How did it get to be July 18? I swear the Fourth of July hits and summer disappears. I haven’t gotten the writing done that I’d hoped for. And my low sales are keeping my spirits down as far as publishing. I actually decided not to publish this month and probably not next month so that I could work on the stories for the fall. Maybe that will take away the feeling that I’m spinning my wheels.

I’d like to give this blog a lot more attention coming into fall. It’s be nice to do some recipes again and Actual Writing Advice. I’d also like some sort of fiction writing on the site, but I don’t know what. If you have an idea for anything on the blog, please leave it in the comments section.

This week I do plan to get some words down. I got 500 earlier today and plan to do some more now. There’s a really nice rainshower going on, which always inspires my mood. Hopefully I’ll be able to post a steady word count this week. Anyone who is still out there listening and writing, I’d love to have you join me.

Writing Question for the day: What do you think of first person POV? Hard to write in? Easy to write in? Too close to the character? Not distant enough to provide some info?

I’m thinking about trying a story in first person POV which I haven’t done in a long time. For me a big challenge is staying in one characters voice constantly without slipping into a more narrative structure. Any tips and thoughts would be great.

Art Muse

POV, Voice and the Dangers of Writing Rules

When I first started writing, I had a voice. It was, perhaps, a mimic of Jane Austen and at times J. R. R. Tolkien, but it had some flavor. Then I started taking classes and reading books about writing craft. I discovered that most of my writing was wrong. I used adverbs, dialogue tags, adjectives, words ending in ing, etc. I also head hopped, which is arbitrarily changing points of view, though I felt like I was changing points of view with purpose.

I’ve spent many years cleaning up my act and learning to write properly and have come to a point where my voice is so sterile that I don’t think I have one at all. Somewhere along the way I decided that I should stick to writing in third person limited, which means I don’t want everything to be in the main character’s voice but it might as well be because everything has to be exactly how he/she would view it.

The sinking feeling of blandness came to me at the beginning of this year when I was working on a novel set in my Silver World and a novella set in the gambling fairies and dragons world. Both are in third person limited. The worlds are so unlike each other that the writing style should’ve been unique for each, but I didn’t feel like it was. I felt the pattern of my sentences and possibly my word use had become repetitious. My fears were confirmed when I got Julie’s editing notes for Fairy of Hearts back: I’d used the word “look” so often that she’d created a hashtag for every time I used it, #lookyloo. I laughed; I cried. How could I have not caught that in any of my read throughs?

The Silver World novel was also dinged recently for voice in my crit group. The commenter said that sometimes it sounded like the main character and sometimes it sounded like a much older woman. I’m sure it sounded like the same voice I used in Fairy of Hearts even though Fairy of Hearts is about a twenty-something woman and the novel is about an 18-year-old boy.

I don’t feel the same way about my short stories. For the most part, I think I’m able to pull off a unique voice for each of those―the voice in Pixie Plague is much different then Zeitgeist. I think I’m willing to take more chances with short stories, and I think that’s the wrong attitude to have.

I checked out some books on voice last week and one said, “The narrator is allowed to have an opinion.” That blew me away. When I first started working in my Silver World, the narrator had an opinion, and I really liked that about the story. It gave it flare. But it also meant it was pulled away from third person limited. I think I’m going to take a chance and go back to a more knowledgeable narrator for the Silver World. I’ve spent years and years building that world, and I want the audience to see the vastness of it. I want part of the appeal to be the world, not just the actions surrounding the main character. The Fairy of Hearts world I might need to change to first person, but maybe not. Fairy of Hearts is my project this week, so I’ll let you know what I decide.

I think my point is not to stress so much about the rules that you lose your own voice along the way. Though an author may use a different narrator for each story, I think there’s always a glimmer of the author in the story, and that glimmer is what makes a story enjoyable.

Why did this Book get Published: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?

This is a subject I will be returning to occasionally in my book reviews— sort of like a mini-series without being consecutive. The premise is how did these books even make it out of the slush pile when they break so many rules? I’m not intending to bash anyone: I honestly want to know the answer, and maybe some of you can help me. So let’s get started.

In January, my middle child was quite ill and missed a lot of school. I decided to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with her to help pass the time and ease the discomfort. Harry Potter is a series I actually started reading when my first child was born—a couple of years before I took up writing. I forgot about my anniversary the year Goblet of Fire came out because it came out a night or two before and I hadn’t finished it yet. Despite being out of town when Order of the Phoenix came out, I still went to the midnight release for it. I went to all the subsequent midnight releases as well as several of the midnight showings of the movies. You can say I’m a fan of Harry Potter.

I hadn’t read Sorcerer’s Stone in several years, so you can imagine how surprised I was to find it riddled with adverbs. Holy Hannah. If I ever wrote that many adverbs, my crit group would wash my mouth out with soap. Let’s see a few:

First sentence of the book: Mr. And Mrs. Dursley, of number 4, Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Still on the first page: He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck although he did have a very large mustache.

Still on the first page: Mrs. Dursley was thin and blond and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful…

From the next two pages:

Mr. Dursley hummed as he picked out his most boring tie for work, and Mrs. Dursley gossiped away happily

…he couldn’t help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of strangely dressed people about.

…standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together.

…this was probably some silly stunt— these people were obviously collecting something…

I count 13 adverbs in the first three pages. I think there are tons more adjectives which is something else writers are supposed to do without. Essentially, we are supposed to stick to verbs and nouns in our art form. Sooo, how did this make it out of the slush pile? Did that editor not know the adverb/adjective rule?

And did anyone talk to J.K. Rowling about POV? The first chapter is in an omniscient POV, but then it sort of narrows down into Harry’s POV. Except when it seems inconvenient like at the first Quiditch match. The beginning of the chapter is about how nervous Harry is from a close third person POV and then we back way out through the announcements of Lee Jordan and land at Hermione so we can see her light Snape on fire. Is that legal?

I think one of the keys to JK Rowling’s success is her voice, and, honestly, her use of adverbs adds to the voice. And the POV changes are not something I noticed until I became aware of them as a writer myself. Maybe she gets away with it through smoke and mirrors by starting innocently with a sports announcement and boom: now it’s Hermione.

But still, it makes me sigh in frustration as my crit group tells me I use too many verbs with ING. Maybe the larger lesson here is at some point you have to let go and not worry if you’ve used more than one adverb in your chapter and exactly how many adjectives are there? Do you have too many “was’s” and verbs ending in ING? J.K. Rowling got published with 13 adverbs in her first three pages. Maybe you can too.