When I first decided to start writing, I had absolutely no experience. I hadn’t taken any writing courses, and had no formal writing education. Because of this, I kept putting off writing. I was afraid I had no business tackling such a tremendous endeavour. I don’t claim to be an expert on writing. I’m just a writer who is feeling her way along as she goes.
I have, however, learned a thing or two since I embarked on this journey. First; it isn’t as difficult as I’d thought. Second; it’s more difficult than I ever dreamed. Let me explain. You see, I thought because I didn’t have the education behind me, I had no business taking such a huge step. I thought I couldn’t possibly have gleaned enough knowledge through my many years of reading other people’s work to do it justice myself. Finally I realized that if I didn’t just do it, I’d run out of time. None of us gets out of here alive. As I neared my fiftieth birthday, it became clear that only I could do, or not do, anything I chose. Scary business. Still, I’d always thought I wanted to write. I always believed I would. So, I did it. One painful, joyous step at a time. So, I decided to just start writing, and worry about the rest later. That was the easy part.
The really difficult part came once I realized I was hooked on writing, and what a significant task I was undertaking. I quickly realized I needed to write. I’d finally found what I’d heard others refer to as “a calling”. I knew this is what I was born to do. Everything in my life had lead me to this point, and I don’t regret that. It was a necessary passage for me. Once I realized this, I became aware that I’d have to give it my all; more than anything I’d ever done previously. I’d have to delve into more than just the nuts and bolts of learning to write, but also understand the business of writing and publishing. I’m kind of an all or nothing girl.
One of the first things I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about, and once I had that germ of an idea, I wrote out a very brief outline, in point form. Then I had to decide whose point of view the story would take. Now remember, I had no experience, and hadn’t been able to afford the writing courses I was sure I was going to need. Instead, I do what do best; I began researching what POV (point of view) was on the internet. I’d heard the term, and was pretty sure I understood it, but wanted to check. I learned the best way to determine POV, for me anyway, was to start writing and see whose voice came through first. That first chapter taught me that I prefer to write in Third Person Narrative, at least for this book. It felt easy and natural for me, which is why I chose it. The other POV options are: Second Person Narrative, and First Person Narrative.
I also learned from my research to stay with one POV per chapter, to allow the reader to follow along a little easier. This made sense to me. I’d read books where there was a lot of “head hopping”, and found it confusing, so wanted to avoid this mistake. It also simplifies the writing, since essentially you are writing “as” one character, not multiple characters. It allows the writer to see the world through one character’s eyes and mind at a time. When I got to the next chapter, I could switch perspective and choose to “become” the other character, and explore their world. As the story evolved, so too did the characters, in part because I’d had sufficient time to understand who each of the characters were and their purpose. As I wrote, I was able to begin drafting a profile of each character, i.e. hair and eye colour, occupation, family members, if needed, needs and drivers, etc.
I know many writers who do complete, complex story and character outlines before actually beginning to write the story. I’m not one of them. I tend to think as I type, and let the story and characters evolve. I guess I figured that’s what editing is for. That’s when you get the chance to go back and re-visit each aspect of your work and modify it as you think is needed. Editing is also where I go back to make sure I’ve stayed with the right POV throughout the chapter. I have definitely caught myself “head hopping”, or losing the original POV I’d started out with at the beginning of the chapter. This is most likely because life gets in the way of writing. I have a husband, family, and outside obligations that can and do interrupt my writing time. It’s very easy to forget where you are in the writing process and pick up where you hadn’t intended. I also don’t set time or word count limits on myself. Although I usually wrap up a writing session at the end of a chapter, again, life sometimes gets in the way and I need to stop before the end of a chapter. Rather than go back and re-read an entire chapter, I’ll also often go back a couple of pages to refresh my mind on where I was, and start where I left off. I know, many writers would likely shudder to think of doing this, but it works for me. Again, I figure if I’ve messed up, I’ll fix it when I get to the editing stage. During the first draft writing, my goal is to write, not edit. It may be very different for each writer, and each one must choose what works best for them, their personality, and their lives. I do what I do because it’s how I work best. I know this, and don’t fight it.
Oddly enough, I’ve recently heard a few people who know me well say that one character or another sounds like me, but doesn’t fit with their vision of the character. That’s a tough one, since as the writer, I can really only write as me, or should I say, variations of me and my personality. We all have inner voices and are multi-dimensional. Writers simply take all those dimensions and put them into a story. We do occasionally have a certain person we know of, or have read about, and imagine their POV, but again, it really comes down to how the writer perceives those characters. I suppose each point of view, each character, is really my own, but manifests in different forms and voices. It’s a fun and exciting thought.
To me, writing is really just another extension of my desire to communicate with others. Even though I can, and do, speak publicly on a number of topics, I’m actually an introvert. I prefer smaller groups and intimate settings rather than loud, boisterous gatherings. It sounds strange, but I’d rather be up on the stage speaking, than standing in crowd. Writing also allows me the opportunity to express different thoughts and ideas, and explore new adventures with exciting characters who live far more exciting lives than I do myself. Because of my love of travel, I tend to seek out settings that are far removed from where I currently live. This is not because I don’t love where I live, I most certainly do, it is just that when I write, I want to reach beyond where I am and learn as I go. Just as with choosing POV in writing, choosing the setting is just as important to the finished product. However, choosing the setting for a story is another blog post I’ll address next time.
The next time you read something by an author, be aware of and think about the POV the writer has chosen. Did you enjoy it, and if so, why? If not, why not? If you are a writer, do you have a favourite POV? If so, why?
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