Tag Archives: Editing

Who’s Telling your Story?

Often, when I am critiquing others I’ll ask:  Who is the Point of View character?  This probably isn’t technically accurate.  Point of View (POV) in fiction writing has to do with the narrator more than the character.  There are many references available on point of view, so I’ll just give a basic definition for each:

  • First Person POV— The narrator is the main character telling the story.
  • Second Person POV— The narrator is telling the story about the reader, essentially making the reader the main character.
  • Third Person POV—The narrator is telling someone else’s story.

To break this down a bit further, third person POV can be written as third person limited or omniscient.

  • Third Person Limited—The narrator follows the perspective of one character (at a time).
  • Third Person Omniscient—The narrator knows all and tells the story from such a perspective.

Second Person is not common.  Most fiction is either written in first person or third person POV.

First person, to me, is easier.  You are completely immersed in the view point character.  It is much easier to stay in that point of view as a writer.  I have spoken with many writers, especially new writers, that like first person because it is easier to stay on task as far as POV goes.

Third person Omniscient was very popular last century, but not so much today (especially in genre fiction).   Besides, third person limited is more effective at immersing the reader in the story.

So, I’m back to my initial point.  Why do I often ask writers:  Who is your POV character?  It is because the story is either written in third person omniscient, or third person limited and the author is not limiting the POV to one person.  For me, Omniscient is a turnoff in modern fiction, so I’ll always shy away from it as a reader and writer.

The true problem I see is third person limited that it is not limited.  I like simple writing—a story told from the viewpoint of one character.  I want to immerse myself in that character, and see things from their point of view.  Unlike first person, it is much harder to do this in third person limited.  The author must be aware of the POV perspective in every sentence, paragraph, and scene.  It is easy to deviate.  Here is an example:

John hated his job, but needed the money.  The only thing positive about working for United Rentals was Karen.  He stole a peek at his co-worker as she waited on a customer.

Karen saw him looking and frowned.  She wasn’t remotely interested in John, but didn’t know how to tell him.

So the first paragraph is from John’s perspective, and the second is from Karen’s.  This is third person omniscient, which makes it harder for the reader to become immersed in any one character.  For me, and I think most modern readers, it jars you out of the story when the perspective changes between different characters within a scene.

Now here is the same passage told exclusively from John’s perspective:

John hated his job, but he needed the money.  The only thing positive about working for United Rentals was Karen.  He stole a peek at his co-worker as she waited on a customer.

Karen saw him looking and scowled back at him.

John quickly looked away, pretending to shuffle some papers.

So I never truly leave John’s perspective, but the gist of what’s going on hasn’t really changed.  This is a pretty blatant perspective change and easy to spot.  Here is another example from a novel I am currently revising:

Edmond’s sister, Rowena, stood at the table just below the sword and chopped vegetables for the evening meal, oblivious to the sword or Edmond’s intent stare.  He barely noticed her, maybe a hint of her flaxen hair tugged at the edge of his vision.  She would have been appalled if she knew, her fair locks were her pride and joy.  She finally looked up and scowled at her younger brother.  “Father will stretch your hide if you don’t stop staring at that sword and get to your chores.”

Her voice startled Edmond into motion.  

This scene is told from Edmond’s Perspective, but is more focused on his sister Rowena.  While it touches upon what she would think (because Edmund knows how she would react), it doesn’t actually delve into her thoughts.  The POV is still limited to Edmund.  Now, the POV is not tightly limited to Edmund, because the narration shows her actions that Edmund doesn’t truly see, except maybe out of the corner of his eye.  So there is a bit of a POV gray area in relation to her actions.  My take is:  Because Edmund is in the room and can see her actions even though he is not particularly paying attention to them, it is close enough.

This is the point I’m trying to make:  The writer should be looking at POV on this level to ensure consistency.  If the POV character in a story written in 3rd person limited cannot see the action, hear the conversation, or read the other person’s mind then it should not be in the narration.  Find another way to show it.  Yes, it’s harder, but it makes for a more immersive experience for your reader.

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Editing Anyone?

I finished the UCSD Copyediting certificate program.  The program consisted of four quarterly classes: Grammar Lab, Copyediting I, II, and II.  The editing project for the last class was pretty challenging.  I recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their grammar skills and who wants to learn how to use copyediting marks, style sheets, and all that other editor stuff.

This is just one step forward for improving my own writing and helping my fellow writers.  Eventually (sooner rather than later) I plan to dive into the editing side of the business.  In the meantime, I would like to practice the skills I learned.

Any writers out there looking for an edit?  I prefer to start with smaller works.  I would rather look at short stories or essays than a novel at this point.  Yes, this is a freebie, but I am not adverse to trading edits.  I have a few short stories that could use some feedback.

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Procrastination Station

proudPachyderm

I’ve been sitting in Procrastination Station for too long.  I don’t have a good excuse except for that pesky elephant that’s been smirking at me from across the room.

You know that old joke: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

This one is a whopper and has been daring me to take that first bite for a couple of months.  Being a coward, I chose to ignore his invitation.  Instead, I played Fallout 4 until I dreamed of robots and synths and started looking at my wife funny.  No, I’m sure she’s not a synth (now), but she did threatened to hide my Play Station more than once.

The elephant just laughed at me.

I also watched enough anime to last me for years to come, and still the elephant was left uneaten.

I completed the last class to earn my editing certificate. This, I reasoned, was kind of like writing.  It counted, didn’t it?  The elephant shook his head sadly and offered me one of his massive foot pads to take that first bite.

My elephant is the third book in my series.  It is in need of a major rewrite.  I have comments back from readers.  I have reviewed it enough to know that this is no little “baby elephant” revision.  This is a over-grown 10 ton pachyderm with an attitude worse than a busload of middle school teenagers.

