The Trouble With My WIP . . .

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook Computer

The euphoria at having written 64k words in 33 days is past. Long past. Now I’m faced with a WIP I’m not sure what to do with. It has problems. Many problems. Maybe outlining them here will make them less daunting. Or more. Who knows, but here goes . . .

Problem #1: This is probably the second biggest problem, so definitely not listing in order, but that’s okay. Free flow thinking, right? So the problem is POV. Actually it’s more like the tense of the POV. I’ve already written the rough draft in the view point of four characters, and I have every intention of it staying that way. But it is written in 1st person present. It seems to be how I like to write these days, and I think worked very well for my last YA novel. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s right for this one. It’s been done before, but writing multi-POV in 1st person can be difficult, because you need to make each character very distinct. The reader needs to know at all times whose head they are in. It’s only a rough draft, but I’m not sure I’ve achieved that. So I started writing in a close 3rd person past tense. That way the reader is in the character’s head, but only one narrative voice is needed. But I’m still not sure. More on that later . . .

Problem #2: There are some plot motivation holes. I don’t see this as a big deal, because I know why the characters have done what they did, I just need to sell it to the reader. It’s a case of writing fast to meet that psuedo-NaNo goal, and missing important motivations and characterization. It’s just another part of revision and I’ll add it to my list.

Problem #3: Showing and not telling. My writing style tends to be “telly”, which on my last WIP wasn’t all that bad. That character was a matter-of-fact to the point kind of person, and for her in 1st POV to wax elegantly on her surroundings would have been ridiculous. But I do want this novel to have a less stark, concise feel to it. So this doesn’t come naturally to me, but I can do it. I just have to work harder at it. And it kind of ties into Problem #1, as well as the final problem at the bottom of this list.

Problem #4: Since this novel is a YA Science Fiction re-telling of The Last of the Mohicans, I wanted to incorporate some of the Mohican culture and language into the story. There aren’t actually any Native Americans, but rather aliens on another planet that humans have discovered. But I am very worried about native appropriations. Though I allowed the Mohican language to inspire the words of my alien nation in my book, and it was done from a place of respect and in an effort to honor the Mohican Nation, it may not be seen that way. I have contacted the Mohican Nation with no response, but I will try again when my novel is finished. There is a good chance if they are not in agreement with my use of their language, I may have to make some changes.

Problem #5: So this is kind of all the other little problems that every novel faces, and therefore not a real big deal. Filter words, grammar, typos, etc. They are in every rough draft and so not particularly daunting to fix. It just has to be done and will take time.

Problem #6: So this is kind of the big one. I haven’t found my voice. It kind of ties in with the tense of the story and whether I’m inside a character’s head or just hovering over it. And it has a lot to do with my natural style of writing in a more telling fashion than showing. I want this novel to have a lyrical flow, beautiful imagery, and intense emotion. So it’s going to take work. I’m not afraid of that. I love writing, and I love learning and growing as a writer, but it does bring up all those writerly doubts we constantly have hanging over our heads, no matter how many books we write. This sounds like crap. I’m a failure. I’ll never pull this off. You know, that little voice inside your head that encourages you to throw in the towel before you’ve even started.

So I’m fighting that voice, and looking for direction. All the little things will fall into place and iron themselves out with hard work and a lot of time and devotion, but the voice, tense, POV, etc. is where I am struggling. Once I get that figured out, it’s just a matter of applying the effort to the work.

So any thoughts? Do you prefer 1st or 3rd person in a multi-POV novel? Does showing instead of telling come easy to you? Or like me, do you have to fix that tendency on edits? What about voice? Does that come naturally in the rough draft, or is it something you add as you revise? Let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “The Trouble With My WIP . . .

  1. I totally understand your concern with multiple POVs. Mine has two POVs, and I’m constantly worried about them sounding too similar. I plan to do a voice revision where I make notes to myself of specific attitudes, diction, and slang that is unique to each character and then go back and make sure those are consistent throughout. Though, I don’t think I have ever read a book with more than 2 POVs that wasn’t in third person. I’m not saying they aren’t out there. I just haven’t read them. I know that the Throne of Glass series is third person, and the Lunar Chronicles is, too. Also, I am currently reading Burn, the third in the Pure trilogy by Julianna Baggott, and this series has about 5+ POVs that are in third person but feel like first person. In fact, I could have sworn it was first person until I went back and double checked. So it can be done well in third person, and it may be easier. Just a thought….

