Adventures in Crazytown
Listening to: Thrice, “Stare at the Sun”
So I guess I’ve officially lost my mind.*
I’m doing something I swore I’d never do unless I had to…writing two novels at once.
But wait! There’s more!
The novels are written from different POVs–one’s in first person, and the other is in third person with multiple narrators.
And I almost always work on both in one day.
Actually, it’s going rather well so far. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do this starting out–oh HELL no. It splits your focus far too much, and in order to finish a first, second, or even third novel, you need that focus and passion (also known as obsession). But I’m 40k into the first draft of one novel, and this other idea just kept poking at me.
*Poke, poke* Psssst, hey, you, writer girl, look over here, it would whisper. Aren’t I a pretty, shiny new idea? Wouldn’t it be fun to write me? Come on, you know you want to!
I couldn’t abandon the other novel–not 40k in, for sure, and not at all because I enjoy the characters and the idea.**
So I decided to go for broke. So far, it’s actually working. Plus, I figure that I’ll finish the first one just as I get to the hard part of the second one.
I couldn’t have done two novels at once, much less in different POVs, even two years ago. That was when I was struggling with GRIM LIGHT, which had both first and third (eventually, after changing the third to first and then back to third), and boy did that ever get hairy. We’re talking man-on-the-beach-who-looks-like-he’s-wearing-a-sweater-but-he’s-not hairy.
The greatest thing so far is how, after years of writing almost exclusively in first person, I discover the joy of third. Now, my first two novels were in third, so it’s not like I’ve never done it. But I’ve never been very good at it. Those first two novels read rather blandly, as third never allowed me to get into a character’s head like I wanted. And I could never nail voice in third person. It took me a few novels in first person to really get it.
We all know that each POV has its benefits and drawbacks. For a few years now, I’ve been dealing quite happily with the way first limits the amount of information you can give the reader. It hasn’t really bothered me. Occasionally I’d shake my fist at the sky because dang it, the reader needs to know something and I couldn”t figure out how to impart that info, but I always figured it out and it made for a nice challenge.
And if I got really frustrated, I just reminded myself how much I hated my third person work. That did the trick.
So, when I realized that the 2nd new novel (working title: THE COLLECTOR) absolutely had to be in third person, I did some serious angsting. Could I do it? I’ve done some short stories in third, in addition to the third person sections of GRIM LIGHT, but I wasn’t sure about an entire novel. Especially after the multiple failures way back when.
But I had to try. So I did. And I loved it.
It’s freeing. Really. I love the narrative freedom it offers me, and how I can now get into the heads of multiple characters, figure out their hopes and fears far more easily, and see the world from their eyes. It felt new, surprising, bright. By the time I reached chapter 3, I was practically floating. I had a dentist appointment that day, and I couldn’t stop smiling even while the hygienist scraped my teeth.***
The lesson here, if you’re looking for one, would be this: Just because you sucked at something before doesn’t mean you always will. Somehow, writing in first person for a few years enabled me to write in third. Oddly, it’s the opposite of practice-makes-perfect. Except not, because I was practicing, just not the thing I sucked at.
Okay, I think we’ve reached the maximum confusion threshold here.
So, what have you avoided due to fear of failure? Did you ever come back and try it again?
*We all know I lost it a long time ago. I just have all the paperwork in order now.
**Plus, I have it set in Johnstown, and boy is that ever fun. I feel like I’ve lived here long enough to set a book here. Apparently reaching this comfort level takes about ten years for me.
***OW I HATE THAT PART.