Happy New Year, everyone!
I didn’t make any resolutions. I usually don’t, just because it adds the stress of failure if I don’t do them exactly as planned. However, I’ve already started on a new path and a new attitude. This happened within the last few weeks after I changed my perspective on editing and life. Still feeling out the life part, but the editing part worked out much better. I heard my characters, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Jo, my main one of the SOH series, did her part and the others theirs. Needles to say, I enjoyed every moment of the process after the switch over.
The unexpected round of editing for Do You Believe in Legend? came about because one of my readers was still having a problem with my overuse of I. Compared to others first person POV books I have glanced at, it wasn’t as bad, but I could see the statements and lack of emotion in certain places. At first I struggled with my corrections. How does one fix something they practically memorized?
My struggle was complicated by an editor rejecting a request to adding their expertise to my manuscript. They said they found the switching between POV’s and tenses confusing. While giving me the bad news, my marketing person suggested the mixed POV might turn off my readers, but they added I should talk to my two beta readers and get their opinion.
The editor’s rejection caused a major meltdown.
The whole first person third person shift is not a whim, slick marketing trick, or author’s rebellion. The closer I am to a character, the more they demand it. Jo was the first and Mel of my YA fantasy trilogy (series?) is the second. Every time I try to write Jo in third person when she’s herself, it comes off as awkward and shallow. She accepts third person when it’s someone else’s POV and she is in the scene or if she isn’t herself. Second person is okay when we are dealing with her shadow just because that’s the way it thinks.
I have over 300,000 words in a series written with mixed POV. Some of it, first person and third person past and other parts, the first person present and third past. Not to mention a published book and a second one in prerelease. Rewriting things seemed so overwhelming. Yet I felt if I didn’t, it might turn off enough readers that I would never be a successful author. That triggered all my perfectionist tapes, which only added to my hell.
I was ready to quit for the final time.
My marketing person said I couldn’t do that. I had invested too much time, energy, effort, heart, and soul in my writing endeavors so I would have to deal with some serious emotional and mental repercussions if I did. They told me to forget grammar, structure, and the whole first/third person mixup debate and concentrate on style, voice, and rhythm. I didn’t have time to do anything else since Legend is due to publish on February 11th. We’d deal with the mess later after things settled down.
Thinking about it for a while, I emailed her back.
I think the biggest lesson for me here is that I’ve got to listen to people’s expectations and meet them in very specific situations, like when I’m working for another person. However, when it comes to me and my decisions for my personal stuff and who I am, I can’t let their judgement dictate what I do. Nor can I let my emotions and their innate intensity overwhelm my logic like it did. Yes, I heard the sense in the rejection and yes, from a marketing standpoint, a switched POV can be a hard sell.
Charles Dickens is a great example of when it works. I’ve done a quick search on Google and what I’m reading from people is that the effectiveness of a switched POV depends if the story needs and if it works without creating too much chaos, then it’s fine. I might be pushing it when I do it within the same chapter, but, as I said, I clearly indicate when a switch in POV occurs even in 3rd person.
That same day, both of my beta readers/developmental editors confirmed they weren’t confused. One gave me the suggestion of putting something in the book about it, which I did. The other said another author they knew was having problems with another editor for the same reason. She added “Trying to conform to ‘standards’ inhibits the story.”
Freed from expectations, another mental shift occurred. I hadn’t been following my normal style, that’s why I was struggling. Like deciding to stick to writing in distinct phases, I need to change my approach to editing.
When I developmental edit other people’s manuscripts, I’m a reader first and an editor second. I start from the beginning and read until I come across something that stops me, then I explore how it makes me feel and what I can do to improve it. If they are missing something like a necessary detail or expectation, I’ll add text. Too much or irrelevant detail, I’ll delete. Rewrites and flesh outs happen if the idea is there, but not the execution. If they have characters doing something unrealistic or lack emotional depth, or do something that needs attention beyond a quick edit, I’ll post comments reflecting this. I’m not afraid of asking questions or making suggestions. By the time I’m done their document is a rainbow-colored mess created by Word’s tracking feature that makes sense and improves the story.
With my own books, I didn’t do this. I figured I wrote it, so why did I need to read as reader? I knew the story backwards, forwards, and sideways. Perfection would come eventually, I just needed to hammer my way through it, throwing every tool I knew at it and then demanding my brain come up with a better way of saying something when an error was found. That attitude created frustration, anger, and an infinite loop of writing and re-writing.
I started editing like a reader. Not only did this lead to me hearing my characters, it triggered my natural tendency to chunk write, which is where I follow threads to their completion no matter what chapter boundaries they might cross. This, in turn, found a few more tells instead of shows and created the needed balance between of I’s and emotions.
One of those tells was a scene of Jo dealing with memories of some serious emotional abuse while thinking about getting closer to someone. Rewriting that allowed me to I exorcise a demon that has been crippling me for over twenty years. I took all the anger, angst, and pain related to my breakup with Z and put into one very powerful moment that recreated the drama of my experience with the characters and circumstances of my series. It’s not an exact recreation by any means since fiction always demands a little more drama. It was, however, the last piece Legend needed to complete its part in my healing process.
New Year’s is a moment of new beginnings. I’ve told you mine. What’s yours? Share, if you want, in the comments.