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?

If I wrote the same way my husband plays video games…OUT LOUD

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There’s an evening ritual in our house. After we’ve had dinner, and everyone’s done with homework, we usually go our separate ways to relax.

For me, that’s writing; for my daughter, that means drawing; for my son and husband that usually means video games. While my daughter hums along to whatever she’s listening to in her earbuds, my son is usually chatting with friends while they play minecraft. My husband has recently started playing OverWatch…and he’s very vocal when he is being shot at, or things aren’t going his way. And we mock him, because his noise cancelling headphones make it easy for us to do so.

So it got me thinking: what if I wrote the same way he plays Overwatch?! OUT LOUD! Could you imagine?

It would go something like this: “What?! How did that that guy just die? Who shot at him?! Where did he come from?! I can’t believe that! Come on, that was a cheap shot! Am I the only one in this mission?! Why can’t I hit anything?!”

The funny part is that as writers, we do ask our characters questions. We do get mad at them sometimes. We even get frustrated when they don’t turn out like we want them to. But I’ve never known a writer that does that OUT LOUD! And never with as much vigor as my husband playing Overwatch.

You can see that it might bring a whole knew dynamic to my writing. Especially considering that I write women’s fiction.

It might sound more like: “Why won’t she just kiss him already?! What does she want from him?! How come they can’t just be friends?! Don’t walk out on her again! She knows better than to do that! How could she not see that? It was so obvious!”

Then again, maybe I should “write out loud.” It certainly would draw some great looks from my family…well, except for my husband, because he wouldn’t be able to hear me…you know, because of the headphones and all.

How about you…do you write out loud?

Writing for my toughest critics…my kids

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I usually write Women’s Fiction. Not romantic women’s fiction, but stories about women of all ages in real-life situations.

I’ve mentioned before that I live with a bunch of nerds who all prefer fantasy, manga, or comic books, so getting one of them to listen to my story ideas or help me proofread is next to impossible.

I recently decided to branch out, if you will. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I figured it would be a perfect time to try something different: YA Fantasy. Besides, there’s a good chance I might never be published, which leads me to question, just who am I writing for?

It would be really nice to write something that my kids might actually want to, or at least pretend to, read.

Now I realize that there’s no guarantee they will read this one either. After all, they are all a bit particular. #booksnobs

My daughter cried (One Piece Spoiler Alert!) when Trafalgar Law died in the One Piece series. And both my daughter and son refuse to watch the Percy Jackson movies because the actors don’t match the book characters. So their standards are a bit high.

Let’s face it…my first attempt at YA fantasy doesn’t stand a chance. And I haven’t even written it yet! But what have I got to lose? If nothing else, it could be a really cheesy comedy.

As I said earlier, there’s a good chance I might never be published, at least in New York Best Seller standards. But I have this “back-up” fantasy. One day, when I’m gone, my grand kids will be going through my belongings and find my writing: all my poems, my short stories, my novels, and my unfinished manuscripts. And it will inspire one of them and THEY will write a New York Best Seller.

Is anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you trying something different?

Who is your toughest critic?

What To Do with That Unfinished Manuscript?

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If you’re a writer who’s been at your craft for a while, chances are you have several manuscripts that are unfinished. To date, I have several Manuscripts in some sort of “process.”

By that I mean, several are completed, as in they have a beginning, middle and ending. But they’ve never been professionally edited (can’t afford it), so they sit waiting “to be discovered.”

But then there are those “other manuscripts.” I have at least 4 of them that are around 7000 words, but they ran out of steam, each for different reasons. And you probably have some of those too.

Before you consider the paper shredder or having a bonfire, try something else.

Idea #1 – set it aside for a few months – Reread it, and maybe the flaw will come jumping out at you. Maybe you’ll realize that Robert couldn’t possibly be the murderer, because you forgot that Sheila murdered him in Chapter 3.

Idea #2 – Pull it apart – Maybe you have one really strong character and the rest are boring and uninspired. Maybe it was a mistake to place Amara the Elf in the same story as Arabella the English House Maid? Hey, it could happen. Maybe Amara is just in the wrong story?

Idea #3 – Research. Reasearch. Research – Maybe you haven’t done enough research on the topic you’ve chosen to write about? Maybe you don’t know as much about ancient basket weaving as you thought you did?

Idea #4 – Setting  – Change the setting. Maybe your lovers shouldn’t meet in the middle of a Western bar fight? Or maybe they should, but maybe they shouldn’t be lovers at all. Maybe they should be long lost siblings?

Idea #5 – Conflict – Maybe there’s too much? Maybe there’s not enough? Maybe the conflict is passive? Maybe you’re being too nice to your main character. Maybe she needs to fall off a cliff, get hit by a car, get thrown in jail, or all three at the same time?

