On Point of View

I, you, he, she.  The dilemma of which pronouns to use when writing is much, much, more difficult than I anticipated.  When I first set out to write my book, I thought it would be in first person.  It’s based around one person – Cassie, the main character – and the very rough first several chapters I had written ages ago was in first person.  Then when I got around to actually writing the thing, I ended up deciding on third person.

Although I used to write solely in first person it seemed – I was a teenager and it seemed like all the Meg Cabot and Sara Dessen books were written in first person, and of course I basically wanted to be them –  I have gotten more comfortable with writing in third now that I’m in college.  Everyone in my creative writing classes seems to think that the difficulties with point of view arise when one writes in first person, and we were all challenged to challenge ourselves.  For my classmates, that meant first person.  For me, that meant third person.  I think that I am now comfortable with both.  Both serve different purposes and both can be successful.  Deciding which one to use, however (the debate is only between first and third in this case, no second person for me) has proven incredibly hard.

So far, I’ve been sitting comfortably in the third person department (as if the world of writing was a department store of some sort) and cleverly deleting every “I” in my first several chapters.  I’ve almost finished updating my first draft, though, and I still don’t know if that’s the best idea.  Why is this so difficult?

The book is, technically, a young adult novel.  Is first person a young adult thing?  When I was a young adult (who am I kidding, I still am) first person used to be the way all of the books I was reading were written.  But they weren’t historical fiction.  Now I read a lot of fiction that is primarily in third person.  Especially fiction of the historical variety.

And now I’ve come back to finish writing this post after just reverting the first chapter back to first person.  I haven’t gotten very far in the book, but I know that changing he point of view later on will be incredibly difficult.  I need to decide what to use now and stick with it.

I’m going to go with first person.

These are the things that I’m not sure anyone actually considers when setting out to write a book. Plot and characterization seems to come first.  Organization second. Perhaps some sort of outline comes third.  None of these take into account the point of view, though, which is incredibly important.  I definitely hadn’t put much thought into what point of view to use, and I’m just now realizing what a lapse in judgement that was.  Point of view almost needs to be considered first of all.  The person who’s telling the story is very important to the development of a story.

Oh well.  I’ll know better next time.

On Procrastination

This post might as well be called “The Story of My Life.”  As I type this (something that I have put off for several days now) I am putting off writing the book as well as writing an essay for my one summer class.  Isn’t that just great?  

For most of my life I have been a procrastinator.  It’s a tricky trap, the trap of procrastination, and once you fall in it’s virtually impossible to escape.  Procrastination has worked for me so far.  I have gotten through school with good grades.  I’m an English Major who writes her papers the day before they are due, and that has worked for me, but I don’t think that will work with the book I’m trying to write.

I’ve put off writing the book for a while.  It’s kind of strange, really, because I’m not sure why I keep putting it off.  It’s immensely exciting to think about the prospect of writing the book and actually having something so wonderful and complete.  It’s even more exciting to think about having something to send off to publishers and literary agents.  This is what I want to do with my life – to write.  So why do I keep putting it off?

I think that ultimately my procrastination stems from fear.  I’m afraid to put so much of myself into something and then have it be a flop.  Even if it’s somehow some huge success, that’s kind of terrifying.  I don’t know how to navigate the world I am trying to become a part of.  I really don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s kind of scary.

Procrastination is something that has never negatively effected me in the past, put I can’t put off writing this thing that I am so invested in any longer.  I’m excited.  Genuinely excited to write – but it’s hard to actually get to the writing at times.  I need to let go of my fear and let my old habits die hard (at least when it comes to the book) and actually do it.  I am writing, don’t get me wrong, but it is begrudgingly and at the last minute every evening.  I am going to (try) to forget the fear and just write.  I want this book to be magnificent – but the fear that it won’t be is not going to stop me any longer!