Today, I finally took a deep breath, pulled out that mass of marked-up pages, and opened my mouth wide for that first bite.

Hmm. . . tastes like chicken.

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Time to Come Up for Air

I finished the draft of my novel tentatively titled Lion’s Pride on Christmas day.  It ended up at 108,208 words.  I still don’t like the title much, but it is the best I’ve come up with so far.  This is the final novel in my Kingdom of Haven trilogy.  I sent it out to a couple of people to read and give me feedback (and hopefully a better title), and then took a break.  Okay, to be honest, I dove into Fallout 4 headfirst and just now came up for air.  Maybe I’ll say something about Fallout 4 in a later post, but for now I’ll just say that it is addicting and is not helping my tendency for obsession with such things.  I’m kinda surprised that my wife hasn’t tossed my new PS4 out the window.

I have moved on to working on the draft of Half-Hand, which is the next novel on my list to finish.  It now sits at 93,260 words and is nearing completion.  This is a stand-alone novel that I’ve been taking on and off the backburner for a while, but it is finally time to get it done.  I’m anticipating being finished with the draft by the end of February at the latest.

On the editing front, I start my next class towards my editing certificate this week. I am looking for opportunities to practice my editing skills as I move forward with this class.  To this end, I will be facilitating a novel critique group starting this month.  Anyone in the Charlotte area looking to workshop their latest novel (that may be reading this) can contact me here in the comments section.  Also, anyone looking for an edit for a short story can contact me as well.

I can’t believe it’s 2016. It feels like a new year, I guess.  I’ll have my hands full with three novel drafts vying for my attention; finishing my editing classes up and getting some editing practice in; and a backlog of PS4 titles patiently waiting for my attention.  It seemed like things slowed down for a year or so there, once I hit the big 5-0, but maybe it was just my imagination.  Well, my wife does say that I live in my own little world, so it probably was my imagination.

Here’s to a year of writing bliss. (was that my imagination again?)

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NaNoWriMo Karma

It never fails: when I choose to do NaNoWriMo my schedule gets squirrelly.  So far this month I’ve had four actual writing days for a total of 2835 words.  So I’m averaging about 700 words a day on those days (which is about my normal daily word count).  I have a rule that I do not go off into my room and write when we have company visiting.  Of course, everyone decides to visit this month.  My parents were visiting for two day and then friends came for a three-day weekend, and my niece is coming this weekend.  Still, I’ll be tracking my word count just the same through the month.

On a good note, my copyediting class in going well.  I’m keeping an A average, and learning a lot.  I’m getting pretty good with the manual copyediting marks and getting better with style sheets.  This week we start on electronic copyediting.  I’m thinking this will be easier because I’m used to editing in Word.

I am taking this copyediting certificate program because I plan to do some freelance editing work.  I’m in the second of four classes right now, and I want to start practicing/working on editing once this class is finished.  I’ll be doing some free editing to begin with to hone my skills and maybe build a customer base.  I’ll probably be looking for projects come January.  I’ll probably post on this later on.

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Grammar Ain’t for Wimps.

So I’m taking this grammar class. . .

How’s that for an opening?  I imagine it would be the beginning of a horror story with grammar Nazi’s chasing you with red pens in hand.  Okay, I went to Catholic school, so it would be grammar Nazi nuns chasing me with a ruler in one hand and a red pen in the other.  It’s enough to make even a hardened writer run for the exit.

Since the class is online, I think I might be safe.  It is odd taking a grammar class though.  Even though I finished my English degree in 2007, not  that long ago, I never really took any type of grammar class in my seventeen years of college life.  (Yes, seventeen years, but that is another story that entails shiftwork and night classes and moving to new states, etc.)  The last time I remember studying grammar was in high school over thirty years ago.  I figured this class would be rough going, but have been pleasantly surprised so far.  It seems that I actually learned something in my 10th grade English class besides that I sucked at flirting.  I remember the blonde that sat in front of me who rolled her eyes every time I tried to talk to her.  Okay, maybe I was a nerd back then even if I didn’t realize it at the time.  The silver lining to my teenage angst of thirty years ago is that I don’t suck at grammar — so far.

We are in week four and so far it’s been pretty much a review.  The only exception would be verb tenses.  Who knew there were so many verb tenses?  Maybe we went over tenses on that one day in class when the blonde actually turned around and asked me a question.  My brain was fried for the rest of that class.  Getting back to tenses, I have no problem with the simple tenses: past, present, and future, or the perfect tenses.  Then there are the progressive tenses – at this point I wondered why I voluntarily took this class – and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, there are the perfect progressive tenses.

Luckily there are charts, and lucky for us literate native English speakers, we tend to use the right verb tenses without thinking about it too much.  I’m guessing that blonde from 10th grade English wished she spent more time paying attention in class rather than flipping her hair at the jock that sat next to her, or maybe that’s wishful thinking.  She’s probably written several bestsellers and I’m still worrying over verb tenses.

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My Days of No Class are at an End

Now when someone tells me I have no class, I have an answer for them.  I start a copyediting certificate program tomorrow.  First class is a grammar lab, which I’m sure will be helpful.

I’ve been thinking about getting into the editing side of the business for some time.  I’ve daydreamed about sponsoring an anthology, starting a magazine, and/or getting into book editing.  I do love writing, but I also enjoy the mechanics of writing.  My brain likes the technical side of things.

So I figure this class is the first step.  Well, I’ve been critiquing others in writing groups for years, so maybe it is the second step.  Okay, so I’ve been reading for a lifetime so maybe. . .  All those writerly things we do help to prepare us to look at a story with a critical eye.  Doing this program seems like a logical next step to me.

I’ll keep you posted on how this class works out.  Wish me luck.

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