How pushing my wordcount is working – I’ve had my best week since last May – and thoughts on POV: how to teach it, how to choose the “right” POV for a story, and a way of thinking about writing POV well.
RITA ® Award-Winning Author of Fantasy Romance
How pushing my wordcount is working – I’ve had my best week since last May – and thoughts on POV: how to teach it, how to choose the “right” POV for a story, and a way of thinking about writing POV well.
Big thanks to loyal listener Meghan Ciana Doidge for the gorgeous coffee cup! Also about my writing retreat, what was fabulous about it, what I like about the phrase “story brain,” and other news, etc.
Good morning Everyone! Oh I forgot.
Good morning. Everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee who clearly all. Discombobulated today is Monday um June twentieth 2022 and I’m back yay and look if you’re on video you can see that I have this gorgeous I feel like qvc. This beautiful mug suitable for all occasions. Um hand paintted with beautiful flowers. This was a gift from lovely and amazing steadfast podcast listener Meghan Ciana Doidge ah she asked me a while back. If she could send me something and it turned out to be this gorgeous mug that she got at her local farmers market I could totally be on Qvc couldn’t I the way I gesture her to the and she also sent me a yummy chocolate bar I got it like the morning that I left. And so I didn’t have an opportunity to say anything. But thank you Megan that was really sweet and she sent me a really nice note with it thanking me for the podcast and um sifwi work and all of these things and. And it meant a great deal I was incredibly touched and I shall treasure. It. Thank you as soon as I saw it was a coffee cup I was like yeah oh if you’re on video you can see jackson s lurking behind me. He’s out here. Um. We’ve been having rain while I was gone. The monsoons came in which is subject for rejoicing. Um, so great. Ah free water falling from the sky. It is truly a miraculous thing I know I use the metaphor. All the time in my books about drought and like water in the desert and there’s a reason for this people. Everyone’s well I think maybe I shouldn’t use this yet again and then it’s like but it’s the bar right of our so um. Last week I went on a writing retreat I went on Tuesday and left very early I did have travel shenanigans um, think this is just going to be our lives for the near future that there’s just going to be.
Airline travel shenanigans they are desperately trying to make back their money. Ah from pandemic. They don’t have enough people they’re charging extortionate prices and giving shitty service. So yay, but. And went on this writing retreat. Um I finally did find out for those of you who who listen regularly that um that the person hosting it preferred not to have their name connected to it yet because they’re still putting things together. This was um. Little bit of a test they’re considering hosting ongoing writing retreats and had invited me and a few other people to kind of come be the guinea pigs and see you kind of kick the tires that kind of thing. And to keep an eye on Jackson um, and you you guys it was. It was fabulous. It was so wonderful. Um, in fact, that reminds me I meant to they gave me an exit survey and I meant to reply and say um that I’m happy to give a testimonial anytime. Have to remember to do that fact, let me put that on my things to do list I hope you guys don’t mind – testimonial – otherwise I forget to do these things. Um. So oops so it was beautiful. A location I will post a picture of my writing spot. It was very different from my natural habitat in that it was um in a warm and humid place and was forestres. And I would sit and write at the verge of the forest in a they called it a pergola I always call this the grape arbor they call it but it was very much like this um only their vine was not growing. Um, and I’m not sure why it was kind of fascinating because this. Land has been within the same family for a really long time over 100 years and I could see evidences of previous gardeners. A lot of the garden had been neglected for a very long time. But. It was really cool to see where the garden had been and sort of identify with this person who had gone before and spent all this time putting things into place and I had a ah very strong desire to.