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    • I’m really leaning towards 3rd as well for the examples stated and also The Raven Chronicles. I just feel so comfortable writing in 1st from my last WIP that I’m sort of scared of 3rd . Which may be a good thing. If you’re too comfortable while writing, then you are not learning and growing. 🙂

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      • Reading them again for the second time. I absolutely love them, though reading Stiefvater depresses me because I will never write like her. I mean, I don’t want to write just like her, but it amazes me how she thinks and expresses herself so beautifully with words.

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  2. I like the idea of multi-POV 1st person if you can wrangle a way to let each main character have their own chapter. It would be a natural break where the reader could expect to hop from one person to the next.

    Best of luck with it!
    – A

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    • Thanks. I did write in 1st with each chapter dedicated to one character, but I still found myself forgetting who I was reading about sometimes. Not that I couldn’t fix that and give each character a distinct voice, but I was also worried about the overall feel of the novel and so many voices would be hard to achieve that. Obviously I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do. 😉 Thanks for your thoughts!

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  3. These sound like issues I always worry about too, and I’m facing the same questions in my spec fiction WIP. For me, the voice and POV issues are paramount because I think they control the reader’s experience of the story more than any other elements. You can try to answer based on what’s more comfortable or comes more easily to you, or based on what you’ve seen other writers do. But I ask myself what experience I want the reader to have. Do I want readers to feel that they are in the skin of each character (1st person)? Or is there a particular, dominant feel I want the work to have (3rd person)? Do I want readers to understand the varied sensibilities of different characters? Or are there momenst and aspects of the characters that I only want the reader to find out based on what the characters *do*? Sometimes as a reader, my *not* knowing a character’s motivation keeps me even more interested in what they’re going to do next. At other times, the voice inside a particular character’s head is what pulls me along. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. As one of the character’s says in “Solaris,” “There are no solutions, only choices.” Put another way, I asking myself, “What do I want to withhold from the reader?” With 1st person (esp. from multiple characters), I deny the reader an overall level of coherence; the reader continually gets the story piecemeal, and laden with each character’s biases (Rashomon-like). With 3rd person, I lose some emotional immediacy; the reader gets to see and know things that characters don’t know, maybe even things the characters don’t know about themselves. That distance can create opportunities for great irony or poignancy.

    In my WIP, I shifted from 1st to 3rd person so that I could present the world of the novel more broadly. Since my MC is in this world, she wouldn’t have any reason to explain the nuances of the world that the reader needed to know. I also want to try some very deliberate experiments with 3rd person and narrative voice. And for me, voice is the ultimate factor. If I don’t feel compelled by the voice I’m writing in, nothing else works. And in my WIP, I tried and couldn’t find that voice in 1st person. But I did maybe 10,000 words of drafting in 1st person to be sure about that. And I wonder if you might take a single section or chapter and try out the various approaches you’re considering to see which one feels most right to you. Just a thought.

    But I love the questions you’re asking, and I hope you let us know what you decide.

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    • I have already re-written 5 chapters in 3rd person, and I think I may go that route, but I still haven’t located the voice. I think I need to decide on 1st or 3rd, re-write if needed, then go back and add more description and showing and improve the voice. Focusing on so many things at once makes it difficult for me to do it all. I’ll definitely post what I decided and thanks for your comments. It was like listening to my own thoughts. Especially what you said about the feel of the novel. I think this one needs a step back from the MC’s POV, and beautiful prose, something that doesn’t always work in 1st. If the voice doesn’t sound authentic, 1st person can pull a reader out of the story very quickly!

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      • I haven’t found the voice for mine either, at least one I’ve been able to maintain. And I agree totally about the 1st person POV. It needs to sound like the character telling his/her story, not the author speaking through a character who is effectively a prop. I’ve managed to pull that off in short stories, but for me trying to sustain it for the length of a whole novel is much trickier. I feel that if I could find the right voice, the writing would go much faster, though that may just be something I’m telling myself to keep my spirits up 🙂 So for now, I’m nust moodling around, advancing the story, and trying to get the real narrative voice to poke it’s head up. Good luck!

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