My tumultuous relationship with a manuscript:

My tumultuous relationship with a manuscript:

Upon first meeting, nearly seven years ago, it was love at first sight. I was overcome. Passionate words were brought to life in the quiet hours of night. I pined over my new manuscript when we were not together during the days. The characters, the setting, the story, consumed my thoughts like the raging hormones of a teenager.

Oh we had some glorious times! I felt alive, free, and blissfully happy! But love is blindness and so I didn’t see the mistakes, the enormous plot holes, or the seeds of doubt over my entire outline. I was blinded by cutest couple awards and sweet caresses at night.

Over the years those relationship problems have grown more acute. I’ve sat down with my manuscript and have given it a stern talking to about its wayward looks and wild side. I’ve tried to wrap it up into a clean outline. But we end up laughing, then crying, because both of us know that isn’t us. But the thing that really kills us is the comparison . . . the looking at the success of other relationships, then looking at each other and saying, “why can’t we be like that?”

Over the years I have shown this manuscript to my friends and put it through relationship advice. We even went through intense therapy for a year. Some friends thought it was adorable and that we were perfect for each other. My therapist? Not so much. The advice was welcome, but hurt, and I wondered if I was in an unhealthy relationship with my manuscript. I’ve revised and reworked it nearly twenty times. How could something I love hurt me so?

There have been moments, sometimes years, when we have broken up. I needed space. I dated around in the form of publishing three other books. I flirted and finished a dozen other stories. This manuscript has killed me and I have killed it and either we cannot live together anymore with all these questions and wondering, or we have to date exclusively. It’s all or nothing.

I keep going back to the bones, to the root of our love, and looking at it without the advice or the critique of others. I’ve dissected it to the point that I might have killed the passion. When you fight so much, where is there room for fun and passion?

So, I’m asking for relationship advise. What do I do with this manuscript? To completely break up with it would shatter my heart. To stay in this relationship would take a great deal of work and most likely more future cutting heartache. Maybe I try one last time to resurrect what first brought us together. Maybe the years have matured both of us. Maybe we will survive this. Maybe we won’t. Maybe, Maybe. What May Be?

Maybe I just let it go…

But maybe I don’t…

** Update on our relationship status: **

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I took these questions and concerns to the mountains and contemplated our final break up. I stared at a jagged mountain without a trail. Upon the pine-scented breeze a gentle kiss caressed my cheek, followed by a whisper in my ear.

“I love you,” my manuscript said to me.

I thought about the weight of my response. Old lessons, and encouraging keynotes, and even my own thoughts, came to mind. My eyes drifted again to where the shrouded summit met the clouds. Another attempt at an ascent, with my manuscript in tow, might kill me. I’d been circling this relationship, this mountain, worrying about breaking up, but also worrying about staying together.

I waited a long time to respond. But this manuscript is patient, even though the feeling is unreciprocated. I took a deep breath in lungs that aren’t used to high elevation changes. I placed my ailing feet in a river that had given me lazy comfort.

A peaceful feeling swept over me and a tiny smile found a tiny trail up that enormous mountain.

“I love you, too,” I whispered, as I prepared myself for the climb.

*******

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SO:

Just like a mature relationship, there will be rules, and blisters, and cliffs and grand vistas. And I will look for joy in all of them.

Here is my plan.

HERE IS MY DAY ONE!   (head nod to Storymakers and Jennifer Nelson)

#1 – Mentally and spiritually prepare myself everyday to make this relationship work. Ask for inspiration. Pray. Meditate. Whatever it takes to calm my mind to look at this clearly so that I don’t lose my temper and storm off.

#2 – Look to the future. Reflect on the past in brief moments, but approach this as a new exciting adventure. Even though the packaging or substance is the same, it will have different wrapping. Accept that it might look different . . . again.

