First Person POV – a new discipline

I’m five chapters in to the first in a brand new scifi series and I’ve decided to write this in first person POV. When I wrote The Lilean Chronicles, I wrote in third person POV, which is my natural preferred style as it allows for the story to be somehow, fuller. I don’t remember why I had the brilliant idea of doing first person, but I do remember reading somewhere that ‘they’ say that first person POV is more difficult to do and that if you can write a good story this way, people are more likely to respect your work. I’m always up for a new challenge so I thought I’d give it a go, at least for a couple of chapters and see how it goes.

Well I’m five chapters in and it seems to be going well, although the book is building more slowly than The Lilean Chronicles did. I have to be more disciplined with myself and I have to keep reminding myself that my main character, Sam, doesn’t know everything. There have been a couple of times I’ve had to go back and re word something after remembering that he wouldn’t know this or that. I’m also finding that I’m going far deeper into his own thought processes than I did with The Lilean Chronicles characters and there is far more about what is going on inside his mind. This is a good thing, I feel, as it allows the reader to get to know Sam on a deeper level and really identify with him. I’m trying to resist the urge to fill it up with his many and varied memories as I don’t want the book to be a series of flashbacks.

Third person POV will always be my preferred way of writing. I find my writing flows easier and the book grows quicker and I just find it more natural to have an omnipresent view. Another weird thing, I’m finding that it doesn’t seem entirely natural to have too much dialogue in this new book as I had in third person POV. I don’t know if this is normal for first person or not but that is how it is for me at the moment. I’m pretty convinced that this book won’t be as long as the third person POV books are either but again I don’t know whether this is normal or just my experience.

All in all it’s an interesting experience and good discipline writing in first person POV. I love learning something new, especially when it enables me to create something new and widen my skill base as an author.

An early inspiration

A chance posting by someone on facebook not long ago led me to youtube. She posted a video of Joan Baez singing a song and I went to search for others of her singing. Whilst I was searching I remembered she sang the theme song to a movie I adored as a young girl and within minutes I was transported back to those days when I first discovered my love for science fiction. Ahh those heady days of space travel and allegorical tales of man’s misuse of Earth’s resources and the interplay between man and his robot companions as he finds himself the only one on board fighting to do what he knows is right.

That movie is called Silent Running and starred Bruce Dern. The story told of the last remaining forests sent up into space in domes on spaceships, looked after by teams of guys in the hope that one day they could bring them back and refoliate the Earth. A decision is taken to blow up the domes, due to the expense of keeping them up there and Dern’s character decides this is the wrong decision and through a series of events, saves one last dome by blasting it into deep space before blowing up his ship and killing himself.

I loved this movie when I was young and watched my mother’s VHS video of it over and over again. I used my imagination to take myself into the story as Dern’s side kick pal helping him tend the domes and save the last of them. This was a defining moment in my life as a writer as it was this movie that first made me fall in love with the genre. Ever since then, science fiction and especially space opera are what push my love buttons.

Trad vs Indie – The Argument from here

There’s a lot of comments going around about the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus indie publishing. The trad folks argue that indie published work contains more errors and is of a generally lower quality, whilst the idie folks argue that a lot of errors are found in trad published works too and who’s to say that an indie published work of fiction is not worthy to be out there? Whatever your stance on this point, the important thing to remember is that it’s the readers who matter, not the authors.

It’s our readers who decide what is worthy of success and what isn’t, for they are the ones who buy it. You can spend months making sure your work is error free, punctuated properly, adverb free etc, but if readers think your story sucks, then you’ve wasted your time Bro. I have come to realise that amongst the author crowd, more importance is placed upon the structure of each sentence, punctuation and the ever present adverb argument, than on whether your story is interesting or whether your characters are believable or not. To me this seems out of balance because just having a work that is spelled perfectly, punctuated perfectly and totally adverb free doesn’t ensure it is a cracking good yarn that will sell millions and make you a household name. Of course the structure is important – duh – but so is having a good story and interesting characters.

