Avoiding Head Hopping – #Writing #Editing

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I thrive on knowing my characters deeply so I can better shape their story. Except, I end up writing the thoughts and reactions of almost all of my characters – simultaneously.

This is a big NO, NO and is referred to as head hopping.

Head hopping is when the narrative doesn’t remain within one character’s POV – but the scene moves from the perspective of all of the characters involved. Sometimes, in the midst of editing hell, I throw my arms up and think, isn’t that what the benefits of an omniscient narrator are?

Part of me becomes quite perplexed because I’ve read more than my fair share of romances where we get information from both of the romantic leads within the same scene – and I think, why does every piece of advice to writers out there include a finger wag at head hopping, meanwhile these very successful romance writers do it consistently throughout their novels?!? Frustrating, right?

I guess the saying that you have to know the rules before you can break the rules holds fast on this one.

As I write instalment two of my series and as I edit (again!) instalment one, these are some of the rules I’ve developed for myself to prevent the proverbial head hop:

  1. At the beginning of each chapter I must decide who will be the focus: hero or heroine. If heroine, I stick to writing only her thoughts and feelings.
  2. I make sure to note the hero’s reactions/feelings through the heroine’s eyes (and vice versa when the hero is the focus of a chapter)
  3. Rule #1 has meant cutting out entire portions of a chapter and refitting it into a later chapter where the POV changes to the other protagonist – or, sometimes, saying goodbye altogether to favourite pieces of prose regardless of the pain in my heart.
  4. Any interaction with a minor character must be experienced through the protagonist
  5. The feelings, changes in tone or body language of the minor characters must be perceived by the protagonist and the opinions of the minor character must be explicitly stated in dialogue.
  6. An omniscient narrator means access to every character’s thoughts & feelings, and brings those to light at the right time, not all at the same time.

So far, keeping these rules in mind has helped me to remain focused and each chapter has improved tremendously. Each chapter is stronger, feels tighter and I feel that the narrative voice confidently takes the reader through the story.

It’s worth looking at the amount of head hopping in your own writing and asking yourself if it is serving the story.

What techniques do you use to keep your POV focused?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

 

 

 

 

The Art of Stillness #Writing

In a world full of distractions, each seductively pulling our attention away from the things that are important to us, it becomes tantamount to find the strength to keep focused on our goals and dreams. And, it is even more important to keep focused on the present moment.

In the most purest of ways, it is only the present moment which matters. When we train ourselves to still our mind, we open ourselves to the abundance of creativity and sheer vibrance of life which exists in the universe.

I have finished my first manuscript, Capturing a Countess’ Heart. And am hoping for publication in the traditional form. If it doesn’t happen, then I will self-publish because I truly believe it is a story which readers of romance will love.

In the lull, I have been toying with  beginning draft one of book two in the series. I have been down on myself for not continuing on with my blogs. I have allowed the busyness of life take over: children, career, marriage, friends, home etc.

I wasn’t happy. I am happiest when my hands are on the keyboard giving birth to the whirlwind of words encircling my mind. I just couldn’t find my focus.

Then I enrolled in Power Yoga Canada’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution. My yoga studio is a haven for me. I find peace the moment I enter, and when we begin a class in Supta or Child’s Pose, my entire being releases onto the mat and I breathe the busyness of my day out. And, for 60 minutes, I think of nothing. Nothing but syncing my movements to my breathe. Nothing but flowing.

What I learned through these 40 Days was the beauty of meditation. I didn’t meditate regularly, or for long periods of time. But, I have felt a tremendous change in my focus with the meditation I have accomplished. I will keep meditating and I will allow the abundance of the universe help me, guide me, still me.

I will also bring this into my writing. The stillness will bring the words forward – without worry, without fuss. It’s a beautiful thing.

I am ready to start draft one of book two (and very excited to do so). I am ready to begin the publishing process for book one too – with a publisher or on my own.

Stillness. It’s where your words are found.

How do you prepare for writing your next novel, short story, poem, blog post, journal entry? What inspires and prepares you to write from your true self?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

 

 

Rejection

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I receive a rejection letter which makes my heart sing.

I have complete and utter faith in my novel.

I am on a journey of learning about my craft unlike anything I have ever experienced.

So when the rejection letter reads to take heart because my voice shows potential, I am elated.

