Maybe you’ve heard this bit of advice before: If a scene isn’t working, try changing your point of view. You know — instead of the protagonist calling the shots, maybe try putting it into the love interest’s POV. Or the villain’s. Or the secondary character’s. Switch it up, because maybe the problem wasn’t the plot but the limitation on how the story is being viewed. Because that’s the thing with point of view: unless you’re using an omnipotent narrator, the POV has to be limited. Figuring out when to switch it up, or how to break away from the way you’ve been structuring the story, can be challenging. And maybe it won’t do what you’ve set out to accomplish. But until you try, you don’t know. It could be exactly what you need.
And the great thing about this piece of advice? It works for life so very well.
So this year could have sucked by any stretch. Lots of things happened, a number of them truly upsetting. And for a while, I was in a bad way. For one thing, I didn’t hit a bestseller list, which has been on my list of goals ever since I sold Hell’s Belles. For another thing, the book that I wrote for my kids didn’t sell. For a third, writing has been such a huge dream of mine for so long that I haven’t been able to see past it, so when I hit bumps, they hit me back, and hard. For a fourth, my beloved Officekitty died. And for a fifth, I tore my ACL in my left knee, which derailed my path to getting a black belt in tae kwon do this coming November. Yes, these things hurt — the torn ACL very literally. And for a while, I wasn’t able to see any other view than one that was bleak.
But instead of limiting my point of view to how lousy things were, I’m changing it up. And so:
Sales. Nope, no bestseller list yet. On the other hand, I still get terrific emails from readers about the Riders of the Apocalypse books, and even the occasional Hell fan who asks when I’m finally going to get off my duff and write the first book in Pit and Paradise. (Answer: This year. For reals.) When I first started writing, it wasn’t so that I could be a famous author (although, granted, I’m willing to give this a shot). I wrote because I had worlds inside of me. I wanted people to read my stories. You know what? I’m totally hitting this goal, and I have been since 2005. My good friend Ty Drago — author of the fabulous middle-grade series The Undertakers, which is currently Tax Deduction the Elder’s favorite series — recently reminded me of all that I have accomplished sales-wise by listing all of my published novels and short stories on the website of his online magazine Allegory, under the “Name in Lights” section. Ty, along with being a dear friend, also was the first editor to buy one of my stories (“Guilty Pleasures”). That was my first “YES” after a sea of “NOs.” Thank you, Ty!
POV change: Instead of focusing on how I haven’t met my stretch sales goal, I’m thrilled that my stories are reaching their audience. And, bonus: I’m learning how to appreciate my own accomplishments.
Submission disappointment. Well, the book for my boys is still unsold. But I decided to spend the money to hire a freelance editor. Tamson Weston came highly recommended, and I’m very happy to say that she didn’t disappoint! Tamson did exactly what I had hoped: She pointed out the things that I was too close to see, and it was her feedback that led me to try something completely different with the book. I’m now about halfway done with the rewrite, and I’m thrilled with the result. And more: I read the first chapter of the revised story to the Tax Deductions, and they both clamored for more. YEAH.
POV change: Instead of focusing on how the book didn’t sell, I’m trying different things to tell the story, which I greatly believe in, in the best possible way. It’s a challenging exercise, but the excitement in my kids’ eyes is terrific inspiration.
Dreams. It was around April 2012 when it hit me that for the longest time, I had been so focused on the business of writing that I realized I had forgotten my love of writing. And I asked myself, “If I never sell anything again, what would I do?” The answer, which I came to after a lot of soul-searching, was this: I would keep writing, sales or no sales. And I would teach writing to those who had a passion to tell stories. Well, I’m currently rewriting the book for my boys — which I will give to them, no matter what — and I also started looking into doing some writing workshops at local schools. And when I told Ty that I want to help other writers, ideally by teaching about writing and the business, he asked me, “What about editing?” He invited me to be an Allegory editor, and I was thrilled to say yes.
POV change: Instead of freaking out over not having other dreams, I’ve been redefining what it means for me to be a writer. Now my dreams are stretching along with that definition, and I now have a new set of goals to help me achieve those dreams.
Officekitty. Tawny was 19 when she died. I loved her, and her sister Mist (who lived to be 15), more than I could ever say. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed having a cat with me — working from home meant that Tawny was truly my constant companion — until Loving Husband suggested a few months later that we get a new cat. And soon, we found Nyxie. She’s now about 13 weeks old and has all of us wrapped around her paws. At first, when she played with Tawny and Mist’s toys (which she was able to find behind the furniture!!!), it felt weird. But I quickly decided that cat toys are meant to be played with by cats. Nyxie is cuteness incarnate — and I’m very happy.
POV change: Instead of mourning the loss of my beloved cat, I remember my beloved cat — and have made room in my heart to love another ball of fluff.
Torn knee ligament. When the doctor told me the results of the MRI, I cried. It wasn’t because I would need surgery (which I do) or months and months of strenuous physical therapy (ditto) — it was because now there would be no way I could test for my tae kwon do black belt in November. Oh, I was so bitter. And mad. But I was also determined. No way was I stopping TKD just because I got hurt. I would get the surgery, do the PT, and keep on attending class to see what everyone was doing. Watching from the sidelines sucks, no way around that. But at least I can keep learning by observing. The instructors have been terrific; whenever I have questions about the techniques people are doing, the instructors go out of their way to show me what the class is doing, and what that particular move is effective. And I will be taking private lessons to work on improving my hand techniques while kicks/pivots are off limits (for eight-plus months). I will help Loving Husband and the Tax Deductions review their forms by watching and critiquing, and I will cheer them on as they test for their black belts this year. And when I finally get the all clear to return to TKD, I know they will cheer for me.
POV change: This is an opportunity for me to improve my hand techniques and learn sparring strategy. And bonus: Upper body workout on crutches!
So there you go: Sometimes, a point of view change is just what the doctor — and the writer — ordered.
Today is my ACL reconstruction surgery. Starting tonight, I hope to move with an awesome Bionic Woman soundtrack in my brain!
Happy 2013, everyone!