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