To work in that garden and reconstruct it I remember when my mom married for the first time my mom’s been twice widowed and my when my stepdad died her second husband my first stepdad. After he died and she remarried to my current stepdad stepdad Dave ah Dave was like going through our house. They ended up eventually selling that house in Denver and he was going to the house and you know like. Down in the basement through Leo. My stepdad’s workroom and he said made a really interesting comment that because he hadn’t known Leo and he said that he felt like he had kind of come to be friends with him. Sort of seeing his projects and seeing how he had organized things and not organized things and that is how I feel about this probably in a more distant way. But this ah unknown gardener I felt like I could see the traces of I’m I’m gonna. Like I guess there see that although I was picturing a woman that I could see the traces of her design and her aesthetic and I found some. There were some plants amidst the overgrowth you know that were still struggling on and I could. Picture her planting those things and seeing how it looked when it was all in life. So I think that’s going to turn up in the new book I did start the new book. Um. And I believe it is the working title which I believe will be the sticking title is shadow wizard du um, and and I’ll set up a approved or for it soon because it’s goingnna be september you guys. It’s gonna come out in September but. It started and I’m happy with that title Shadow Wizard things for all of you who sent suggestions greatly appreciate it I think that this trilogy title is going to be. Renegades of Magic. It’s what I’m playing with so. So yeah, um, the retreat. It was very late back. It was unstructured.
Ah, my friend who is organizing and hosting it um did offer a conversation writing conversation but not necessarily direct teaching that sort of thing. I think that this would vary depending upon who decided to do it. But I think that um yeah, it was just it was so relaxing and and you all know if you are a longtime listener. You know that I am more than a little um I know. Want to use the word. Compulsive Jackson is really watching something over there I making sure he’s not going to go over the wall I don’t know what he’s got his gaze on oh mustve been a bird all right? So I am. Highly ritualized about how I get my work done. So I said to my friend that I think I’m the only person who goes on a writing retreat and panics about not getting any writing down and my friend said no everybody feels that way. Everybody worries that they’re not going to do it and I thought well it’s not exactly the same thing because for me I can feel reasonably confident that if I stay home I will get my work done and you know and I lost time and energy to travel right? that Tuesday was was a wash. Um. Did do some shopping if you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that I did buy a couple things while I was stranded at the dallasport where is that airport. Ah. Yeah, I’m not going to talk about my travel shenanigans. So and then Wednesday I spent a lot of time just kind of getting my head back into the bonds of magic world and then I did. Get writing done on Thursday Friday and then Saturday before I leave for the airport. So I’ve got I’m about 5,000 words into the new book and and I’m happy with it. One thing that I decided to do since I was on retreat was. Thought okay, well this is an opportunity for me to mix things up a bit that I don’t have to do try to replicate my at home experience. In fact, I will not be able to replicate my at home experience. So I I kind of just left it open I let it be.
Working on stuff as I felt like it I let myself be a little bit more dreamy and less focused on getting the word count done I didn’t keep track of my hours and so forth and it was definitely a much more relaxed approach. Um. There was a lot to be said for that kind of Approach. What’s going on. Okay, he’s just up under the tree have to make sure he’s not marauding the Avian Life. Cat wrangling. So So yeah, now I’m I am kind of wondering if I should mix up my process a little bit and I don’t know. Something to keep in mind anyway or maybe it was just good for me to do that every once in a while I Really loved um, just being out of my routine I loved being off on my own day. It was great having someone who is a career author organize something like this because my friend was sensitive to just how writers are and so for like breakfast and lunch. They they did all of the food they provided the food they wanted it to be like. You know that I could just have whatever whenever I was ready so they would just set out like um bowls with different kinds of fresh fruit berries and that kind of thing they had asked me ahead of time if I had food allergies or what I didn’t didn’t like to eat and then at lunchtime they had set out salad makings. So. You know, big bowl of lettuce and then various other things that I could construct my own salad with and so like when I finished working on stuff when I finished writing I could just waltz in and you know find everything set out for me and it was very princess-like. And then they cooked dinner for me and provided conversation and that was um, it was all charming I did get to ask my friend about this thing I’ve been pondering about going to multiple povs. Ah. With shadow wizard and and she asked really good questions. Um, instead of offering advice asked me a series of questions about why did I want to do it and which is really a good way to do things and after I finished talking about it.