I receive detailed editorial feedback and am encouraged to re-submit my project.  A major publishing house recognizes in my manuscript, a novel worth publishing.

While I know there are more rejection letters to come and the publishing world is fierce, I also know the option to self-publish is always present.

I will keep perfecting this MS and start on the next instalment of my series because I cannot wait for the day I finally get to share it with all of you.

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Writing in Deep POV

Point of View is one of those features of writing that when done well, it flawlessly takes readers through a story and brings us into each character.  When not, it frustrates readers.

Poorly edited POV is akin to being thrown into a story without the security of being safely steered through it.

This is why I have been deeply editing my manuscript.  I love stories that really take us into character and I am making the changes necessary to bring that depth into my first Regency.  And, it is tough.  So very tough.

However, the universe seems to always have answers for me when I feel lost.  My answer came on Pinterest this week in the form of a post at She’s Novel by Kristen Kieffer published April 23, 2015: How to Write in Deep POV + get inside the mind of your character

In her post, Kieffer writes:

Deep POV is a technique used to get inside the mind of a character and make a deep emotional connection with readers. To do so, the author must remove nearly all traces of authorship from the page. The less that the reader remembers that they are reading, the more effective the Deep POV. You want to hold your reader enthralled.

She proceeds with a list of ways to write in Deep POV and provides very helpful, concrete examples.

Here’s an example of the changes I’ve made to my manuscript using Kieffer’s suggestions:

OUT of DEEP POV:

Lady Catherine, the dowager Countess of Bentwick, had hid her disappointment well when she discovered the Duke was with other gentlemen discussing politics.  Obviously, he was not hunting for a wife this evening and so she had to move on and try to find Charlotte’s match elsewhere.

BETTER POV:

Charlotte hid a small smile behind a gloved hand when her mother’s brows furrowed upon discovering the Duke was with other gentlemen discussing politics.  “Do try to hide your disappointment mother.  Somersby is not looking for a wife and I would at least like to marry a man who wants to marry.”

Catherine smirked.  “No man wants to marry.”  She leaned towards her daughter.  “I don’t believe you realize how dire our situation is my darling.”

What do you think?  Any suggestions or sources you like to read to improve your writing?  Do you prefer deep POV or not?  Would love to hear from you!

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Review: The Duke’s Disaster

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The Good:

  • The novel began with a bang – a really great concept with lots of tension and promise for a wonderful novel
  • Noah Winters is a great alpha
  • Thea Collins is a believable heroine with an interesting backstory
  • Noah’s support of Thea near the end is touching (expected, but nicely written nonetheless)
  • I wish I had more “Good” because I really wanted to like this one

The Meh:

  • Plot moved at a snail’s pace
  • Noah was so lovable I had a hard time believing he wasn’t nice, even though we were repeatedly told he wasn’t, his every action was that of a nice, thoughtful person
  • The Winters’ family history was difficult to piece together
  • The minor characters did not enrich the story
  • I didn’t find their inner conflict compelling enough to keep them from HEA sooner
  • While the sweet breakfast routine was a nice way to show the couple getting closer together, it, like everything else in this novel, became stale rather quickly

Overall:

  • I wouldn’t recommend this novel, but I have a feeling it was a poor introduction to the writing of Ms. Burrowes
  • The conflicts were not complex, or perhaps were not developed enough – I’m not sure what it was but I was unable to connect with the story and characters
  • Simply put, it was a boring novel – many a time I found myself closing it and loudly saying “Oh for crying out loud!”
  • The final scenes of violence were not very believable
  • Save yourself the time and perhaps give another of Grace Burrowes’ novels a try, I know I will.

Thanks for reading!  Any comments on this or another Grace Burrowes novel?

Summary from Goodreads:  Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm, spent months sorting and courting the year’s crop of debutantes in search of an ideal bride. When the sweet, biddable young thing he selected accepts another’s proposal, Noah decides to court her companion instead.  Thea Collins, though, is anything but biddable. She has learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted, especially the handsome ones. When she reluctantly accepts, Noah rushes Thea to the altar before she can reveal her deepest secret. Can she finally move on from her past, or will it come back to haunt her?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Glue Readers to Your Story #amwriting

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free stock photo from pixabay.com

The inciting incident in a work of fiction is what gets the plot moving.  Think of it as the first flashy set of fireworks that leads into an awesome display which lights up the sky and sets up the crescendo at the end.  In other words, it will also lead directly to the climax.

