Thursday, December 15, 2011

Of File Cabinets and POV

I've been thinking about POV lately, and how I've used it thus far in my writing career. Curious, I turned to my dead manuscript file. (Yes, ordinarily the folders are put away and the drawer is closed. Or the cats would live on it permanently. And I'd trip over it. Fortunately, now that I print out much less, this poor drawer is getting a break.) Recently I tried to count how many novels I've ever completed, meaning how many reached "The End" of at least one draft. (There's no counting how many I've started in my life.)
 As best I can tell, the stats look like this:
  • 15 written
  • published
  • 5 in first person (1 present tense, published)
  • 10 in third person (10 in 3rd close, in multiple POVs, 6 published)
Really, it's not as narrow as I thought. And though I'm glad I haven't really written in 3rd close, with one POV character, All The Time, which is the way it feels, I still want to branch out, sharpen, explore, develop, my use of POV. My shiny, new WIP idea, which I really, really hope I can start in January after I get the current revisions off my desk/mind/screen, calls for 3 third-person POVs, some omniscient "in-between" sections, and a less close feel overall. It's not enough to merely want to experiment with POV, of course. The choice has to be the best one for the story. I believe it is, and I'm eager to dig in.

How about you? Are you drafting, revising, researching, outlining, or "filling the well" these days? Challenging yourself in any particular skill?


Vijaya said...

Wow! You are amazing. I'm glad you are pushing yourself. I have a couple of story ideas that need for me to mature more as a writer before I tackle them ... I started them, and finished a horrible first draft of one, but realize I don't have the skills to pull off this story. Yet.

These days I am on a tight deadline for a wfh project. I hope to finish sometime during Christmas vacation.

Christine Sarmel said...

Good luck on your project! I'm slowly learning to stay close enough to the MC in close 3rd.

Joanne said...

I'm checking the digital proof of my manuscript, prepping it for publication in the Spring, and starting to think ahead to the next project.

Kelly Polark said...

Those are interesting stats. You do seem to mix the POV quite well!
I'm pretty much taking December off from writing. Taking a break from my mg, and embarking on a new picture book come January!

Jaye Robin Brown said...

After just finishing a close 3rd manuscript, I'm now working on a first present. Love the challenge.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- It's exciting and scary to stretch one's skills. But another great thing about writing is that it gives us room to grow. Hope your WFH is going great!

Christine -- I think that's a great point about staying "close enough" in close third. Sometimes we don't have enough of what now seems to be called "interiority." Or we depart more from the MG's voice than close third should.

Joanne -- Thanks for that term "digital proof." I actually heard somebody just the other day ask what to call a PDF file of her book that she'd gotten from her publisher. Not a galley, not an F&G, not really page proofs either. Digital proof seems to work!

Kelly -- I hope to start a new project in January as well, if the current one would ever leave my desk!

J Ro -- I've got 2 WIPs coming up; one's first present and the other multiple not-so-close third past, if that makes sense. I love the challenge too.

cleemckenzie said...

That's quite a nice tally, Marcia. And a great way to "see" the body of work started,completed,published. My unfinished ones I consider to be my practice pieces. Learned so much by making those mistakes.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday. Look forward to more exchanges in 2012.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stats. I haven't kept all my old manuscripts and short stories, but I may know the stats if I write them down from memory.

I'm revising these days.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Impressive statistics! And your new idea is intriguing and ambitious. I hope you'll blog about the journey as you dive into it. ; )

As for me, I'm revising, which is where I most love to be.

Mirka Breen said...

Great stats, Marcia.
But oh, that drawer! When writers refer to ‘putting the manuscript in the drawer’ I think of a metaphorical drawer. You’ve got the real thing, and it’s spilling out…

D.E. Malone said...

- All of my short stories are written in 3rd, but I really struggle with it for longer works. I'm with Christine in that I need to work at staying close while writing a novel-length manuscript. I've tried but so far my three novels have all been written in 1st.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

My recent challenge is writing from two viewpoints (both first person) which as it turns out is much harder than I imagined.

I will have to search your blog to see what you've written about this.

C.R. Evers said...

Wow! That's impressive. I've always admired how Neal Shusterman can write 3rd person multiple POV. It's flawless and riviting. I've been toying around with that style in one of my current WIP. It's fun trying new things.