She pointed out that I had only one reason not to do it and a whole bunch of reasons for why I wanted to do it and she used the phrase story brain which I really like um and would like to credit her with and will someday when I am given leave to say where I was and who I was with. But I found that really helpful because for some reason and you know this is all part of like figuring out what your process is of owning it. Um the terminology like muse inspiration that kind of thing. Just doesn’t work for me because I don’t know I don’t like the idea that the muse is some sort of external deity that deigns to come or go I think. Well my stories seem to come from somewhere that is not always within my conscious control. It also doesn’t feel like this numinous thing that has its own mind and personality. Instead whoops have to stay back. Get a little bit of sun breaking through the clouds monsoon. Ah I like the idea of storybra. Because it does feel like a very particular part of my brain. Let’s see where he went now. Oh there. He is okay, you guys might be able to see him on video. He’s right under the tree but he’s also in with the flowers. Yeah, so. That’s really how this feels is that this is my story bring really wants to do this thing and so I’m gonna do it I’m excited and I feel. Um, relieved maybe. And then sense and energized to have permission I’m putting that in air quotes to to do this so that was a great outcome. Um, and yeah, it was just ah, it was basically a vacation where i. Got to still talk writing stuff and get some writing work done and and that was fabulous. It was great. So I’ve got about 5K words so far on Shadow Wizard.
Start ramping up into that. Um, thank you all for the lovely comments on Storm Princess and the Raven King it’s a um out it got to be in the like top 5 recommended indie books on. Barnes and noble that was kind of cool huh. So I’ll share that on social media today that came while I was gone I didn’t look at email the whole time I was there that was one thing where they offered me the wi-fi password and I just never asked for it until like the. Day before I left when it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about my plane flight and maybe I should look but but otherwise I didn’t look at email and that was um, wonderfully relaxing and good. So um. Yeah, storm princess is out. Thank you all for the ratings and reviews kind comments really happy that you all love it that it satisfied expectations and did the cover reveal on the covenant of Thorn’s books I will be sharing those. The coming week and those will be releasing through the summer the preorder is up I’ll add that to the show notes I ended up for those of you who have been following for a while I did not delete that scene that I was considering deleting. Um. I think I did the work on this on Monday. So yeah, oh that’s right I didn’t do a podcast Tuesday so I ultimately decided not to take it out I did change a couple of things I changed a line about rape that I decided was. Way too flip for today’s sensitivities a change of ten years Yeah, but I read to that scene and it was a not as bad as I remembered it. The same thing that Carien found when she went through and and read it that it was. Not as long, not as terrible not as sexual as she had remembered it. So again I do think this is a migration of what is shocking to us over time. It was no longer as much as I thought it was and also. If I had taken it out. It would have required a lot of work to the book and I decided to leave it so that was an interesting discovery so preorders are up for those books and thank you all for preordering i’m.
Amused by how many people have preordered the first one some people have preordered all 3 um but it’s something like um I don’t know 4 times as many have I have 4 times as many preorders for book one as for 2 and 3 which totally fair. I mean I would do that too was like no I want to read book one and see if I want the rest. So just interesting to see. Yeah, so um, we’ve got July and August for those three books releasing. And then Shadow Wizard out in September I think and I think book two will be wild familiar. We’ll see so that’s all my excitement happy to be back in the saddle refreshed rejuvenated Thank you again. Meghan. And I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye-bye.
Isn’t this a gorgeous pic of THE ORCHID THRONE? I just love when people make these decorative frames for my books. 🙂 Many of you know I’m buried, neck-deep, in the revision of THE FIERY CITADEL, the second in this trilogy, the Forgotten Empires. I’d hoped to spend eight days on this revision, today is Day 8, and I’m not even halfway. Alas.
I know I keep saying this, but I should speed up soon. I’m bringing a lot of stuff forward in the story, which requires reworking of scenes and re-layering. I’m re-visiting some scenes four or five times. There’s a LOT of “re.” But it’s important to remember that this process is a re-VISION. That means changing up the view of the story, how I see it and how the reader will see it. Sometimes, because I’m bringing stuff forward, making some chapters longer, I’m having to switch up the point of view (POV). The story is told in alternating chapters of the hero and heroine, both in first-person POV.
Lemme tell you: changing the POV of a scene is an excruciatingly painstaking process.