To me personally, it’s more important for me to become well known as a writer of really cracking stories, than a rich one or one who can structure a sentence in way Shakespeare would be proud of. I’m learning as I go along and each work is structured with more finesse than the last and one day I will revisit my first novel and issue another edition with the problems I can see in it, fixed. There comes a point though, when I have to decide that to go any further down a particular route is just being too damn picky and pedantic for the sake of it. An example of this is the ‘had’ rule. For those who may have only recently repatriated from the planet Zog – apparently one should NEVER include any forms of the word ‘had’ in your writing. I have taken this on board and I do try to eliminate as many ‘hads’ as I can, probably 99% of them but some I leave as I feel they add to the point I’m trying to make in a positive way. I’m not going to beat myself up because my 100k word novel contains 10 ‘hads’ or a sprinkling of adverbs. It’s not worth the stress and I believe that most readers won’t be too upset when reading and probably won’t even notice.

If you go the trad route, then the publishing house editor will slice up your work to within an inch of its life and if you want to maintain it in any way resembling its original state, you must be prepared to fight and probably lose. With indie publishing you don’t have anyone telling you that you can’t have this sentence or that paragraph. This freedom is great, after all I wrote it so I want to have control over how much of it gets sliced and diced but it also brings a responsibility along with the freedom. It is up to you to make sure everything is spelled correctly and punctuated properly, those 2 things are very important whatever route you take, but with regards the adverbs and the ‘hads’ and similar rules; I for one am all for lightening up a little.

Sold or Unsold, you’re making history baby

There’s no doubt that since the advent of self publishing, the number of people ‘getting their shit out there’ has sky rocketed. Personally I think this is wonderful but many people are commenting that the quality of the work that is ‘out there’ now has fallen. That is probably so if you’re talking about spelling errors, punctuation (or the lack thereof) and other various grammatical faux’s pas, but writing isn’t just about spelling, punctuation and correct grammar. It’s also about imagination and ideas; taking the reader on a journey away from their same shit different day existence for a while. I’ve read many books that were traditionally published and found errors of all kinds in them, but this doesn’t stop me enjoying the story; nor does it stop me re-reading them.

With so many people now publishing their own work, the number of folks actively ‘marketing’ their wares on the various social media sites is phenomenal and trying to get one’s own tweets noticed amongst the thousands of others is almost impossible. You can go in two different directions with this – funny or saturation. If you go the funny route then your tweets/posts will be cryptic or clever and designed to catch the eye or make the reader wonder “what the heck is that about?” so they click the link and find themselves at your book page with the ‘buy me’ button winking at them seductively. Or you can take the saturation route and post an honest “here’s a link to buy my book” link but post it a lot more often. Whatever route you take, there are a lot more books on sale but the same number of customers as before so the chances of making sales are slim these days unless your name is known. It can be disheartening not to make enough sales to either make a decent living or at least to make you feel good and ‘the book crowd’ can be a little judgemental towards you if your sales aren’t high and your books aren’t among ‘the top 100’ at whatever website.

One thing tends to be forgotten in the rush to market and sell and that is that at the end of the day, you got your shit ‘out there’ and no one can take that away. In a hundred years your shit will still be out there, available to read and folks of the future will be able to see inside your mind and share the imaginings you had. Even if no one buys your book, it is still out there as part of the universal whole, the great consciousness and will forever be a part of it. The chances are still pretty high that you’re the only one in your street that has published a book, that’s something to be proud of. It’s your legacy to mankind and when everything else has withered into the far mists of the future, your words will still be there taking folks on journeys of imagination and wonder.

Your work may not make you a household name, it may not make you wealthy but your work is helping to make history. Get some perspective and step out of the aggressive ‘book wars’ that seem to be going on nowadays. I love that my books are now adding to the greater universal mind; that is so damn cool that sometimes just have to sit and think, “damn I did that, I actually did that.”