Sunday, January 29, 2012

First and Third

No, I'm not writing about baseball. Today, I'm going to look at first-person vs. third-person viewpoint.

I've written in each and I don't think I have a clear preference. Each has its perks and drawbacks. With third person, I like being able to shift the POV around. If the protagonist is in a tight spot, it's easy to build suspense by writing a few scenes from other characters' viewpoints, allow some more action to happen, and then come back to the protagonist. With first person, I like the limitation that my POV character has to be present in every scene, so the readers (and the protagonist) don't see anything happening "off camera." There are occasions I think it would be easier to mix in the occasional scene from another character's POV. I've read first-person novels that have used such a technique, usually italicizing the other character's segments. To me, it feels like a cop-out. Maybe if your novel involves a first-person narrator ending up in a coma and you want to fill that story time by using other perspectives, OK. It still feels kind of cheap to me, though.

I got to thinking about first-person vs. third-person because of something I started writing late last year. We were deep in crunch time for the wedding and I had a character pounding at the inside of my head, demanding to be put onto the screen. I got a few chapters finished, realized I had to do a lot of planning and plotting, and moved on to something else. I had sated that new character jones and could go back to it later. When I wrote those few chapters, I wrote them in the first-person POV. Looking back on it, I think third-person would be better. The nature of the character and the story means a lot can happen "off-screen" and I want to be able to write about that. Besides, I've been writing a lot of mysteries lately and they're first-person (as mysteries tend to be). Writing something in another perspective is good practice.

At some point this year, I think I'll sit down, do some planning and plotting for that new character's novel, and revise it to be in the third person (or just start it over). As writers, I think we have to flex these muscles from time to time. We have to step away from what we know or what we do frequently to try something different. It's all part of the process and the evolution.

Happy writing.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


We made it to 2012. Between you and me, I think we're making it to 2013 and beyond. The Mayans (and misinterpretations of their calendars) be damned.

Last year was a big year for me, writing-wise and otherwise. The biggest (and best) life change was my wedding in November. That followed moving several counties closer to DC, transferring my job to another location, renting out my condo, and a lot of packing, unpacking, moving, and assembling. I had a lot of upheaval this year but it was all the good kind. Having the ground shift beneath your feet, even on a tectonic level, can be a very good thing.

In the writing department, I finished a couple short stories and two mystery novels, and started a spy novel that I will revisit and finish later. (It would be the third in a series, and I did the same thing with the second.) I also started this blog.

What does 2012 hold? I haven't a clue. While I'm not the type to make New Year's resolutions, here are some things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year:

-Have at least one book published, conventionally or otherwise. (Having a contract for a book will count as a victory here, too.)

-Try to write a book, or at least most of a book, using an outline. Right now, I'm a "pantser." I write based off ideas, a little research, some notes about what I think will happen next, and the flow of the story (and the characters' roles in it). It's worked for me so far, but I want to see how the other half lives, so to speak.

-Publish (probably self-publish) a collection of short stories.

-Start and finish writing at least three novels of any genre.

-Sit down and do some work on the kids' book idea I had. Maybe I need to read a few kids' books to discover the best way of going about it.

-Explore the editing epiphany I had (more on that in a bit).

-Keep reading. I read a lot of books last year. No idea how many. I want to read at least 35 this year. Dry and boring IT books that I'll need to read for certification tests will, unfortunately, count toward this total.

-Update this blog more regularly. This will be easier to do if the rest of my goals and expectations fall into place.

-Non-writing related: run a half-marathon.

Recently, I had an editing epiphany of sorts. If you watch House, you're used to the "epiphany face," where a random conversation with Wilson or Chase about the pooping habits of Saharan space donkeys gives House the clue to the Patient of the Week's illness. I had no such random conversation (thank goodness), and I don't yet know the conclusion, if you will, to this little epiphany. Here's how my editing process works: I finish a novel (yay!), then I put it away for about a month so that I can have a more detached perspective on it. It sits on the back e-burner, collecting e-dust on my hard drive. During that time, I read a lot, work on some smaller projects, do a little research, etc. Then, after that month is up, I print out the novel, sit down with a red pen, and go thru it line by line. When that's finished, I go back into the file and input my changes. It doesn't take too long (two weeks or so), though it sounds more time-consuming than it is. The problem is, it means I'm spending at least six weeks not doing anything on a new book. I might write a story, but I'm not making meaningful progress on a new novel. I've been loath to start one, knowing I'd be interrupting it for a couple weeks of editing. And if I plowed ahead with writing that next novel, I'd be effectively editing two books behind. That doesn't sound like a good solution.

This year, I might try a quicker turnaround on the editing. I like the added perspective that taking a month off gives me -- it's hard to murder your darlings if you're still invested in them, after all -- but perhaps my writing process will be better if I start sooner. And the process is, after all, a big part of what we do.

How quickly do you start your editing? Do you work on it while writing something new?

Happy writing, and happy 2012.