Head-Hopping is Making My Head Spin!

 

There are hundreds of rules when writing a novel that a writer has to follow to get through the slush pile. Rules that I would venture to say most readers have never heard of (unless they are writers themselves).

Head-hopping seems to be the LATEST ‘NO-NO’ on a really long list of Taboos that writers MUST follow. But even a lot of editor’s CAN’T AGREE on when it occurs, especially in Third Person Omniscient POV, which is the POV I generally use. So how am I supposed to avoid it when I can’t even get a straight answer?

Head-hopping is my biggest pet-peeve and is probably why I will never be published. Head-hopping is when the writer suddenly changes the character point of view. There are obvious instances, but it’s the subtle changes that trip me up. I just don’t see it.

As a reader, it doesn’t bother me, or at least it didn’t until I heard about it.

I read a book and if I like it, then fabulous! And chances are, I have probably run across lots of head-hopping and never even noticed.

Take apart any work of fiction and you’re going to find it: Stephen King, Hemingway, Nora Roberts…the list goes on. They’ve all been guilty of head-hopping and survived the critics. The caveat I’ve heard is “that they’ve done it well, and the reader doesn’t even notice.” Huh?

But it’s supposed to be a cardinal rule! A giant mistake! It will get your manuscript tossed in the trash can at the first instance (or so I’ve read).

Here’s the way I look at it (and I’m probably wrong, so don’t listen to me – I’m not published):

Head-hopping is a guideline…A GUIDELINE. There are lots of editors and bloggers that will tell you that it’s a cardinal sin and will ruin your career before it’s even started. And they may be right. I mean, they’re the gatekeepers, right? They make the rules and as writers we have to follow them. But like I said before, even THEY can’t completely agree on it!

I understand that they are just doing their job, following their protocol. I’ve just gotten so frustrated with the publishing process lately. As soon as I think, “okay, I’ve got this,” I find out something else that I’m totally missing. Getting published seems further and further away every time I go deeper into that rabbit hole.

Back to the drawing board.

Head-Hopping…Ugh!

What’s your two cents on head-hopping? And if you aren’t a writer, have you ever noticed it when reading?

Writing Without Fear

 

My latest WIP has been a bit of a challenge. I’m a panster, not an outliner which can be both freeing and completely stifling.

I usually start with an idea for a character, or characters, and then build a story and plot around them. I know, it’s backwards, but it’s the way my brain works.

I’ve started my current WIP three different times.

First, the plot wasn’t strong enough, so I set it aside. But the characters kept talking to me, and telling me they had a story to tell.

So I picked it up again. I tried changing the plot and making it more appealing, and it seemed to be working for a while. But it was still missing something and I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I set it down again.

The third time I picked it up I realized that the story was focused around the wrong character. I was trying to make a supporting character the protagonist. One of the side characters had a much better story to tell and made a much better protagonist: the kind you want to root for even when you know they’re going to fail miserably.

So I started over…again.

I also decided to write with a different approach. No editing. No rereading. Just keep writing. I know that means there will be a LOT more editing at the end, but it’s been kind of fun writing without fear.

I’m also writing completely prepared to cut out scenes, even chapters if necessary. Many times, as writers (or at least it’s this way with me), we’re reluctant to take out scenes, especially the ones that we really love. We don’t want to let go of them. But this time I KNOW there is going to be changes, and I’m good with that. Sometimes as I’m writing a particular scene, I may have an idea that it may not make it to the final cut. I’ve even found myself thinking “that doesn’t fit there” or “that chapter really sucked.” But I just keep writing.

This WIP has turned into a sort of writing exercise in free writing. Who knows if it will work? I’m not sure what I’m going to gain from it, but I’m not afraid even if the whole thing needs to be scrapped. As long as I finish it, then I will have reached my first goal.

Writing without fear may turn into editing without fear.

What do you do when a WIP isn’t working? Do you scrap it or do you try to re-work it? Are you a panster or an outliner?