A superb inciting incident will keep your audience glued to your words, reading at warp-speed with the driving desire to finish your story.  And this image is what keeps our fingers flying on the keyboard, right?

Here are five suggestions to help you make your inciting incident heart-stopping:

  1. Immediately place your protagonist in a dire situation where a decision must be made and there is precious little time in which to make it.
  2. Force your protagonist to compromise on her ideals –  give your reader hope that this compromise will lead her to a bright outcome.
  3. Give your protagonist the opportunity to feel pain – allow him to be uncomfortable, hurt, vulnerable – give your audience a reason to root for him.
  4. Allow the villain free reign and control to show the strength in the protagonist, the refusal to give in despite towering odds.
  5. Forget the introduction altogether and begin the novel with the inciting incident – start your story with a bang!  The rest can be filled in throughout the rising action.

There are many ways to keep your readers engaged.  Obviously, voice and style are key.  However:

  • We live in an era designed to take our audience’s attention away.
  • Readers are also quite savvy and images/settings/backstories that once took pages or even chapters to create can now be created in a paragraph or even a sentence!

Therefore, it is essential to keep the plot moving.

I hope these suggestions help to spark your creativity and perhaps inspire you to try something new with your writing.

Would love to hear from fellow writers how you navigate your inciting incident and where you place it, first or later in your novel?  What works for you?

Thanks for reading!

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Slow Going on The Duke’s Disaster

Was super excited to read:

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When I started, I felt like: (cue the chirping birds)

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My surroundings are of course not quite so serene, but you get the idea.

A few chapters in and I’m feeling more like:

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I don’t want to feel this way…and I will finish the novel fully hoping for a reversal in my experience.  This is my first Grace Burrowes book and I want to really like her works after going through an impressive list on goodreads.  Not to mention there are two more of her novels sitting in my e-reader.

Do you have a suggestion for plowing through a book that has you feeling a little let down? Would love to hear how you rally yourself to the finish!

Thanks for reading!

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Note: photos are free stock photos from pixabay.com

Dream Deferred #amwriting

Dream Deferred

Dreams have to be put aside for a plethora of reasons – some valid, some are mere excuses because we fear failure.

It is our most sacred duty to ourselves to be true to who we are and what we want to achieve with the time we have been granted on this earth.

I refuse to give up on my dream of being a published writer which has been set aside for far too long.  My short-term commitment to making this dream a reality is:

  1. Write everyday
  2. Blog regularly – write and interact with other like-minded people
  3. Read
  4. Research/Bookmark/Follow-up
  5. Complete editing current MS
  6. Finish plot notes for next MS

My long-term commitment to making this dream a reality is:

  1. Write everyday
  2. Submit current MS
  3. And/or prepare current MS for self-publishing
  4. Write next MS

My dream will not sugar over and it will not explode. It will take time, but it will happen.  Thank you Langston Hughes for the haunting reminder to remain true to one’s dream.

Do you have a deferred dream?  How will you challenge yourself to bring it to completion?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

How to Plot Your Romance Novel #amwriting

Every word counts.  I tend to skim and skip passages when I feel the plot of a novel is not moving.  So I try to put myself in my future reader’s shoes (or, eyes) and make every effort to ensure the plot is not stagnant.

My notes as an English teacher inspired me, as did the blog of author Nikki Owen, to use the tried and true plot graph in order to achieve this goal.

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For an explanation of each plot point see: how-to-plot-a-novel

Please note, I used this method once I had a very good understanding of my protagonists’ motivations and backstory, not before.  Knowing my heroine and hero first helped me to plot their story.

The following steps might help you organize all of the wonderful ideas buzzing inside your head:

  1. In point form, list the main ideas of your novel
  2. Then, use the graphic above to plan where the main ideas should fall
  3. In point form, on the triangle, write down what will happen at each plot point in the novel.
  4. Then repeat this process for each chapter – draw a triangle, label the plot points, then write what will happen in the chapter at each plot point.  This will ensure you have a clear goal for each chapter which includes a climax and a way to flow into the next chapter. (NOTE: ensure to use only the front of the page, keep the back blank for notes later on)
  5. And voila!  Novel done.  Haha!  Kidding – if only it were that easy 😉  You won’t have a finished novel, but you will have a clear outline of each chapter when you sit down to write.  And, since each chapter has been outlined on a separate sheet of paper, you may reorganize the chapters before you start writing.

