I’ve been reading a lot this year, which isn’t actually a new or surprising development. Normally, I read two to three books a week depending on how crazy my life happens to be. Sometimes when I am knee deep in a project, like the crazy Pirate costumes last summer and fall, I hardly read at all. For the most part this isn’t really good for me, after a couple of weeks of not reading I start feeling…well, funky. It’s the same thing with writing, if I go too long without writing I start feeling restless, it’s like my imagination starts going a little stir crazy. The craft projects are good for my creativity but they don’t help me get the voices in my head to quiet down.
This year in addition to my pledge to make a concerted effort to get my work-in-progress rewritten and finished, I also set a goal at Goodreads to read 52 books this year. It’s only a book a week but I figured that was a good start and that it would cover any crazy times that popped up that might cause me to read less or not at all. So far I think I am about six books ahead of schedule. At the recommendation of a fellow writer I have been reading a lot of contemporary romance since it’s the genre I am attempting to write. To be honest, it’s not just a lot but almost exclusively contemporary romance. Since January, I’ve read 25 books, of those one was an autobiography (Carrie Fisher), one was a book on writing and getting published, and a single young adult paranormal for teaching, the rest were all contemporary romance. Over the last six to eight weeks I have noticed that I am reading with a more critical eye. I don’t mean critical in the regards to the writing in the book being read, instead I am noticing so many things that went unnoticed before.
Previously, I wrote in first person point of view, which I have discussed before, in my rewrites I have decided to change to third person point of view. And while it is easier to work on character development there can be some serious problems writing the inner voice passages. In first person you battle the ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that’ but in third it’s ‘she, she, she’ all over the place and it gets worse when you have two female characters in a scene together. You end up with a lot of ‘Liz did this’ and ‘Mary said that’, and when using a pronoun it takes an extra minute of backtracking to make sure that the pronoun is referring to the correct person. I am not saying it’s not what we should all be doing anyway, just that it gets a little ‘who’s on first-ish’ after a while. In reading these other contemporary romances I’ve gotten some good examples of how to manage the inner voice parts so that it’s not repetitious and not so narrated that it sounds more like stage direction.
Another critical thing that I have learned is that I need to start off with the major event that gets my main character in motion. This was kind of a happy/sad revelation for me, happy that I realized it and understood the dynamics of it and sad that it means the first six chapters that I just rewrote will be rearranged and rewritten…again. Some parts will have to be dumped completely, once I move the critical scene to the beginning some of the other scenes just won’t be necessary. The basic concept of the story is that my main character is going back to her home town after several years away. Currently, my first few chapters are about the circumstances that cause her to leave, her decision making and finally packing to leave. She doesn’t even get to her hometown until Chapter 10. Also, if I wanted to do the point of view of the hero then he wouldn’t show up until Chapter 10 or 11 that seems awkward. It doesn’t make sense to have it drag on that far when I can get her there by Chapter 3 or 4, I totally see that now.
The final thing that I’ll mention here is the hero’s point of view. This is the part where I am going to sound like a designer on Project Runway, when they complain that they’ve never made men’s wear. It never fails and I feel like screaming at the TV, ‘they have this sort of challenge every season. How can you not be prepared for it?’ I feel the same way about third person point of view and writing the hero’s side of things. I’ve never done it and it makes me nervous knowing that I will be writing a few of those scenes soon. And yet, everyone of those 20 plus books that I’ve read since January were in third person with passages from the hero’s point of view. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, or at least shouldn’t have seen it coming, I am going to blame a healthy combination of procrastination and denial, with a touch of insomnia just for fun. In the most recent books that I have read I am realizing that the male point of view isn’t so different. I’ve written dialogue for male characters including the hero when I was writing in first person, taking that same character and expanding on it should be fun. I keep telling myself that I am making things harder than they need to be.
For the most part, I have really enjoyed writing this year. Every time I learn something new or find a helpful tool it makes me feel like I am that much closer to my goal of being a writer. It might be a little safer to let my procrastination take over but I know that just takes me farther away from where I want to be. I also know there is so much more to learn and I am excited and looking forward to those opportunities. For now though, I am going to take my recent lessons to heart and keeping working on my WIP.