Great post! :0)

Andrea Mack said...

I think it's so important to keep challenging yourself as a writer. I always find that also spurs my creativity.

Kelly Hashway said...

For my novels, I love first person. It's my thing, I guess. For short stories, I'm a close third person. I'd love to try alternating POV sometime. I will tackle that eventually.

Marcia said...

Lee -- Some of those practice pieces can be dismantled for spare parts, I've also found. And yes, I've also learned some things just by tallying!

Medeia -- I've considered dumping some of what's in this drawer. Just undecided about that. I'm revising, too, but I'm almost done.
I hope. Though I love revising.

Cynthia -- I love my new idea, which actually I began before my almost-done WIP was even started. I fully realize I'm at the "in love" stage, and things won't always be so rosy. :)

Mirka -- Yeah, back in the day the drawer was physical, and mine still is. Though it's quite dated, which is another reason I might at lease partially clear it out.

Dawn -- Yeah, I'd prefer to leave "camera" third to Hemingway, of whom I am not a fan. :)BUT I admire his ability to get things across that most writers couldn't unless they entered the characters' heads.

Joyce -- Two first-person voices sounds really interesting. To go back and forth between the two distinct voices sounds like a meaty challenge!

Christy -- It IS fun trying new things. I really admire books that can change POVs yet all the storylines are equally compelling.

Andrea -- I agree that it's a spur to creativity. I want to ask myself, "How can I approach this story to make it even better, rather than just going to my "go-to" techniques."

Kelly -- That's an interesting question in itself: Why our POV choice is dependent upon form or length. Half the fun of writing is how endlessly fascinating it is -- at least for writers themselves. :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for sharing your stats. I think I'll try and do the same thing.

I changed the POV on the ms you critiqued for me. It was third person and now it's first person. An agent suggested I make the change. It made a big difference in being able to see the mc's personality more.

Marcia said...

Sharon -- It's amazing how a POV shift can make all the difference, isn't it? Sometimes, the POV seems to just "come with" the idea, and we don't think about changing it. And since both third and first are perfectly good choices, whatever POV we have doesn't necessarily seem wrong. I love how each project has its own individual bests.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm impressed with your record too, and the fact that you're still pushing yourself to do more. Sp far I've written three, with three more near completion. Only two of the first three are strong enough to go out into the world, however.

My main goal is to get my writing leaner. I've been getting better at this, but it's been a long haul -- and I have so many words (& probably chapters) left to cull.

Tess said...

That's a lot of writing you've accomplished! it is harder than most realize to change POV. I've tried writing in first person but really struggled. I do far better in limited third, I think.

Marcia said...

Mary -- I used to have a lot of trouble with overwriting. Every thought in my character's head was on the page! I don't know if I've ever had more than one project near completion at the same time. Although for the first time I had three underway at once, so you never know. :)

Tess -- I remember when I learned that third vs. first person was about so much more than just changing she to I. A POV switch really does change so much, because perspective means so much!

Faith E. Hough said...

What a repertoire! I've used a few different POV's in my mss. The last completed one in in first person present tense, which I never thought I'd use--but it was just right for the story.
Merry Christmas!

Marcia said...

Faith -- That's just how first- person present happened for me -- I never expected to use it, but it works perfectly because it answers the question, "Does your character know what happened in history ten years later?" Past tense would leave that question open; present tense conveys that she's narrating NOW, not years or decades later.

Merry Christmas to you!

Miranda Paul said...

Marcia - you're my hero! I really dislike clutter and paperwork, but I also dislike filing cabinets. So, I find that versions get digitally saved and hard copy edits and revisions have to be IMMEDIATELY inputted into the computer, then recycled.

I would love to take a peek inside that filing cabinet of yours. There are 7 books waiting to be published in there! All the best. I'm trying to finish my first novel, and just decided to change not only POV, but which character is the one telling the story...grrr!

Marcia said...

Miranda -- I kind of like filing cabinets, because I like arranging drawers and cupboards and such. I actually have SIX cabinets, 1 of them a 4-drawer. My desktops are stained and varnished plywood balanced on the cabinets. I love the desk surface area this gives me, not to mention cheap but sturdy furniture. As for the novels, most are probably permanently retired, but some could possibly be reborn or used for spare parts. All best wishes with your novel!