stilted. Not cool.

Oh to be a kittay!
And then there are my POV issues. I love first person. It really allows me to connect with my main character. But I hate filtering everything through their eyes. That's where I took a right turn and wrote Rebel Heart in first for Julienne and third for Alex and one other main male character. I had several comments on this, some negative and some positive. I work best in this method and there are novelists out there who do this (Laurie R. King comes to mind). But I'm struggling even as I write this. I started rewriting my Revolutionary War novel this week. I adore the characters and I think I may have sorted out the plot issues. Now POV is rearing its ugly head. I first started rewriting in July with the plan of doing what I did in Rebel Heart: first for my main female character and third for the two main male characters. When I picked it up this week, I became determined to write wholly in third person. I edited out the first person references in the thirty odd pages I had already written. And boy does it look and read weird (at least to me). I feel like I'm shifting POVs in the same scenes too. Which is a no-no, right? So what do I do? I feel like I'm losing some of the nuances of the main female character by going to third but what's the point if I write something that can't get an agent?

Oh these are the days when I wish I had never learned that I might have a chance at publication! It's a lot easier when you write for your own amusement.


  1. I think you are a talented writer. I don't know about the POV thing, but I would imagine alot of writers struggle in the beginning, and even the best had their doubts.

    I know this may sound vain, but when ever I get good feedbacks/praise I copy it and paste it in a special file. That way, when I have these disheartening moments, I look over what people have said, and it gives me some hope.

  2. Ohhh, I don't know exactly where you are coming from, but I've certainly had the "what am I even *doing*?"s Yes.

    Have you thought about doing the first-transposed-with-third thing and then converting one of the chapters over to the other person? So you draft with the perspective you want but then change it over to be more palatable to agents? Maybe that's stupid.

    I think on the one hand there's all the stuff we do to "improve our chances," and then there's the refrain I always here - write an amazing story, and you'll succeed. It sounds like you're continuously working on doing just well done you!

  3. I think there are a lot of rules you can break, but the perspective thing is iron-clad. As a reader, swapping perspectives like that would completely jar me out of the story.

    I had a similar problem in an older story of mine where, most of the time, it was in third person, but in certain cases I would suddenly adjust the lens and get right inside the character's head, often jumping into multiple character's heads like this within the same scene.

    It was not good.

    Yeah, it really sucks when you have to re-write a story to *fix* the perspective, but I think that's just one of the things you can't mess with.

    I love that quote that goes something like, "A published author is one who didn't give up" (paraphrasing).

    You need to make a decision, tell the whole story through the heroine's eyes, or learn to get inside the head of your male characters as effectively as your female character. So what if you don't get it right the first time... keep trying! Write the entire thing, then look it over. Get your CP's to look it over.

    I used to hate writing in 1st person, and because I hated it, I challenged myself to do it, but then I'm incredibly stubborn. I had to be, 'cause I'm dyslexic. I've fought hard my entire life to communicate effectively though words. I am willing to continue fighting until I am good enough to get published.

    How hard are you willing to fight for your dream?

  4. Sarah, the "praise file" is a fantastic idea.

    And Caroline, I think the fact that you have all these doubts but you still have the compulsion to tell stories means that you are a writer. I totally agree that once you start thinking seriously about publication, or turning this hobby into something much more serious, that it gets very scary very quickly. But you're still here, and so am I. We're still trying, and that's what I think will make the difference in the end.

  5. Caroline--having read your work, I know you can make it. It might take time, it might take some hard choices about what direction you want to take--but you can do it. And it is hard--you can write what you want and know it isn't quite what will fit in the mold, reducing your chances at traditional can write with a mind toward what publishers look for, and still take the gamble that it won't pay off (and, perhaps, miss writing the story or the way that *you* wanted) can take the self-pub route, write what you want, find an audience, but know that you may never distinguish yourself as a writer in the way you originally planned. It's hard.

    But I know you can do it.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

    I started re-reading my favorite novel last night. It's a multiple 3rd person POV book. I don't know if it's a good model though, since it was the author's first book but was still published at over 400 pages. That definitely breaks the mold! Her style is much more lyrical than mine, so it's hard to get past that and discern how I can better convey my characters in third. Of course, now that I think of it, I think I have too little character introspection. After having been with them for 15 years, I know them inside and out. I think I'm forgetting to let the reader in on what I know.

    Leigh Anne - I was thinking about drafting two separate copies. Sadly (and rather stupidly) I switched over entirely to 3rd and didn't save the copy with the 1st person POV. ARGH! :-)

  7. I've struggled (and still do) with being able to do justice to my ideas. They seem so beautiful and fully formed in my head, and sometimes the words seem to get in the way.

    Try not to let third person distance the reader from the character. You can write in deep POV, just as you would in first, but you're using the character's name and narrating as well as writing their thoughts. I think it allows for more creative freedom, not less.

    If you need to change POV with a scene, just insert a scene break and start again in the new character's voice.

    And don't worry too much about all of this in the first draft. I have a hard enough time trying to get the story out, let alone worrying about style!