On Comparison

I feel like I’ve heard somewhere that comparison is the death of the artist.  If I haven’t heard it somewhere, then apparently I’m more creative than I thought.  Comparing oneself to others is detrimental to one’s wellbeing – whether that comparison stems from artistic ability or simply from physical appearance.  It’s never good to compare what you do what others do, just like it is never good to compare how many friends you have to how many others have.  Comparisons like these just make way for doubt and fear to creep in, and no one who hangs on to either of those emotions is successful in the grand scheme of things.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this before.  I may sound like a broken record right now (in fact, that simile may be just as annoying as a broken record at this point in history), but it’s true.  Nevertheless, it’s always much easier to say than to actually put into practice.  Even now, I know that the first paragraph of this post – that I wrote, nonetheless – is on the verge of being hypocritical.  I know all of these things.  I know that comparing myself to others in any way, shape, or form is a bad habit to have – but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy habit to break.  It seems like the tendency to compare is in our nature.  Take a look at comparisons related to other areas of life, for example.  At the grocery store, we compare prices.  In the car on the way to work, we compare the songs that come on over the radio, picking which one is our favorite.  We compare cars, we compare schools, we compare jobs, we compare books.  It’s part of living day to day life.  Some of these types of comparisons are not bad at all – far from it, really.  But sometimes comparison can take over and it becomes all to easy to live your life comparing it to the lives of others.

This is certainly true for me, and I have been feeling my habit to compare coming on strong the past couple of days.  I have been struggling with the future (what’s new?) and trying to talk myself out of applying to grad school.  I want to go to grad school.  I really want to go to grad school.  But then I look at the writers who actually get into MFA programs and compare my writing to theirs, and I have doubts.  Then I look at the caliber of the students who are awarded graduate teaching assistantships and I feel uncertain.  Then I look at how hard it is to get funding at my top choice schools compared to other schools and I’m scared.  It can be very hard at times trying to get into a creative field.  There’s really no way to compare writers to each other.  There’s no strict standard I can compare my writing to in order to tell if it’s great.  The world of writing is a varying one, and there’s often no way to tell what will be a huge success and what will flop.  Sometimes the exact opposite of what is expected happens, and there’s simply not a way to predict that.

While it’s definitely hard to stop comparing my writing to others, it’s not impossible.  Actually, it’s not altogether bad (though I would say it’s mostly bad).  In order to learn how to write well, I must emulate authors who I admire and who are considered great writers.  Is this a form of comparison? Yes.  Is it a bad form of comparison?  Not necessarily.  Ultimately, comparison is not beneficial when taken too far.  When comparison denotes value, then there’s something wrong.  I’m learning not to let comparison bar me from living life.  I’m not going to let my doubts and fears get in the way of applying to grad school.  There’s no harm in trying, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, or me, when it comes to our creative endeavors.  We are all unique and have different talents, and that means that there is no comparison when it comes to any one of us.  We must reign in the habitual comparing in order to become successful.

On The Process

I have been immersed in the writing process for the last few weeks.  Not only have I been focusing on the process to take for writing my book, but also on the process for writing effective essays in my summer class.  Talking and thinking through these different processes has been so very overwhelming, but also so very helpful.

I think I have mentioned before that I have been following the “90 Days to a Novel” plan that I got from a workshop of the same name at PPWC.  In this plan, the first 30 days are spent planning.  I have been planning, and planning, and planning for the past month.  Since the spring semester ended I have been focused solely on developing my own thoughts and ideas when it comes to the book.  I have been planning characters, developing plot, establishing setting, figuring out themes, and listing out the crucial scenes that are needed to write the book.  At first I was dismayed to be spending such a large amount of time on planning and not actually writing the book.  I’ve come to learn, though, how important this planning stage is to successfully writing a book!  Without these 30 days of planning, I’m not sure I would be able to start and then finish the novel.  I am realizing that my lack of planning – in the past I have skipped right over the planning step of the process – is what has kept me from doing the actual writing.  In the past I didn’t know where I was going with the story, and that is what stopped me from getting anywhere at all.

One of the most useful planning aspects I got from the “90 Days to a Novel” workshop is the concept of writing an entire synopsis for the book before even writing it.  That has hands down been the most beneficial thing that I have done during the planning process.  It helped me work out some of the kinks in my story, and I now know how certain characters play into the plot, who the antagonist is, and how the story ends.  I even wrote a miniature version of the closing scene in the synopsis.  It is a wonderful feeling having really worked out the kinks in at least the basic structure of the novel.  Now I just need to get to the writing of it.

The second month of the “90 Days to a Novel” plan is spent doing the actual writing.  In order to get to the correct word count needed for a full length book, this requires writing somewhere in the range of 2,500 words a day.  Although I am following this plan, I am adapting it and lengthening the process a little bit.  My goal is 1,000 words a day.  My 30 days of writing the actual words of the novel have started.  They started in July, and I am already a couple days off (my July started with a little mini vacation where writing was basically impossible) but I am ready to kick this novel in the butt.  It’s going to get started and it’s going to get finished, starting now.  After finishing up this post I am going to move on to my novel document and begin writing there.  

The process is still ongoing, but I am ready for the next step.