#3 – Follow your heart. You’ve listened to enough critique, and feedback, and praise, and especially rejection. Take everything you’ve learned from all those other relationships and put everything into this one. No matter what happens after you’ve given it your all–and you thought you already had–you will rest knowing that you did it with clarity.

#4 – Climb. Everyday climb. Some days the trail will be easy, other days you will have hardly moved. Just move or your body and mind will atrophy. It will come at you like a sudden mountain storm. Remember the elements are fighting against you and you will want to give up if you take the time to stop. It would have been easier to just start another completely different project. But there is history between the two of you and you have weathered many storms.

#5 – Don’t doubt. You were given an answer on what to do about this relationship. Don’t doubt it. Simple as that.

#6 – Surround yourself by inspiration. Make time for creative-minded friends who encourage and uplift. Go to the mountains at least once a week to write or to be surrounded by setting. Summer or winter, explore nature. This is an instant inspiration for me. Take long breaks from social media. Maybe this isn’t for everyone, but social media zaps the creative flow instantly for me. Before I check any social media sites, open up my manuscript first. Show my manuscript that it comes first. Show love and it will return the love.

#7 – Get on a schedule. Organize the household necessities first so that your mind is clear and open. It’s different for everyone, but for me it is a clean kitchen, exercise, work (whether it’s at my job, or doing housework, paying bills, etc.) Then make time for writing by turning all electronic devices and social media off.

#8 – Have fun! Writing is fun. Well, it is more torturous than fun, but if you approach writing with the above goals and don’t give up, then hopefully you will reach the summit with a gratifying smile. Learn to enjoy the journey, not the destination. And absolutely, do not compare. Comparison kills gratitude. Comparison is like a free fall off a cliff. And right now everything hinges on begin grateful for this journey.

More detailed goals just for me:

  • I know that my best writing moments are in the middle of the night. This one is hard for me to figure out. Just know that if I go to bed early I will notoriously wake up in the middle of the night to write. Or if I stay up late, learn how to deal with no sleep. It’s just a fact, no matter how hard I try to work on sleep. You’ve been nocturnal your entire life, just succumb to it. Apply more make-up to the bags under your eyes because we have committed to get off the caffeine, remember?
  • Social Media: For real, get off it. Even though you have deleted it from your phone, maybe have someone else reset a password and then tell you once a week what it is so that you can check it. It seems extreme, but it is a time suck, an energy suck, and a creativity suck. This includes Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter doesn’t count, I’m never on there because I hate it. My blog: update my progress weekly on the comment section of this post regarding the progress of working on my manuscript.
  • Go back to not watching TV. Whaaa, Supernatural, I love you, but I’m kind of getting frustrated with season six anyway. Okay, I can watch the new season of Fixer-Upper on Tuesday nights. I really am happier when I am not watching TV and am instead reading or living inside my own stories.
  • Read more. Actually, I get obsessed while reading and have to finish the book in one sitting. Everything else falls away, so read with caution that it will take away from writing. Read excellent words when I do so.
  • Create my create space. Finish my art and writing room. But in the meantime, don’t slack on writing as I’m “waiting” for my space to be ideal. It’s in the mindset, not the daily setting.
  • Save home renovations for Saturdays. This has been the #1 culprit of why my writing has stopped. I’ve lived in chaos and now that the home is coming together, don’t spend time nit-picking all the little projects that still need to be done. You’ve made a to-do list, so get it out of your mental list and work on checking it off on Saturdays.
  • Good music, good attitude, good vibes. Just live in a good space. I have been filled with so much criticism and negative feelings about this manuscript that I need to look for positivity. Flirt together, introduce new things, and let go of the words that aren’t working.    *Fall in love with this manuscript again!*

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My goal is to reach this summit by the end of the year. My summit is to finish revising this manuscript because I love it and I believe that together we can climb hard things.

Thanks for stopping by,

Tara

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The Eyes are the window to our… P.O.V.

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(drawings are mine)

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(photo found on editing-writing.com)

P.O.V. when writing, stands for Point Of View.