That’s why you may have seen authors passing around this bit of clueless shite and screaming NO NO NO NO NO!
I don’t know who wrote this, except that this person is gleefully and authoritatively giving Very Bad Advice.
I’m tempted to break this down line by line, because there’s a profound error in pretty much every phrase, but I really need to be working on this book. I thought it might be easier to show what a POV conversion looks like, plus saving me time. AND you get a bit of a sneak preview to boot!
Here’s a piece of a scene I originally wrote in the hero’s POV.
“Thank you, all, for attending Me this morning. Some of you may have met my consort, Conrí. He’d like to tap your specialized knowledge in defense of Calanthe.”
And just like that, she turned over the meeting to me—and amused herself by taking me by surprise, judging by the gleam in her eyes. I coughed to clear my throat of pastry crumbs, and handed the little plate and cup to Kara, who looked like I’d handed him a wailing infant.
“Your Highness.” I bowed deeply to her, tempted to add an ironic flourish like Sondra’s mocking manners, but kept it as sincere-looking as possible. Lia saw through me, naturally, though her public face revealed nothing. I stepped beside her, having no intention of putting my back to her, and surveyed the motley assembly. If Lia thought these people could help, then I believed her.
“We have credible evidence that the emperor will bring his forces to bear on Calanthe in a matter of days,” I said without further preamble. None of them seemed shocked, despite Lia’s efforts at secrecy. “My people are bringing in all the vurgsten supplies we can in preparation.” I nodded in General Kara’s direction. He acknowledged that gravely, and he’d relieved himself of my dishes, hands folded behind his back in military style.
“Thanks to Her Highness’s assistance, we’ve established a relay of ships to expedite bringing as much vurgsten to the island as possible before the emperor’s fleet can interfere,” he intoned in his harsh voice.
“You’ll need a fuck-all huge amount of vurgsten,” a square-built woman with short-cut silvery hair opined. Brenda, I recalled, who’d served in the wars in Derten.
“And at least that many ships,” the flamboyant Percy added, examining his nails. He’d affected long jeweled tips like Lia’s and lounged sideways in his chair. “Preferably two times fuck-all.”
A thin woman with a listless mien whose name I didn’t know eyed them with concern, drawing a shawl around her shoulders, though the morning was far from cool. “This is a serious situation, Percy.”
“Agatha, darling. Until I’m dead, nothing is so serious that I won’t poke at Brenda’s colorful language,” he drawled. “Seriously, however, how do you propose to mount any kind of credible defense when we are outmatched in every way? Your reputation precedes you, of course, Conrí, but these odds are sadly stacked against us.”
And now here it is, rewritten in the heroine’s POV:
“Thank you, all, for attending Me this morning. Conrí?”
Con coughed, clearing his throat and brushing pastry crumbs from his fingers. He passed his plate and cup to Kara, who looked like he’d been handed a wailing infant. Petty of me, perhaps, to take Con by surprise, but I hadn’t quite recalibrated my temperament. What little sleep I’d gotten had been spent in nightmares, and Con had nearly caught me in that vulnerable state. Tonight I would find a way for us to sleep separately, as the nightmares seemed to be intensifying.
The dream images had taken on a new clarity, too. The temple above Cradysica falling into the sea. A wolf, gnawing off my hand as I tried to help it. Calanthe, thrashing beneath my feet. Waking. Cradysica it would be. I couldn’t fight this. It had been all I could do to drag myself to this meeting. Thank Ejarat—and my clever ladies—for makeup.
“Your Highness.” Con bowed deeply to me, then turned to the others. “An update since yesterday. My people are bringing in all the vurgsten supplies we can in preparation. General Kara?”
Kara had relieved himself of Con’s dishes, and stood with hands folded behind his back in military style. “Thanks to Her Highness’s assistance,” he intoned in his harsh voice, nodding to me, “we’ve sent ships to establish a relay that will expedite bringing as much vurgsten to the island as possible before the emperor’s fleet can interfere. We’ll keep as much aboard local vessels as possible, so the maximum amount of vurgsten can be relayed to the chosen site quickly.”