Wanted: Literary Agent

I received another rejection for my manuscript today. I’ve heard that’s supposed to be a good thing, that you should file your rejections away somewhere so that you can learn from them. But it still stings, and is very frustrating. Sometimes I wish there was a sort of “dating” website for literary agents.

I wish I could place an ad, send it out to the literary universe, and then wait for the agents to find me.

Wanted: Literary Agent for dedicated writer. Women’s fiction writer seeking agent for long and profitable relationship. If you represent character-driven, female-centric stories, please contact me. No sparkly vampires, no over-the-top supernatural plot lines. If you like flawed characters that fight with their inner demons, or females who join forces to make their lives better, then let’s talk.

But, sadly, that’s not the way it works. It’s not that I haven’t done the research, because I have, and will continue to do so. But the odds of finding the RIGHT agent that represents what I write AND that is accepting new clients AT THE VERY MOMENT that I query, seems more and more to be a real luck of the draw.

I appreciate all of the “How I Found My Agent” posts that I read, but they really aren’t very helpful, because finding an agent is such a unique and individual experience. Sure I can learn from someone else’s experience, or their mistakes, but the odds that their unique situation will be remotely similar to mine are rare. Not to mention that most of those posts or articles are written by people that got an agent within their FIRST FEW queries. Rarely do I read one that says, “After 175 (or more) queries, I finally got an agent.” THAT’S the story I want to hear.

I know this is just a fantasy, because, let’s face it: most agents aren’t looking through the want ads for new authors to represent. They don’t have to. They have more than enough authors seeking them. They’re like the hot guy on Tinder who gets swiped more times than he swipes. It’s just a fact. The “slush pile” is real.

But it’s sort of fun to pretend that a literary agent would actually be seeking me. A girl can dream, can’t she? I’ll keep reaching for the brass ring until I find my perfect match.

Jane & Maria – 2nd Installment of the Coffee Shop Vignettes

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Maria wrapped her hands around her coffee cup to warm them.

“So, tell me…how did it go?” Jane asked Maria, as she handed her son a coloring book and some crayons, and moved her coffee out of his reach.

“I’m not sure,” Maria said.

“Well, was it a good interview? Do you think you gave the answers they wanted?”

“I’m not sure,” Maria said and slumped back in her chair.

“Oh, come on. It couldn’t have been that bad,” Jane tried to be encouraging. She turned to her son, “No, no…only in the book…not on the table.”

Maria smiled.

“It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve been out of the workforce, you know?” Maria said.

“Oh, I’m sure that won’t matter that much. You have the experience they’re looking for.”

“Yeah, but from 200 years ago!” Maria said and laughed.

Jane laughed at Maria’s exaggeration.

Maria sighed. “I don’t know. Part of me is excited to go back to work now that the kids are in school full time, but the other part of me wants to be home for them. I hate the idea of sending them to daycare. I should be helping them with their homework, not some stranger.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of homework for you to help with. Besides, don’t a lot of their friends go to the same afterschool care?” Jane asked.

Maria nodded.

“What about the job? You’re scared, aren’t you,” Jane said.

“I hate to admit it, but yes, I am. I haven’t had to work for anyone in a long time. I’ve been the one telling people, well, little people that is, what to do for the past ten years. I don’t even know if I remember how to take orders from someone else,” Maria said.

“Sure you do. I’ve seen you take orders from Sarah all the time!” Jane teased.

“Oh, please! I don’t take orders from my 14 year old.”

Jane raised her eyebrow.

“Okay, okay, maybe sometimes I do. But don’t you dare tell her that!” Maria admitted.

“Mama…other book, other book,” Jane’s son insisted.

“I see you have your own dictator,” Maria teased.

Jane frowned at her as she got out another coloring book for her son.

Maria’s phone rang, and she looked at the number. She put her finger to her lips, and Jane told her son to be quiet.

“This is Maria,” she answered, and listened.

Jane kept her son occupied and watched Maria’s face for any indication.

“Yes, I’d be happy to. Okay. Okay. Thank you. I’ll talk to you then. Bye,” Maria said.

