Tag Archives: point of view

Writing to a Deadline Part 9: “And the beta-reading verdict is?”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Note:  This post is mainly for those of you who have not yet been through the beta-process.  Just to prepare you for what it can be like.

Last week I sent out my story LAST WINTER RED to a small Beta Army.  And back the comments come…

Three fast “I just read it” responses came back in one day.  “Liked the story” on each of them.  At least that’s a step in the right direction.  Next step… they will go through and make suggestions.

Time to wait again

The professor got back to me noting “Great story” but lack of setting.  Yeah… I’m famous for that.  I only give what’s absolutely necessary.  I’ll think that over.  There was also a small element that she thought was lost in the middle.  Easy fix, but it will put me close to the word count.  She was also totally engaged and drawn in by my beginning. Yay!

Critical Beta Reader #1 comes back, and hates my beginning. She didn’t mention lack of setting at all.  (Don’t you love contradicting crits?)   She pointed out a few details that she thought were overdone.  Easy fixes.  When she finished, there was more red than black on the page, though. Ugh.

Getting nervous. Re-write of one section per Professor’s comment brings me up to 10,075 words.  Yikes! Editing per Critical Beta #1’s suggestions brings it back down to 9,975. Whew!

My long time beta partner says it just needs a little tweaking.  She likes the beginning, but not my starting point.  She’s probably right, and this might be what critical Beta #1 meant, too.  I think I can fix this now that I understand better…  Just move the starting point three minutes later of where it is now.  She also suggested inserting a little more turmoil over the conflict early on for the MC.  Hmmmm.  I can do that, my only concern is only having an extra 25 words before the 10,000 word maximum.

Romance Beta comes back and actually liked the kissy stuff????  Yea for me!  She pointed out things that the others didn’t even see.

Memoir writer also pointed out some minor things that others didn’t notice.  Easy fixes.

Two people thought my closing six words were absolutely brilliant.  They both mentioned it without me asking… but Critical Beta # 1 deleted them without comment.  Too funny.

So many suggestions fly at you so quickly… you need to decide what fits for what YOU want in the work… and at the same time, please the masses… not everyone.  It’s impossible to resonate with every reader.

Clock is ticking.

Three people made the same comment about a rock in the well during my climax.  Going for a complete re-write of that scene.

Ugh… no words to spare.

Tick tock, tick tock… no pressure.

Stupid things your Beta Readers Find: Letting Your Villain Off The Hook Too Easily.

This is one of those “type things out to clear my head” posts.

I’ve written before that if one person makes a comment, consider it.  If two people make the same comment, seriously consider it.  If several more people make the same comment, revise.

I’m wavering on this one, though.

When I request beta reads, I ask for people to express the emotion they feel in each chapter.  A few people have said that my villain gets off the hook too easily.

Now, are they expressing an emotional response, or do they think that’s an error on my part?  That is what I am trying to figure out.  Even after questioning them, I am still not quite sure.

For one thing, they all would have squawked at my first seven or so drafts, where he completely got away with it.   I’m at least happy with my decision for him to get caught.

I can’t have him die a horrible death though, because then he can’t come back with a vengeance to really screw with Magellan’s head in another book.

I guess the visceral reaction of people is that if someone kills almost a hundred people with no remorse, he should get no less than that in the end.  The problem is that my villain is just too much fun.  Everyone has said that he makes their skin crawl, but they love it.  He is a great character, and I want him to come out and play again.

I think the problem might lie in the fact that you see him get caught, and you see the initial “punishment”, but you don’t get to see the aftermath… but if I do go and show the reader that aftermath, it will get red-lined because that is not intrinsic to the main-plotline for a POV character to be there to see it.

I don’t really have to show you the aftermath… I can show you the emotional response of the aftermath from another character’s POV.  I can intertwine that into the main plotline as the characters move into the final scene.

That’s it!  I got it!  I knew talking to you guys would help. You are all so smart!

Gotta go!  The idea is bursting out of my head, and I need to write it down before it disappears!

Writing to a Deadline Part 5: “I Love this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Wow… one thing that the outline “in my head” wanted me to write just wouldn’t work.  Yikes, would I have wasted a lot of time.  The whole scene would have been lost in editing.

And I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t outline first.

Yes, I’m a pantser, and I cringe every time I read over this outline.  But it is helping me to figure out how one scene will flow into the next.  I stare at the outline every day and make changes to the story before I’ve even written it.  It’s a very strange place for me.

Why aren’t you writing yet?  Deadline, Jen, remember?  What are you doing?

I do most of my writing in the car driving back and forth to work.  Okay, stop gasping… I do it in my head.  I have a pretty good idea of where key scenes in my outline are going.  My question now is whether or not I will be able to write this story in the “10,000 words or under” parameter.  Being concise was never my forte.

I am now four weeks in.  Yes, everyone else is a month ahead of me.  Some of them may have even submitted.  The publisher may have already picked a few that they may include in the anthology.

Maybe.  I have a little cheat card up my sleeve, though.  I am going away to a writers retreat over a weekend.  Eight writers closing themselves in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no internet, and no ambition other than word count.

