Saturday, August 20, 2011

Same Song, Different Verse

I'm going through the first edit for Song of Life, and once again learning.

I'm a seat of the pants writer. I've had no formal training, I hold no degrees. I like to think I write from my heart, yet I have trouble getting into the character's heads to any great depth, and more than occasionally slide into omniscient view.

Song was started in February 2008 and was my first attempt at writing something besides fan fiction. I'm sad to say it shows, and I can't believe I sent it in without recognizing and correcting problems. I've learned a lot since 2008.

I remember thinking back then I was going to try to write 'grownup' stuff. Unfortunately, most of my life I'd read sf&f and straight historical, even women's lit. Definitely not Romance, not since The Wolf and the Dove shocked my socks off when I was a young teen who'd only read Georgette Heyer. Oy, as Lori would say.

So what am I trying to write? Romance, of course. And Romance has it's own rules. A writer cannot lollygag around, describing this, that and the other. One must catch the reader's attention, hook them into the story; start with the action, as they say. I don't know what that says about Romance readers, but I'm trying to oblige. Song was a First Page at DA eons ago and garnered a lot of posts, even some editing by Shiloh Walker.

Romance also demands a deep POV, the deeper the better. I've seen complaints in reviews that the reviewer didn't understand where the protagonist was coming from, that the actions weren't justified or explained by inner dialogue. I've read books that went on for pages with inner dialogue, so much so that I started to skim. I suck at doing deep POV, I guess I'm a shallow person. ;-)

So Song has a lot of sweeping descriptions and imagery and sort of sneaks into the action:

The house endured. It crouched, solid and there, an aging lion sitting on its knoll with its claws dug deeply into the thin mountain soil, its honeysuckle mane dipping and swaying in the breeze.

A lot of head hopping (which I thought descriptive at the time):

A short, broad figure, dressed in blue jeans and a plaid shirt, with a white cowboy hat on his head, turned and glared at the offender, catching sight of Cas and Sunny from the corner of his eye.

See, we weren't in the 'cowboy's' POV. So this is head hopping. There's a lot of that, especially in dialogue scenes, where you're supposed to be viewing from one person's POV. I find it very frustrating. Another example:

He started walking again, a tall, lanky man in his early twenties, his dark hair floating about his head, his eyes intent on the town below.

Since we're in the man's POV, the descriptor has to go. Alas, I thought it very dramatic at the time I wrote it.

Funny thing though, as I scanned through the manuscript, I noticed the editor's color codes became fewer in the last part. So maybe there's hope for me yet. Or maybe she'll be concentrating on that the next go round. Oy again!

This solidifies something for me. No way - no way - could I ever self publish without rigorous editing. What reads perfectly fine to me does not meet the Romance genre criteria and I'm not ashamed to admit I need all the help I can get.

Hopefully, between all of us, we'll produce a story that will draw readers in and that will read so smoothly that some might say 'wow, she makes it look so easy'.

It's never easy, but all the work is worth it in the end.


  1. I loved that description of the house. I don't even care if you were in the house's POV.


  2. Oy back atcha.

    For me, it's a slow learning curve and it's learning by doing. That's the best way for me, I'm a 'use it or lose it' sort of gal. All my nursing classes are vague memories now, because I specialized in urology, and even more so when I switched to insurance. But I can bore you to death discussing Medicare, etc., because I deal with it daily.

    So I'm grateful Tir saw beyond the mistakes to the story I was trying to tell. Once again she's teaching (however unconsciously), and I'm learning by doing. :-)