“Well?” Jane asked.

“I got a second interview!” Maria exclaimed.

“I knew you could! See, I told you! When do they want to see you again?” Jane asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Maria said. She let it sink in.

“How does going back to work sound now?” Jane asked.

“It sounds pretty good, actually. Look, I better go. I have to find something different to wear tomorrow. I haven’t had to wear a skirt for two days in a row in a long time! I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Maria said as she got up. She waved to Jane’s son on her way out.

“Bye!” Jane called after her, but she was already out the door.

“Bye bye,” Jane’s son imitated.

Jane smiled at her son, grateful that she had a few more years before she’d have to go back to work, but excited for her friend. She picked up a crayon and helped her son color his picture.

The Coffee Shop Vignettes – Jessica & Daisy

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Jessica wiped Jared’s pudgy face and he cooed at her. She’d already dropped the older two off at school, and had time to go to the gym. She wanted to enjoy her cup of coffee in peace, but Jared had a cold and couldn’t go to day care, so she had to bring him with her. So much for “me” time. She checked her lipstick in the review mirror one more time before getting out of the car.

She stood in line, with Jared perched on her hip. Two people ahead of her stood a woman holding a baby with out of control curly blond hair and a toddler, with equally crazy hair, hanging on her prairie skirt.

“Stop that, David…put that down,” she scolded. The one on her hip let out a single scream, and David laughed at him. Within minutes, David realized he had an audience with his brother, and began dancing in line. The woman struggled to control him, but it was clear she was going to lose that battle.

Jessica craned her neck to see the spectacle. Jared cooed and she shushed him. He obliged.

By the time the woman had gotten to the front of the line to order her coffee, David was in full entertainer mode, dancing around standing patrons. The woman struggled to give her order and then find her money while still keeping track of David. Other customers grimaced and gave her dirty looks. Jessica rolled her eyes.

“No control,” Jessica mumbled to herself.

“You got that right,” the well-dressed man in front of her said.

David continued to dance around the tables and the younger one screamed in delight as she made her way to the table. Jessica had to raise her voice over the commotion so that the clerk could hear her.

“David! Get over here!” the woman raised her voice.

Jessica watched her along with the entire café. She shook her head as she got her coffee and tried to find a table anywhere but near David and his Mom, but there was none. She was forced to sit right beside them.

Jessica no sooner set Jared in the high chair and he began to cry. She gave him a pacifier, but he spit it out. She gave a quick and inconspicuous sniff, but his diaper was fine. She could feel the eyes of other patrons on her and it made her uncomfortable. She was getting more flustered by the moment, and felt the need to leave, but she really wanted to enjoy her coffee. Still, what would people think? Even the older woman across the way waved at Jared and smiled at him, but he continued to cry. It was turning into a fiasco.

And then David came over to her table.

“Is he okay?” he asked.

“Yes, he’s fine, thank you,” Jessica said trying to shoo David away. She didn’t want people to think David was with her.

“But he doesn’t sound okay,” David continued.

“Thank you. I can take care of it,” Jessica said. Why wasn’t David’s mother attending to him?

As Jessica was struggling with Jared, he arched his back, knocking over her coffee. It spilled all over the table and onto the floor. Jessica was mortified. She reached for napkins, but only had a few.

David jumped back. “Mommy, Mommy! The baby spilled!” he announced to the café.

Jessica restrained herself from yelling at the child.

“Here let me help.” It was David’s mother. She appeared from nowhere and held a rag in her hand. Without a word she began cleaning up. David ran to the counter, got more napkins, and began helping too.

Jessica continued to tend to Jared. He’d started to quiet down as he was distracted by all the commotion. She didn’t want the woman helping her, but she really did need the help.

“Thank you,” Jessica said.

“No problem. This is nothing compared to the mess my boys make,” the woman said.

Jessica looked at the woman’s baby who sat quietly chewing on his pacifier. She felt guilty for judging the woman.