“I ran some numbers,” Brenda put in. “Even guessing at most of them, to spring the kind of trap you’re thinking of, we’re going to need a fuck-all huge amount of vurgsten.”
“And at least that many ships,” the flamboyant Percy added, examining his nails as he lounged sideways in his chair. “Preferably two times fuck-all.”
Agatha, wrapped in her shawl, though the morning was far from cool, gave him a look. “This is a serious situation, Percy.”
“Agatha, darling. Until I’m dead, nothing is so serious that I won’t poke at Brenda’s colorful language,” he drawled. “Seriously, however, I ran some numbers, too. How do you propose to mount any kind of credible defense when we are outmatched in every way? Your reputation precedes you, of course, Conrí, but these odds are sadly stacked against us. We’re looking at staggering losses, even without certain…strictures.” He glanced at me, but I kept cool and showed no reaction. Perhaps they only now realized that Con and his people had truly conquered Calanthe after all. I certainly seemed to have lost the power to affect events.
So, yes, there’s more and different information – that’s part of me bringing some points forward in the story – but there’s also changes at every level. Lia and Con know different things, have different familiarity with the characters, see the problem from different angles. Lia is more educated and has more internal, introspective thinking than Con does. She thinks in different words. This POV change is profoundly more complex than switching out pronouns.
As for 1st Person POV being a “gimmick”… I can’t even with that. I, the author, am most definitely NOT one of the characters. Being in a character’s head and a character being an author’s avatar are so wildly different that I’m frankly stunned someone wouldn’t be able to recognize that. Maybe someone who hasn’t read much? First Person POV is difficult to write. It simultaneously gives the reader greater access to the character’s thoughts and feelings, while limiting their perspective to only what that character knows. Some readers don’t like that, which I understand. But using that POV hugely affects how the story plays out.
Also, omniscient narration IS a point of view. I couldn’t leave this without saying that much.
Minerva Spencer’s kitchen in Taos – isn’t it gorgeous? I’m up here visiting for the weekend and she wants me to tell you it’s normally much tidier than this but we’ve been having an eating, drinking, talking writer’s bacchanalia.
Our topic this week at the SFF Seven, to continue the contentious cycle of last week’s one vs. two spaces throw-down, is: First Person POV vs. Third – or Second – Which Do You Like to Read? Come on over for definitions, and my answer!
I woke up this morning and got some photos of the full moon setting during a lunar eclipse, the second full moon this month, and during the supermoon cycle. That makes it a super blue blood moon, which is a mouthful. Because our bedroom window looks west, we were able to lie there when we woke up around 5:40am, and watch the shadow cross the moon until totality. I live in a magical place.
Yesterday I started on a draft of THE ARROWS OF THE HEART, the next book in The Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms saga. For those familiar with the series, this will be Zyr and Karyn’s book. And, for those who get my newsletter – if you don’t, and want to, sign up is here – you know I did a survey on whose point-of-view (POV) to tell it from. Because, clearly, I’ve been wrestling with this issue for a long time.
These results were fascinating and unexpected – especially that so many readers were good with alternating first person. But they also didn’t give me a definitive answer. All you people who trust me to just tell a good story! I love you, I really do. BUT YOU ARE NOT HELPING.
See, normally, POV is not a question for me. The traditional advice – and I think it’s good advice – is to take the POV of the character with the most at stake in a scene. This works much better with alternating POVs, however, when there’s freedom to choose a POV based on stakes. And which gives weight to alternating first person POVs.
In this series, however, I’ve always done a single First Person POV. I think there’s something to be said for sticking to a single form. Like, Shakespeare wouldn’t start writing plays in rhyming verse instead of blank verse. Not that I’m Shakespeare! But I do believe in creating coherency in a series, for a common feel. In addition, each novel in this series has been from the heroine’s POV. I’ve always felt that’s important, as it seems so much fantasy dwells on the male gaze. (Some of the novellas have been in the hero’s POV, or even in third person alternating, but I see those as subsidiary to the main arc.)