Idea #6 – Dig deeper – Maybe your story isn’t working because you don’t care enough about your main character? Maybe you don’t know her as well as you thought you did. Maybe you need to work on her back story a little more. Maybe you need to find her Achilles heel and kick her in it…hard. Make her bleed (figuratively or literally depending on your genre) for something, or for someone. If you don’t feel her pain, your audience won’t either.

Idea #6 – Last resort – Shred it – It’s extreme and it’s painful, but maybe it needs to be done (though I don’t recommend it). Maybe the story isn’t working, because there is no story there? Maybe it really is just an “idea?” Maybe you just have the bones of a story, but there’s no meat on them. It’s hard to admit, but it happens.

 

Whatever the case may be, I would only resort to Idea #6 if you have a strong constitution. I don’t think I could ever destroy my work, not matter how cheesy it is. There’s an audience for it somewhere. Maybe you could include it in your biography when you’re rich and famous? Or maybe an MFA program would want it for a “What NOT to Do…” course?

I’m not a professional, and I’m not a published novelist (yet). This post was for me as much as it was for others. Maybe we could learn together. Feel free to share any hints that have helped you get back on track with your dormant manuscripts.

Editing too soon

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I’ve completed 3 novels (not yet published), but they’re written and in various stages.

The first one (I call it my practice novel) tumbled out of me. It was practically effortless to write. It was born out of an idea I’d been sitting on for about 15 years, so it was more than familiar to me before I even began the first chapter. I knew the characters well, and I knew what they wanted and how they intertwined.

I was also naïve and had no idea what went into getting something published. I just wanted to write.

My second novel (the sequel to the first novel) actually became absorbed into the first novel. So again, I knew the characters. But after researching the chances of getting a first novel ever published, I set it aside…for now.

The third novel is currently out to beta readers to help me catch things I’ve overlooked. That one, I will try to get published, preferably in the traditional sense, but I haven’t ruled out self-publishing either.

I’ve just started my fourth novel, and it’s moving slowly. In part, because I’m now working part time and have to “schedule” my writing time around work, kids, husband, dinner, oh, and sleeping. For the first few novels I had the luxury of not working and could write all day long if the mood struck me. But then real life kicked in.

I think the reason this novel is progressing so slowly is because, well, I know too much. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t profess to come anywhere close to my published counterparts, not even a little bit. But I think I’ve read too much about writing.

I now find myself over-thinking my sentence structure and word usage instead of just writing. I know that the first chapter is rarely the “actual” first chapter, so I’m re-arranging the chapters in my head as I’m writing, and I’m only 7,000 words in.

I’m thinking too much instead of writing, and I don’t know how to get back to just writing. I can’t “unlearn” what I already know, all the research that I’ve done, and it’s messing with my process.

Here’s where I need some advice from my fellow writers: how do you block out your “inner editor” during the first draft? How do you ignore the compulsion to edit as you go? Or is there a way to use that to my advantage?

Setting the Write Mood

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No, this is not about setting the right romantic mood for tonight’s romantic escapade. Sorry to disappoint.

This is about setting the mood to write.

After reading a post on The Lonely Author blog about how writers live through their characters, it got me to thinking about how we write certain scenes and how we identify with characters.

I’m curious how other fellow writers work their writing process, and if it makes a difference to the quality of writing they produce?

For instance, do you require silent isolation? Do you have your own personal space you work in, and does it have a door to shut off the world around you?

Do you require different settings for different characters?

Do you write at your favorite coffee house, or library?

Do you write in the middle of chaos with your four children screaming in the background? There’s a story about a woman named Susanna Wesley, who had something like 19 kids, and would sit at the kitchen table and pull her apron over her head and study the Bible in the midst of the chaos. I am not that woman.

How important, if at all, is it for you to have the proper mood to write? Or do you write “on the fly” between meetings, in traffic, waiting in the carpool line for the bell to ring, or at soccer practice?

Do you have to write a scene down when it comes to you, or do you have amazing recall?

I think mood is important. Recently, I watched part of “the Shining” (before it got too scary for me) and was frightened by the way I could identify with Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, when he’s alone in that beautiful, giant room, typing away at the typewriter, and he keeps getting interrupted by his wife and son, and totally freaks out on them. Okay…maybe Jack Torrance isn’t the best example and may be a little extreme…but I totally got what he was experiencing.

Sometimes, when I’m knee deep in a scene, especially something dark or heavy, and I feel someone approaching with a question, I fight to keep the mood of the scene going. But sometimes their mere presence ruins my train of thought.

Fortunately, I’m not living in a remote resort, cut off from civilization, with ghosts and my own demons playing tricks on my psyche.

But you get the idea. Setting the mood, whatever that means, is part of writing.

What advice do you have for writers who may be struggling to set the mood and find their groove?