In order to accomplish the above I bought a cheap notebook to keep my ideas together:

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I found that this process helped me to stay focused during precious writing time (which is hard to obtain with marriage, career and children).  Also when other ideas came to me as I wrote I could jot them down on the blank side of the page.  If it was an idea which didn’t fit into the chapter or the novel as a whole, I was able to set it aside (after writing it down of course) for future books.

I hope this helps you on your writing journey!  Please remember, every writer has her or his own process and this might not work with your style.

I’d love to know how other writers plan and plot out their works.  What do you do when you start to write a novel?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Review: Falling Into Bed with a Duke

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The Good:

  • Minerva Dodger quickly became one of my favourite heroines because she knows herself and is beyond strong.
  • Ms. Heath creates a female protagonist who is confident in every aspect of her life and relationships – except, in love.  This is something that many women of the modern age experience.  The biggest lesson Minerva Dodger delivers is to remain true to yourself.
  • Her counterpart, the Duke of Ashebury, is everything one looks for in a male protagonist.  He is arrogant, gorgeous and powerful.  Naturally, he is considerate and thoughtful as well.  Watching him fall in love with Minerva is a definite treat since he is so unaware that it is occurring.
  • I really enjoyed the minor characters too – very well defined without distracting from the romance.  I particularly enjoyed Minerva’s friendship with BFF/sister-in-law Grace Lovingdon and her relationship with her parents was both strong and tender.
  • I also liked the way Ms. Heath created her world and gave us just enough back story to understand the context in which Minerva and Ashe moved without huge info-dumps.
  • And the ode to Dickens’ Miss Havisham and her clocks? C’mon! That was pretty cool.

The Meh:

  • I tend to skim over too much description about the angst.  While angst is a necessary component of a character’s development in a romance novel, I quickly get bored of extensive analysis of emotions.  I also find that modern readers easily understand a character’s predicament – once it’s been stated, is it necessary to go over it again and again?
  • Having said that, there were times when I skimmed or skipped entire passages where too much rambling was occurring.  “Does he love me? Why is he spending time with me? Is Minerva really Lady V? etc. etc.” Again, this is my reading quirk and there are many readers out there who love the analysis as the protagonists evolve.

Overall:

  • This novel is a beautiful read.
  • I loved reading the evolution of Minerva and Ashe’s relationship.
  • I especially loved Minerva’s realization and acceptance of her own beauty on her terms.  And, Ashe’s realization that his feelings extended well beyond sexual attraction for Minerva.
  • Ms. Heath had me cheering for these two from the very beginning.
  • If you’re looking for a well-written book with a strong heroine give this novel a try.

Favourite Lines:

“‘I could suffer through [my father’s] disappointment much more easily than I could suffer through not gaining retribution for being wronged.’ A corner of her mouth hitched up. ‘On the other hand, I might just kill you myself.’ She gave a quick nod. ‘Probably would.  I’d find immense satisfaction in it, come to think of it.'” (Minerva to Ashe in Chapter 3).

“‘Dear God, how can you possibly believe there is any part of her that is equal to nothing?‘” (Ashe to Jack Dodger in Chapter 20)

Did you read Book 1 of the Hellions of Havisham?  If so, let’s chat about it!  Thanks for stopping by.

Caryn Emme Sign Off

Summary from Goodreads:  After six unsuccessful Seasons, Miss Minerva Dodger chooses spinsterhood over fortune-hungry suitors. But thanks to the Nightingale Club, she can at least enjoy one night of pleasure. At that notorious establishment, ladies don masks before choosing a lover. The sinfully handsome Duke of Ashebury is more than willing to satisfy the secretive lady’s desires—and draws Minerva into an exquisite, increasingly intimate affair.  A man of remarkable talents, Ashe soon deduces that his bedmate is the unconventional Miss Dodger. Intrigued by her wit and daring, he sets out to woo her in earnest. Yet Minerva refuses to trust him. How to court a woman he has already thoroughly seduced? And how to prove that the passion unleashed in darkness is only the beginning of a lifetime’s pleasure?