Many years ago when I joined my first critique group, I was lucky and grateful that the amazing Janette Rallison happened to be in my local chapter. She has written over twenty fabulous and award winning novels. Teaching point of view, is her specialty. She is the P.O.V. queen and I remember her saying that P.O.V. issues are the first thing that will get your manuscript nixed. It is the largest area of novel writing that beginners struggle with. Me included! Seriously, she shredded the first draft of my first novel.

I have written in First, Third, and Omniscient Points of view. For some reason in the early conceptual stages, I see what point of view my story should be and my characters begin talking to me. The best way to decide how you are going to write your novel is by noticing how your characters speak to you. Do you feel an intense, close connection with your main character — enough to know how he/she would feel and act and what they would say? Or do you feel connections with all of your characters and want all of them to tell your story?

It helps if you notice what you like to read. I think this will make your story unfold more naturally if you are subconsciously drawn to a specific writing style. It’s kind of how I feel about present tense. My brain doesn’t think in present tense. Some people have passionate views for or against present tense, but it just doesn’t mesh with me and I have a hard time reading it, so why would I write that way?

Also, you could see what books are selling right now and what readers are liking when it comes to POV. Although, I believe that you should not write for mainstream. Write for yourself!

First, you need to decide whose point of view is going to tell your story. Deciding on how and who you want to tell your story, will change the entire outcome. Is it going to be:

First person – The story is narrated by a character, usually the protagonist, and the story will unfold with “I”, “me”, “mine”, or plural “we”. I like this point of view because we can convey the internal and unspoken thoughts through your character. This person takes actions and makes judgements through their eyes. I feel more intimate connections with characters that are written in first person.

Second person – This point of view is rarely used. This type of story is narrated by the character referring to the reader as “you”. It’s like the narrator is telling your story or making you feel like a participant in the story. I don’t have an example that comes to mind and I would love an example if any of you have one. Second person is often used in songwriting or poetry in an attempt to connect with the audience by making the reader feel it is them.

Third person – This point of view is probably the most common and gives the author the most flexibility to tell more of the story. I like writing this way for that reason. The characters are referred by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”. Never “I” or “we” (first person) or “you” (second person). The narrator is an uninvolved entity who conveys the story, but is not a character.

Omniscient – This point of view is presented by a narrator that has an overall knowledge of everything. I like to think of it as an all-knowing entity, like God. The narrator sees and knows the actions and feelings of all of the characters within the story. This point of view is often used in epic, complicated stories that have many characters or children’s picture books. Although we get to see what is going on with all of the many characters, often times it is hard for the reader to connect or sympathize with the main characters. If not done correctly this P.O.V. can look lazy and is the sure sign of an amateur.

Alternating points of view – This is done by switching between different character points of view whether it be in first-person or third person. I also like writing this way because I can tell a more rounded story by being inside different characters heads. It is very important to switch points of views at a new chapter or page break so the reader is not confused. If you switch points of view without breaks, it is called head hopping, and that is bad.

Those are the bare bones of point of view. I could go into more detail, but I wanted to discect first and third person point of view.

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(photo found on icanhascheeseburger.com)

Thanks to Janette and wonderful editors, I am super sensitive to P.O.V. mistakes now. But sometimes those sneaky devils slip past. I’m going to give some examples… see if you can spot them.

* “He pointed his finger at me, wagging it as he did so. He was frustrated and upset and I began to cry.” — The problem with this example is that we see what someone other than the point of view character is feeling. We do not know exactly what others think. We can guess by their body language or reactions, but we do not know, so your character would not know either. Sometimes you can easily fix this by writing instead: “He pointed his finger at me, wagging it as he did so. His lips formed into a tight line, hinting to me that he was angry. The sting of hot tears formed in my eyes.”

another example:

* “My blue eyes met the steely gaze of his deep, coffee colored eyes.” — Cheesy, I know, but I wanted to illustrate that when in first person, the main character wouldn’t naturally think of her own eye color. Think about it, the reader puts themselves into the main character. When you look at someone, do you think. “Oh, my blue eyes are looking at your brown eyes.” Weird, just weird. And I admit… I used to do that when I wanted to tell or remind the reader about eye color! Ahh! – Bless you Janette.

