Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Point of view

Okay, I know that last post had nothing to do with writing but I did write it.  I did edit it.  And I tried to put forth an idea so I think it should qualify as an entry in this blog.  I'm letting this forum evolve and seeing where I end up.  The last post was my point of view on a vexing problem.  Today, I discuss point of view as a writing tool.

The reason for this is because I've begun reading the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The movie, released last week, intrigued me as it was based on a young adult novel so I decided to discover its literary roots.  Also, this is the genre in which I am most comfortable writing.  Besides, I had just finished Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden, a historical novel based on Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis so I needed something light.

A good friend had read Hunger Games and said she hated the voice of first person (I said this, I did that) which Ms. Collins uses, preferring third person point of view (she said this, she did that) in her readings.  I've written first person before and it is a classic way to write a book for young people as there is an instant relationship made with the character.  What is unusual about Hunger Games is that it's also written in the present tense (I say this, I do that).  This can be jolting as rarely is this tense used when writing fiction.  It took me an entire chapter to wrap my mind around this style and only then did I finally immerse myself in the characters and story line.  Perhaps that is why it might be a tale better told as a movie.

I've never been happy writing fiction in the present tense because I am telling a story that has already happened, hence is in the past.  With Hunger Games set on a future earth, it seems a rather odd choice of tense but Collins may have wanted us to believe this could happen now.

But, back to point of view.  First person works well if you know your reader is the same sex as your character.  A boy rarely reads a book where the I is a girl.  With girl readers, it doesn't seem to matter.  They relate to the personality of the character not whether it's a he or a she.  I've written several young adult novels and of my latest, half have a girl protagonist, the other half, a boy.  My hope is if my male readers like my prose, they will accept my female characters.  But none of these novels is written in the first person.

Writing in first person does focus your writing on what is happening to the main character but it doesn't allow you to explore another character's view of a given situation nor can you give the villain's point of view.  So, it's good to explore a story through different points of view then decide how to write it that allows the characters to tell the tale.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First World Problem

When I first heard about First World Problems, I didn't realize how profound those three words were.

This past week, I've had a first world problem with Sears Canada.  On March 10th, we ordered a water softener.  There were multiple reasons for this.  Calgary water is hard which means the dishes are never really clean coming out of the dishwasher, hubby can't get a lather while he's shaving and it dries out his skin.  My hair stylist said I needed softer water as my hair is so fine and hubby's dermatologist also recommended one.  The Sears salesman said it would wipe away the build-up in our pipes (we've had two emergency visits from a plumber).  But, we've lived with hard water for 35 years so it is really a luxury item.

The softener was to be installed last Saturday morning.  We stayed in and waited.  Finally after lunch, hubby called Sears.  Could we wait until Sunday and see if the plumber showed up?  24 hours later we called and were told what did we expect?  No plumber works on Sunday.  Sheesh!

Monday, another call to our salesman.  Horrors, the plumber hasn't called?  No, so he assures us 'something' will be done.  Tuesday, we hear from Sears headquarters.  They were getting to the bottom of the problem.  Meanwhile, I am tweeting about this issue, hash-tagging Sears.  @SearsCares begins to follow me but not a whisper of any help.

Yesterday, I was told a plumber would come this afternoon but at 11:30 today, I get a call saying he injured himself and had to take the afternoon off.  Okay, I'm sorry for the guy but is he the only plumber in the city?  Bottom line--he'll come tomorrow.  Not holding my breath!

Oh yeah, remember this is a blog about First World Problems?  Obviously this water softener issue is one such problem.  In the Third World, they don't know what a water softener is and I'm sure if you're hauling water from the local well or river, you don't care if it's hard.  All you want it to be is clean and safe.  Perhaps you'd love to buy a pump at Sears so you didn't have to make that journey to the well.  Maybe you would wait months for its installation knowing your life would change.  Would you complain about delays?  I don't think so.  That is a First World issue.

So rather than railing about how unfair life is, I'm going to think how lucky I am that I can worry about whether or not the plumber will come with the water softener tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


After self-publishing The Quest of Bathasar, I decided I'd do the same with the fantasy I wrote that excited the agents to whom I submitted it--The Sceptre of Terran-Gayle.  Amazon had started an on-line publishing arm called Createspace which was a lot easier to use than Lulu.  Each step of the way was explained and corrections suggested.  Before the book was published on Amazon, I had to proof a copy.  Lulu didn't do this.

When I received the copy I ordered from Lulu, Balthasar was already in the public domain.  As I said in a previous post, I was not happy with results.  With Terran-Gayle, this awkward period was eliminated since I could make changes before it became public.  And I did.

I gave the book to hubby to read and he made a major suggestion of reversing chapters 1 and 2.  This made so much sense that I wondered why my agent hadn't clued in.  As I resubmitted the changes, Amazon announced a contest called the Breakthrough Novel Award.  Self-published books were eligible so I submitted mine.  The Sceptre of Terran-Gayle was one of 1000 chosen from a field of 5000 young adult novels.  I was pretty darn excited.  I didn't make the second cut but I'm feeling better about my writing so can accept this rejection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Blogging Worth It?

I've been blogging off and on for about 2 years now.  My travel blog is up to date with our latest adventures while this one languishes.  I wanted this to be a forum for some insights I've had as a writer but I think it's now time to change things up.

I'm going to try and blog every day and see if it helps with both my writing and my ability to get an idea across quickly and affectively.  No more long-winded blogs!!

So, today I will say that I finished editing the second draft of my aboriginal fantasy book for young adults.  I love my characters but I must work a bit to fill them out.  Right now they are skinny creatures with eyes and hair colour and not much else.  I think the magic is good and I feel I've tapped into my version of native myths but it still needs some work.  I'm putting it away for a couple of weeks while I tackle the second book of The Lochnaeran Cluster books.  I blogged about publishing The Quest of Balthasar and now I have a fan in my second cousin, Collin who loves the story and wants more.  Talk about pressure!