My challenge to myself is to be completely prepared going in.

Ready, set— go.  Write, Edit, Polish, Complete.

When I get home, send it out to Beta readers.

Re-polish.

One last read from whomever I can convince to put up with me

Submit.

Cutting it close?  Well, honestly, yes.

Today I actually start writing to my outline.  New ground for me.  Let’s see how this pantser does.

Stick to the outline, Jen.  Stick to the outline.

Resist the urge to explode something.  You can do this.

Lesson Twenty Seven from a Manuscrupt Red-Line: Fluidity in Action-The Art of a Good Fight Scene

An example of a poorly written action scene:

Jason punched Eric in the face.  Eric fell to the floor.  Eric groaned and rolled over.  Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  Eric popped up, and Eric swung at Jason, but missed.  Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  Eric crumpled to the floor.

(Yes, I totally made this paragraph up.)

The publisher’s comment on a similar (but not as poorly written) sceneThis is a very stilted fight scene. It reads action, next action, next action, next action without the fluidity that’s needed for a fight scene.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I have to admit, when I read the action passages in the Gold Mine Manuscript, I had the same comment.  The author was satisfied with the speed of the scenes though, and only made moderate changes.  Not being an expert, I backed off and figured it was just a “style choice”.  Guess not.

This fits in very well with my recent post on “Art of the Conflict”.  This scene is not about dialog, but this is definitely a conflict.  This one needs something inserted to break up the action, rather than action inserted to break up the dialog.

Now, I am not going to put a lot of time into this, since the scene is totally fake.  But let me add a little “art” to make it “flow”.  Fluidity is what they asked for.  Okay, here it goes…

Jason grunted as his fist swung toward Eric’s face.  Eric tried to dodge, but instead felt the sting of the older boy’s ring cutting into his jaw.  He fell to the floor with a muffled thump, and groaned as he rolled over.

Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  “I told you to stay down.”

Eric pushed up onto his knees.  “Why, so you can just pummel me?”  He popped up and swung at Jason, but missed.

Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  There was no time for Eric to react.  His head creaked back, and his jaw rattled as he crumpled to the floor.

Better, huh?  Not perfect by a long shot, but not bad for three minute flash fiction.  Can you feel the difference?  The staccato choppy “This happened-That happened” feel is gone, and the scene “flows”.

Of course, this is a first draft.  In editing, I would have to remove the “ing” word and the telly “felt”.  I would also insert a little emotion when Eric realized he missed, but this is definitely better by far than the first.  The art draws you into the scene.  You experience it, rather than just watching it.

The art of the conflict… If you don’t have it, go get it.

If you want to see a great published example, pick up a copy of  THRONE by Phillip Tucker and open up anywhere in the last hundred pages or so.

I hope this helps to make it more clear!

Lesson Twenty-Four from a Manuscript Red Line: Remembering where your characters are

Do you pay attention to where your characters are in a scene?  Are you sure?  I thought I was sure too.  Guess what?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

The publisher who red-lined the Gold Mine Manuscript pointed out a scene where the two main characters were running side by side away from some danger.  All of the sudden, one of them shouted from behind the other one.  The comment from the publisher was:  “They were together, but you didn’t say he jumped ahead. How then did she get behind?”

I read over this the first time I looked at the red-line, because it seemed like another “duh” comment.  However,  just a few weeks ago one of my betas pointed out that both my characters were standing right next to each other, and then all of the sudden Jerric walked up to Magellan from the other side of the room.  Why would he walk up if he was already at his side?

Similarly, I recently re-wrote a scene where someone was seated the entire time.  In the end, he falls off the chair.  I changed it so he stands up early in the scene, but after leaving it for a month, and then looking at the scene again, I noticed that my “standing” character still fell off the chair.  Was he standing on the chair?  Of course not!

The point of all this is to pay attention to where your character is, and make sure it is consistent throughout the scene.  If not, show us the movement.  If you don’t, you can unintentionally make your scene comical.

Lesson Twenty from a Manuscript Red Line: Don’t make things so easy

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

In the Gold Mine Manuscript, there is a point where the MC is thrust into the magical world.  He has been there for a few days, and suddenly he is faced with an animal that can speak to him through their minds.

In concept, this is fine.  However, the publisher red-lined that the MC was “too accepting” of this.  The MC just jumped in and said “okay, no problem” – well, he didn’t say it that way, but he jumped right on board.

The publisher said that it would be okay for the characters who were born into this world to be fine with this, but the MC should not accept so easily.  A few paragraphs later, the MC also tells his friend  that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that he’s harmless… they red-lined that too.

Think of it this way… if you ran into a guy in the street, and just started talking to him for a few minutes, would you be willing to risk your life, and your best friend’s life in trusting this person, or would you be a little wary?  Now make this person a really large mythical animal.  Getting nervous yet?

Be careful that you don’t put your own knowledge into your character’s heads before that knowledge is learned.  You as the author know there is nothing to fear, but to make it realistic, your character’s “trust” needs to be earned to a degree.  Let relationships develop so they seem more natural and believable.  Don’t take the easy way out to move your story ahead more quickly.