When you understand P.O.V., most of your writing problems will be fixed.

* It helps with showing and not telling. You describe things as the character would and it comes out more genuine and believable when tied to a solid Point of view.

* It helps with description and pacing. The point of view of your character decides what they choose to see. Also, when the pace is fast (maybe a chase scene), the character won’t notice as many details

* Solid P.O.V. clarifies the goals and motivation. By getting into the characters head, the reader can see into their inner dialogue and desires. We feel what the character feels, and want what the character desires.

* It creates higher stakes. We get into the personality of the character and see what matters internally to the character and why they react the way they do. Therefore creating a stronger drive for the character to achieve their goal.

Point of View is one of those things that once you are aware, it begins to become obvious. When my edits went back and forth between me and my editor, I couldn’t believe what we still caught, even up until the final edits. Little, tiny things like, “your character wouldn’t notice this” or “she wouldn’t think this.”

What are some of your favorite points of view that you like to read or write? I’d love to hear!

— Happy writing and thanks for stopping by!

Tara

First Liners – How to ‘pick-up’ on your readers. *wink, wink*

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I was tagged in a writing challenge to share the first line in my first three chapters on my work in progress. I chose to share from one of my YA fantasy novels.

First sentences are everything. They set the tone, the voice, the setting — they must hook the reader. Some people mull over and stress about this solid first line for months, maybe years. The daunting first sentence can become a wall that makes it so you never even want to start your novel. My advice would be to start anyway. Don’t think about fancy phrasing, or perfect eye catching action. Just start and let the words flow. Then go back and fix things. Personally, I love the itchy fingers when I think of a new idea. Sure I’ve written and re-written first lines over and over again, but this was usually after I’ve finished the book or the chapter.

The best advise I have received about a opening sentence, was the critiquing during a publication primer group. I also entered into a first chapter competition at the same time, and the feedback from the judges were exactly the same.

Below is my old first sentence, followed by the new first sentence. See if you can catch the difference.

Chapter 1
Old:
We ran, dodging cornstalks as if they were spears rooting into the land.
New:
I stood on a bluff overlooking our lower pastures. Against the scarlet horizon, chaos erupted from the small town.

I was dead set on the original sentence, thinking it was perfect to start with action. But the advise and feedback I received was that I needed a setting. “We ran” didn’t tell the reader anything about where they were, or what time frame we were in. In fact, the word “spears” made them think that the setting could be in ancient times, which was totally not the case. After that was brought to my attention, it was fun for me to create a one page scene before my characters ran. It still starts out with plenty of action, but my characters are witnessing it, rather then running from it.

Here are my first lines from Chapters Two and Three. (I’ve switched points of view in Chapter two, just so you know)

Chapter 2
“Master Caul, it is time to serve your birthday cake,” a timid voice carried from the doorway. As I glared out the window, my fingers gripped around the tapestry with one hand. I lifted the other to wave her away.
Chapter 3
Stepping out of the Ark and onto the ground above, grey ash fell soft like snow-flakes on a melancholy night.

* Now for my favorite first sentences in all of history, and I swear if my husband said this to me as a cheesy pick-up line when we first met, I would have said “yes!” right then and there. This shows a little glimpse into how much I love Tolkien. This is from The Hobbit. These opening sentences have everything; setting, senses, voice, character, and if you know the rest of the story which is filled with adventure, how perfectly humble it is to start inside a hole in the ground. It leaves us asking “what is a hobbit? I must read more to find out.” That my friends, is a hook.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down or eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.”

If you’ve got a first line you’d like to share, I’d love to read it in the comments below 🙂

– Tara