“I’m sorry. Jared’s not usually this much trouble. I don’t know what happened. But thank you for your help,” she said.

The woman handed the rags to David and he took them to the counter and handed them to the clerk.

David retuned with a cookie.

“Look Mommy! The lady gave me a cookie!” he said.

“That’s because you’re such a big helper. Thanks buddy,” she said to him.

“Again…thank you,” Jessica said.

“No problem. We mom’s have to stick together,” the woman said.

“Yes, I guess we do,” Jessica agreed. She held out her hand, “I’m Jessica.”

“Oh, I’m Daisy. I know, it’s a weird name. It’s what happens when your parents are hippy’s,” Daisy said.

“It’s lovely,” Jessica said.

“I’m David,” David said very loudly.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Jessica said.

“Do you have any coffee left?” Daisy asked.

Jessica looked at her cup which was empty. “Nope, so much for that cup of coffee.”

“Here, let me go get you another. What was it?” Daisy asked.

“Oh, you don’t have to…” Jessica started.

“It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll give you a free one.”

“Um…Mocha, thanks,” Jessica said.

“David, watch your brother,” Daisy instructed.

David dragged his brother’s high chair over to Jessica’s table and sat in the chair across from her.

“That’s my brother. His name is Riley,” David said.

Daisy returned with Jessica’s coffee and they spent the next hour talking about their kids, and Jessica realized they weren’t so different after all.

Introducing “The Coffee Shop Vignettes”

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Sometimes it’s hard to think of an idea for a Blog Post, but it’s much easier for me to think of a story. I think I get it from my dad.

When I was really little, he used to sing a bedtime song to me that he made up called “Jackie Penguin.” In the song, Jackie Penguin would just happen to have the exact same day I did. And Jackie Penguin’s day always ended happy or learned a lesson, just like I did. #thanksdad

That’s where the inspiration for “The Coffee Shop Vignettes” came from: for the days that I don’t have a Blog Post, but I do have something to share…or at least my fictional characters do.

My hope is that the reader would see themselves in the situations, or their friends, and would find connection and comfort.

This is a compilation of encouraging conversations from everyday life. Imagine yourself sitting at your local coffee shop cozied up with a book, surrounded by other patrons. It is alive with conversation, of people coming and going, and slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse into one another’s lives. These are the stories of your neighbors, your friends, your family, and maybe even your own story. They may sound familiar to you, and you may have even overheard a similar story at the table next to you.

My hope is that some of the stories bring you comfort, reminding you that we’re all in this together. Your stories are my stories, my stories are yours. Please check out the first installment of “The Coffee House Vignettes” listed under the “Categories” sidebar.

Book Banning in Virginia

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Last week, a temporary ban was put on two classic American novels “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by the Accomack County Public Schools. The books were pulled from the shelf after ONE PARENT complained to the school board about racial slurs in both books.

It was a reading assignment for a high school class, and the mother of a biracial child said her son couldn’t get past a certain page in Huck Finn that used the N-word seven times.

I’m sorry her son felt that way, but BANNING BOOKS IS NOT OKAY!

Both books are statements AGAINST prejudice, so she has totally missed the point of the stories.

Writers often use offensive and harsh language to evoke emotion out of their readers so that they will feel empathy for the characters and fight right along with them. Is it uncomfortable? Sure…it’s supposed to be!

Banning books is a frightening and slippery slope.

When you think about it, books are the one true form of freedom of speech that we have left! Our news is slanted, our magazine and newspaper articles are often skewed, but books are still FREE from censorship.

There was a peaceful protest outside the courthouse last night where students and parents gathered to express their frustration that ONE PARENT’S complaint can disrupt the entire district’s curriculum.

This parent missed a huge teaching opportunity to talk with her child about his feelings and for that I feel sorry for them.

As writers and parents, I hope we can all agree that when we start to erase history through censorship, we will forget what we’ve already learned from it.

I haven’t seen an on-line petition circulating yet, but will post an update if I find one.

By the way, my books tend to have a Christian message…some may find THAT offensive.