Still, this hasn’t been a no-brainer on this book. It should obviously be from Karyn’s POV – but I keep thinking about Zyr’s POV and hearing his voice in my head. Many of you – and writer friends I whined to who likely aren’t reading this – said to just go with it! Write it the way you want to!
So, I *did*! I started yesterday and wrote a page or two in his POV and…
………………it’s all wrong.
It’s something, and I’ll keep it, at least for a while, but I think this is a case of pushing through the wall. (I talked about that at a panel recently, nicely summarized by Shannon Moreau here.)
You know what decided me? I started thinking about the cover and working on that with the fantastically talented Ravven, and I only see the heroine on the cover. That says a great deal.
So: opinions from those of you who haven’t weighed in yet?
Yesterday, at #LERANM, my local RWA chapter, I gave a tutorial on using Twitter. We had a great time and the lovely and viviacious Katie Lane snapped this pic as I was talking. And gesticulating. LOL!
I’m over at Word Whores, talking about perspective – as in first, second or third person point of view (POV) – which works best for us and why.
I’m over at Word Whores today, talking abut subplots (not my forte) and rambling a bit more on accessing other points-of-view.
I made a point of spending time out in the garden this weekend, which meant I did a lot of reading. It’s lovely to reconnect with my reading-self. I’m on my 31st book read this year, so I feel like I’m making progress there!
Last Friday, I mentioned that I’m wading into drafting Book 2 of my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. This is the one I think of as The Flower Princess – at least until Kensington lets me know what they want the titles to be. So, I’m wrestling with setting up the conditions for this book, one of which is a change in point of view (POV).
See, in Book 1, The Middle Princess, the story is told in 1st person, from the POV of the heroine – the middle daughter of three. I toyed with adding in the hero’s POV – and even wrote some passages along the way – but ended up taking them out entirely. In The Flower Princess, the story moves to the youngest daughter, so I’m writing it in 1st person, from her POV.
This is good and right and what I planned to do.
But I keep having *other* ideas. Like I want to cut away to the first princess’s POV – mainly because I miss her. And I’m struggling with working in the hero. It would be much easier to build the story by including his POV, maybe in little 3rd person snippets. It would be much easier to build the story by gathering in other characters’ POVs, too. I got all excited about these possibilities, to make my job easier – and then stopped myself.
Because I recalled that I recently read the second book in a Fantasy Romance series that my agent compared to mine. I’d loved the first book – 1st person heroine’s POV, too – and eagerly looked forward to the release of the second book. In the sequel, the author kept the heroine’s 1st person POV and added alternating chapter’s of the hero’s 3rd person POV. Now I understood why she’d made that choice, because I was in the same position.
However – and this is a big caveat – as a reader, I hated it. It could be a “just me” thing, but I ended up not enjoying the sequel nearly as much. I’ve read other books that combine 1st and 3rd like that and I haven’t really liked them either. The thing is, even if this IS a “just me” thing, I need to be true to my own aesthetic. If I disliked it as a reader, it’s not fair for me to use the device as a writer, simply because it will make my job easier. If it would make the story better, then sure. My reading experience, though, leads me to believe it would not make the story better. Just less work.
The whole thought process – a lot of which occurred in the walled garden above – made me think of sestinas.
Exactly where you were going, too? Thought so!
Okay, okay – if you don’t know, a sestina is a complex poetic form. The official definition:
a structured 39-line poetic form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three-line stanza… The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern.
Did you get that?Here’s a little schematic to help you out.
Okay, now go write one and come back.
Yeah, it’s kind of like calculus for poets.
And yes, I’ve written them, back in some level of schooling. They make an interesting exercise for a writer because the discipline involved. It makes you think hard about your craft. Words can’t be employed willy-nilly, but must be carefully selected and repeated.
It occurred to me that making myself stick to the form I’d chosen for The Middle Princess, would create a kind of story-writing discipline for The Flower Princess. It will make me work harder to build the story staying only in her POV. It’s good for me to hone my craft.
And I can always edit in more POVs later, if it doesn’t work.
The beauty of the first draft, eh?