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

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

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.

PLOT

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

#FirstLineFriday

The first few lines of Capturing a Countess’ Heart, Chronicles of the Heart – Book 1 are:

“You win every -?” Charlotte shot off before Matthew could finish his question leaving him with nothing more than the trail of her laughter.  He watched her speeding away on her horse.

“Oh hell,” he muttered and took off to chase down the peach ribbons of her bonnet whipping in the wind.

What do you think? Any suggestions or thoughts you can offer?  Leave a comment and help an aspiring writer out 🙂

Also, why not give it a try and let others give you feedback about your first few lines?

Caryn Emme Sign Off

This idea was inspired by Deidra Alexander at Deidra Alexandra’s Blog.

The rules for #FirstLineFriday are:

  1. Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential work, a work-in-progress, or a completed or published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and then encourage them to try #FirstLineFriday on their blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

 

Nice: Bland or Romantic?

Love, love, love Colin Bridgerton from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.

In case you haven’t had the chance to read Quinn’s Bridgerton series, you can find out about it hereRomancing Mr. Bridgerton is the third installment in the series and my absolute favourite, followed closely by It’s In His Kiss but more about that another time.

The reason I love this character so much is Quinn’s constant reassertion that he is just so…

Nice.

Hmmm.  A word that many men I have met throughout the years shy away from…”nice guys finish last” or the fact that women only like “the bad boys”.

Nice can get a bad rap as bland, ordinary and without complexity.  But in this novel, Quinn shows us that nice is in fact the exact opposite.  Nice has depth of feeling, ability to understand life’s conundrums and takes them in stride with a lopsided grin.

Nice is refreshing.  It’s a person who doesn’t resort to a stormy temper the minute something goes wrong – not to say nice people don’t experience anger, perhaps they take longer to get there. It’s a person who can smile and find solutions instead of problems. Nice is light and airy and romantic.

Have you stopped yourself from spending time with someone because they were so nice?

Have you stopped yourself from using the word nice when building your characters?

I used to.  But Ms. Quinn certainly changed my mind about the word nice through the unforgettable and charming Colin Bridgerton.

The next time you’re writing and are having trouble with adjectives for your protagonist – give nice a try.  You might just be on your way to creating an unforgettable character.

Caryn Emme Sign Off

 

 

Your Two Defining Words

So this is what happens when you go to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and search for the definition of Romance.

  1. intransitive verb
    • to exaggerate or invent detail or incident
    • to entertain romantic thoughts or ideas
  1. transitive verb
    • to try to influence or curry favor with especially by lavishing personal attention, gifts, or flattery
    • to carry on a love affair with

And, this is what happens when you search for the definition of Incurable:

  1. impossible to cure : not curable
  2. not likely to be changed

So that must make me a person prone to exaggerate or invent details because I like to entertain romantic thoughts for which no cure exists so I lavish attention on those I love and hope to carry a love affair with and this will never change.

*Phew!*

That sounds about right. (perhaps I would veto the love affair part – but included it for fun)

What two words perfectly define you?

Caryn Emme Sign Off