Monday, November 30, 2015

POV Revisited

I went out of town for Thanksgiving. Before I left, I was writing what I thought would be my weekly blog post only to discover (too late) that I was really writing a column. Hence—the lateness of this post.

While away, I started rereading Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News. This turned out to be a great thing. I had forgotten all about the structure she chose to tell her story—stories.

Atkinson has whole chapters dedicated to separate points of view, POVs. There are four: a doctor, the lone survivor of 30-year-old crime; a veteran who was police and is now a private detective; a currant police detective with marriage issues; and a 16-year-old orphan with the worst kind of brother. 

Each person receives ample time to reveal background, frame current conflicts, and then gets sent on their way. I presume they will all eventually meet up with each other.

I’m only halfway and there’s been a train wreck, the doctor’s husband is lying about her whereabouts, nasty thugs are looking for the brother, and the two detectives have more in common than their professions.

I have to finish so I can see how Atkinson makes all this come together. (My memory is a little murky… Well, a lot murky.)

It’s an academic point for me, since I’ve already taken out the multiple POVs from my novel. Let’s face it; I didn’t have this much drama going on. My story is set in—Bishop Hill, IL—the center of the grand American Midwest.

Donald Harstad can pull off demonic cults and foreign terrorists in northeast Iowa. I’m only managing a missing painting and the motives behind the heroes and villains searching for it. 

I will endeavor not to be late with the next post.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Start the Launch Party

When I enrolled in the Midwest Writing Center’s marketing workshop series lead by Jodie Toohey, the Wordsy Woman, I thought I knew a little something about promotion, sales, and social media presence. The operative word here is “little.”
After the six sessions of intensive presentations and HOMEWORK I can positively say, “I now know a lot more.”

Before, I would have had my launch party and then…?

I would have been hard pressed to have any kind of plan of action outside a press release.

Knowing what to do next. Who to talk to about reviews. Where to investment my time and money. How to handle all the things that needed some preparation and lead time to make happen in an organized and beneficial manner. When I should pace myself and think realistically about just what I could do to connect to my potential readers. These topics were well covered over the course of two months.

“Realism” is another operative word. I got a dose of that as I completed my writing assignments, filled out my worksheets and charts, and thought about how I’d answer probing questions about my target reader.

I came away with resources to tap into and ideas to try. I plan to budget, schedule, and keep in touch. There is a wealth of information out there and it’s good not to have to navigate those waters alone.

The best part: a book launch still starts with a PARTY! 

Launch v. > (launch into) begin (an enterprise) or introduce (a new product).    From the OED

Party n. (pl. parties) 1. a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.    Also from the OED

I plan to serve meatballs at mine.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thought for the day:

I went to the Figge for the Thursday night opening reception for Wit + Whimsy The Photographs of Kenneth Josephson. I knew nothing about Mr. Josephson outside of seeing a few photos that had been included in a prior Figge exhibit. I remembered his work being fun and inventive. I liked how he took time to see the odd little things of our everyday life and transform them into Art by shifting the focus of the image ever so slightly. Tire skid marks on a paved road become calligraphy. Distorted lane markings on melted asphalt seen through a mat become a modernistic print.  I looked forward to experiencing more of his unique way of viewing the world.

The 84-year-old photographer spoke sparingly and let an overview of his work do the talking for him. It was quite eloquent. He only needed to add clarification here and there, to explain about lighting, timing, and the lucky gifts that occasionally befell the patient observer with a 35mm camera loaded with film.

His last story of the evening was about his trip over from Iowa City. It seems his car passed through one of our small Iowa towns, one no bigger than a few buildings around an intersection, and something caught his eye. A multitude of cracks in the road had been repaired and what would look like random lines of tar to most of us appeared like an exotic alphabet to him. He had the car stop so he could take a photo.

I can appreciate that level of spontaneity.

I have been known to pull up short and walk back to take a picture of spilled paint on a London sidewalk. The neat thing: pigeons had walked through the wet paint and left trails of intersecting birdie footprints. So much fun. That probably set off my own series of pigeon photos. (The benefit of digital photography—it’s so easy to take and store all the shots you may never get back to. As long as the memory space holds out, I’m good.)

The point I’m trying to make is to stay open to new uses for the familiar. If it works for the visual image, it’s up to us writers to make it work for our written words.

Friday, November 6, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

No one can ever accuse me of being too fast. I prefer to think of myself as the slow-and-steady kind who gets things right in the end. But still, it can be annoying.

The case in point: I’m going through my manuscript to check out how I’ve used shifts in the POV, point of view.

Shifting the POV is acceptable if it is clearly defined at the beginning of chapters or otherwise marked. This advice can be found in Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton. It is used effectively in The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro and S is for Silence by Grafton.

I used different POVs to enable three secondary characters to present themselves to the reader and share their thoughts and experiences. This bothered some, not all, of my Beta readers.

Writers need good feedback on their stories & manuscripts. You can’t fix the problems until you know what they are.

However, a writer has to acknowledge that a problem exists before steps can be taken to fix things up.

This second step is very hard. I’ve tried to be open to input and still I’ve come face to face with the issue of acceptance.

By using multiple POVs, I thought I was adding depth and dimension. I thought I was building dramatic tension. I thought I was on par with what I’d seen from other writers.

I finally went back to my manuscript and took a fresh look at what I had done and how it had turned out. I asked myself, “How much value does this really add?”

The answer, “Perhaps, not enough to keep it as is.”

So, here I am at the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2015 looking at some significant rewrites and alterations.

I don’t think it will result in major changes. In fact, I suspect my protagonist will be the clear beneficiary. And she needs help to come across as strong and capable in the end.

The job will be to eliminate the secondary POVs and integrate the character info into other scenes. I can do that without losing much. I will miss the word count more than anything. But finding strength in other places should make it worthwhile.

I wish I could have come to this point sooner. Maybe it is still part of my learning process. It just feels a little old sometimes.