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 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.

On Motivation

I’ve been trying to develop a plan of some sort for writing my novel since school got out.  I was feeling so extremely motivated to get this thing truly started, and subsequently finished, after attending the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) but after the spring semester ended I was truly on my own, and my motivation wavered.  Since the middle of May I’ve been in a slump, I guess you could say.  I’ve been writing – here and for Odyssey – but that was all.  I have a short story that I have been working on for almost a year at this point that I vowed to finish this summer, but it’s on a somewhat tricky topic and I may not end up finishing it ever…  But I was using finishing that story as an excuse to put of writing the novel.  That was a stupid idea, as I have come to realize in the past couple of days.

During the school year I am surrounded by people who inspire me to write more.  I am in classes where writing is the main goal and I’m involved in the writing club where virtually all we do is talk about writing.  I think I have taken this for granted, but now I realize the value of having a group of people to go to with any and all writing concerns.

I didn’t realize how significant this was, or how much of a slump I was in, until a couple of days ago.  I was on Facebook  and saw one of the members of said writing club posting an update on their novel’s progress.  They are doing extraordinarily well in getting to their goal of 120,000 words, and their post maid me realize that I am not doing so well.  It reminded me to reach out to everyone in the club about getting together over the summer, and also started some conversations about writing that proved very beneficial to me.  It’s motivating to see others that you know doing well in their writing endeavors, and really makes me want to have some progress to show for myself as well.  Talking to others who reside within the writing community is so incredibly helpful.  It’s inspiring.  It’s motivating.  It gave me the kick in the butt I need to really get going on my novel.

I can say, too, that as of today I seem to be crawling out of the slump.  It may be a bit soon to know for sure, but I’m already gaining more ground in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of months.  I’m starting to put that “90 Days to a Novel” seminar that I went to at PPWC to use, and so far it’s working.  I have a synopsis for the book almost completely finished and an even better idea of what will happen throughout the novel, which is much more than could have been said for me a couple of weeks ago.  I guess the ultimate point of this post is to say that if you’re stuck, find someone to talk to.  Call up that friend you met at a conference or an old professor who always helped you out and talk about what they are writing.  Hearing what others are doing may just help you, and hopefully one day when they call you up the progress you are making will inspire them.  It’s all about finding motivation – so go out and find it!

On Planning

Finals week is quickly approaching, and I am so ready to be done with this semester.  This semester has been one of the hardest semesters I have had so far for many reasons.  This whole academic year, actually, has just been hard.  It’s always interesting to look back on the year, though, because more often then not, lots of wonderful things can come from a bad year.  That is most certainly the case for me this year.  Is the year really a ‘bad’ year then?

Regardless of the year’s merit, I am glad to almost have my junior year behind me and to move on to the summer.  I will be taking summer classes, which I am not particularly looking forward to (but they are necessary in order for me to graduate in a year, so there’s that) but something I am looking forward to is writing more.  A break from academic writing means more creative writing, which I am very excited about!

Because of the impending break from school and the upcoming opportunity to write more, I have been focusing a lot of my energy on planning the book.  Yes, it has been started, but I’m kind of thinking about scrapping what I have thus far and starting over.  That is the greatest temptation in a writer’s life, I feel – to scrap everything and begin again.  Actually, it pains me thinking about it, but at the same time it’s refreshing.  A new beginning for the books means, in a sense, a new beginning for me. There are many reasons I want to start over with what I have, and they mostly have to do with all of this planning I mentioned.

It all started in my American Literature class.  I know I just said that I am ready to be done with the semester, but one of the good things about being an English Literature student is the fact that my classes can inform my writing.  In this case, my class did just that.  We have been studying Sister Carrie, a novel by Theodore Dreiser from the late 19th century.  Although the book has not grabbed my interest, to say the least, it has given me some inspiration.  The book is a naturalist book, which essentially has to do with the way the characters are shaped by outside forces.  Sometimes these forces have to do with nature itself, and somethings they are more abstract.  For the main character in the book, Carrie, the forces are more abstract – the big city, money, power, and fame.  For Cassie (the main character in my book and coincidentally very similar in name to the main character in Dreiser’s), these forces are going to be abstract as well.  Some of them will be the same (money and power) some of them will be different (heritage, family, and legacy).  Having fleshed out some of these forces and the role that they will be playing in my story, I can then figure out the way that Cassie will be influenced by these forces and the way that she will, at least in some cases, overcome these forces.

I guess this was a really long way of saying that I am very excited to have finally begun coming up with some concrete details about my story.  Unfortunately, they don’t quite  fit with the voice and feel that I have going on in the book right now, so I am most likely going to start over.  It’s really only logical, since I began this book almost two years ago and have learned a lot about writing since then.  Cassie needs to grow up, just like my own writing has.  That is why I will be starting over.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.