Think over your novel.  Have you done anything like this?

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Seventeen from a Manuscript Red Line: Who are we talking to?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

We’ve been on Point of View for a little while now.  No need to break a trend.  This particular publisher harped on it a lot, so here I am passing their wisdom on to you.  The next POV comment they made was to make sure it is immediately obvious when you start a chapter whose POV you are in.

I was a little surprised by this.  One of the things that I admired in the Gold Mine Manuscript, was the beautiful imagery.  The author is so much better at building the “view” of the scene for a reader than I am.  The problem is, that she did it in the beginning of the chapter.  As a reader, you would have to get through the entire description of the room before you found out who was in it.

Honestly, I never even considered this a problem.  I liked it so much, that I even tried a few on my own.  It sounded weird in my novel, though.  My natural instinct was to write “Harris stepped into the room.  Pink cascades of fabric surrounded him.”  Rather than:  “Pink cascades of fabric swirled along the walls, dipping and spinning before the etched windows…etc , etc.

Both of these two examples tell you there was pink fabric hanging from the walls.  One just tells you that Harris was in the room.  This publisher prefers the first example.

This is really not a tough fix.  If you have a flowery, beautiful beginning (Good for you, I stink at this)  Anyway… keep your imagery, but introduce the POV character who is seeing the scene, so we know whose “head” we are in.

Happy editing!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

At one point in the red-lining of the manuscript, the publisher stopped, and wrote a full page explaining the importance of careful Point of View switching.   I’m glad you’re on a computer… It means you’re probably already sitting down.  A lot of you might not like this much.  I know I didn’t.

The publisher counted nine different POVs in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  They said the problem with this is the reader can’t get deep into one character.  They realized the author was going to different POVs to give background, but they said that they could not relate to these new characters, because they hadn’t learned enough about them to understand their motives.  It makes it very difficult to feel anything for any specific character.

They cautioned against switching to POVs that are not intrinsic to the story just to give background, conflict, or added tension.

The publisher recommended **Gack** editing it to three points of view, one of them being the female character, who had not been a strong POV character in the original.

THAT’S REMOVING 6 POINTS OF VIEW!

Now, I must say that I’ve read a partial revise of the gold mine manuscript.  Do not be daunted.  I’ve seen that this can be done.  If a scene in an “unnecessary  POV” has important information in it, you just need to get creative and find a  way for the POV characters to be there, or overhear what happened.  It’s possible.  You just need to broaden the scope of your thinking.

In my next post, I will show you the tool I used to break down my POV characters… and yes, I needed a tool.  I was surprised with how many POV’s I had!

Jennifer Eaton

Row 80 Check in 11-13-2011

Here’s my update:

1.   Blog Posts:   Two regular blog posts completed (a Manuscript Red-line post, and a writer’s advice post from the Q&A session)

2.    Reverse-Nano goal:  My novel started at 119,479 words.  Now I am down to 114,713

3.    Inserted the new “Stuck in a Closet” beginning (Increased the word count Ugh.)

4.  Completely re-wrote my ending (again) It’s much more intense now, but yikes do I need someone to read it to make sure I’m not nuts.

5.  Finished a complete edit/read of the entire novel.  Eliminated about 11 unnecessary Points of View.

1.   Jury’s still out on cutting that scene with the King and Magellan.

2.  I didn’t cut the Matton meets the mercenary scenes.  This is about 2,500 words of the 4,500 I wanted to cut this week.  I’m going too, though… as much as I don’t want to.

1.  Do two blog posts on cutting Points of View (Gold Mine Manuscript tips)

2.  Re-write one of the dream sequences to richen the character of Darkness slightly

3.  Re-write the scene where Matt gets his memory back.  This is one of those huge-decision-things.  I will probably be reverting back to my original draft.  The current idea seems to be confusing, and too information-intense.  This will probably cut quite a few words, too.

3.  At least start the beta read I’ve been sitting on.  (I promise I will start it this week, J)

Happy ROWing!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Fourteen from a Manuscript Red Line: Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also look under “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Lesson Thirteen talked about making sure we only see what the Point of View character can see.  We also have to worry about accidentally getting into the heads of other characters as we describe what the POV character is seeing.

It seems to happen most for me when I describe what another character in the scene is doing.

“Mike studied the sign on the wall.”

Is Mike the POV character? No?  Then how does the POV character know that he is studying it? He may just be looking in that direction but thinking of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Right?

Hold up your right hand and say:  forever more I will call this…

The publisher red-lined something very similar to this, and said that you need to show what the characters are doing by showing what the POV character sees them doing.  You cannot get into their heads, or assume what they are doing.

You might be able to fix something like this with “Mike stood in front of the sign on the wall, and scratched his head.”  This would work especially well if there was a little dialog afterwards that made it obvious he looked at it.  REMEMBER NOT TO SAY HE LOOKS AT IT.  (See my earlier post on “Write without Looking”)

Jennifer Eaton