REWRITING: 1 Tip for Getting Out of Your Character’s Head

We all talk to ourselves from time to time. 

You know what I mean: Those moments when you think quick one liners such as:

  • What am I doing here? 
  • Is everybody staring at me?
  • I can’t breathe. I. Can’t. Breathe.

And then there are the times we’re in our heads for minutes, maybe a half hour or more. Mulling. Debating. Remembering something like a first kiss . . . or saying goodbye.

As writers, we let our characters do the same thing. We get in their heads — let our readers get in their heads. Sometimes for just a moment. And sometimes our characters become ve-ery introspective. The scene . . . the thoughts . . . it’s all from inside our POV character’s head.

I’m thinking, I’m thinking, I’m thinking . . . 

The question is: How much is too much — or rather, how much introspection is too long?

When I’m rewriting a manuscript, I always look for scenes where I’m in my character’s head too long. Where my character is thinking, thinking, thinking for one third of the scene or longer. To get my character out of their head, I ask myself:

Who can my POV character talk to? 

HINT: This lines up with author Rachel Hauck’s wisdom to “Tell the story between the quotes.” 

Get a conversation going. Get someone else in the room with your character — and yes, you may have to change your setting to do this. If your character is driving, have them activate their Bluetooth and call their closest friend and talk out what they’re feeling, what they’re dealing with, rather than just thinking about it. How about this: bring the very person you’re  character is trying to avoid onto the scene. (Just a thought, but oh, what fun you could have!)

In my my upcoming novella, You Can’t Hurry Love, I have a scene where my heroine is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic — everyone’s trying to get out of town for the Christmas holidays. And yeah, she’s thinking about a lot of stuff that is pertinent to the story. On my rewrites, I have her call her best friend and have a conversation. Same information — but she’s out of her head, no longer just thinking her own lonely thoughts. Much more active storytelling — and a much stronger scene.

So what about you and the story you’re working on? Are there any scenes that can be rewritten by getting your POV character out of their head and into a conversation with someone else?

[Tweet “REWRITING: 1 Tip for Getting Out of Your Character’s Head by @bethvogt”]

 

 

 

It’s Okay to Start Over by Ron Estrada

No, I’m not talking about starting your novel over, or even that last scene that fell as flat as a campaign speech. I’m talking about everything related to your writing career. Going back to square one. Starting from scratch.

You see, a lot of funny things can happen on your way to Awesome Writing Career. You may discover that self-publishing really isn’t what you want to do. You may decide that traditional publishing isn’t what you really want to do. You may realize that apocalyptic zombie romance may have been the wrong genre choice.

Hey, things don’t work out the way we plan. If they did, most of you would be princesses living in a castle near the world’s largest chocolate factory. In my case, I’d be living in a mountain cabin next to the world’s largest chocolate factory.

Most writers quit at this point in their journey. Which is unfortunate. Because, in all likelihood, they’ve gained enough knowledge and skill that it will only take some minor tweaking to push them into the “pro” category.

But wait, Ron, you started out by saying we should start over when things aren’t working out. True. But starting over with ten years of writing experience in your back pocket is a far cry from your first attempt at novel writing. You know stuff. Really, you do.

So how can you start over without tossing out everything you’ve gained? Here are some ideas:

  • Try a new genre. Something that’s been in the back of your mind but you never had the courage to go for it.
  • Pick up a new craft book and actually do the little exercises in the back.
  • Find a partner or critique group.
  • Hire a writing coach.
  • Take a break. Yes, really. It’s okay. But set a date to get back into it. Otherwise, it’s a lot like exercise. Once you stop, being a slacker becomes a bit too comfortable.

Try something new to rev up the old engines. But don’t quit just because you’re not selling books or landing an agent. One minor adjustment can mean the difference between fizzling on the launch pad or reaching the stars.

Make the change. It just might the one you need to make this your year.

~*~

Ron Estrada is the author of the Cherry Hill Young Adult series and a regular contributor to Women2Women Michigan, Novel Rocket, and My Book Therapy. You can find out what he’s up to at RonEstradaBooks.com.

Tips to Keep From Becoming a Scaredy-Cat Writer

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and this person confided that she was afraid she didn’t have what it takes to be a writer. “I’m just not good enough to get a book published, and I don’t know if I ever will be.”

“Welcome to the club,” I told her.

My answer wasn’t what she expected. She had forgotten something we had heard together at a conference many years ago. We’d been listening to an established author talk about his own fear and inadequacies. He told the audience that every time he sits down to write a new book, the fears resurface and he’s certain he no longer has what it takes to make it in publishing.

Hearing him confess his own fears gave me hope. Beyond that, it brought home an important fact. Being published—no matter if it’s a single book or a hundred—won’t necessarily make the fear disappear.

So what’s a writer to do?

Tips to Keep From Becoming a Scaredy-Cat Writer

  1. Write Regularly. For some of us that means daily. For others it means on the weekend, or three days a week. The truth is, mood is a fickle mistress and time is NEVER lying around waiting to be found!
  1. Choose to Ignore the Negative Voices in Your Head. We all have them—those irritating whispers that tell us we’re not good enough, and we’re selfish to even try to follow our dreams. We can write anyway, or we can cave in to our insecurities. Published writers keep writing, no matter what those voices say.
  1. Write Outside Your Comfort Zone.The publishing industry is in a constant state of change. What you write today, may not be popular five years from now. As a writer, you’ll have to constantly be changing and growing. Get used to it now and avoid the deer-in-the-headlights reaction when change comes your way.
  1. Find a Writing Tribe. This is a tough enough business without trying to fly solo. We all need fellow writers who understand what we’re doing. These fellow travelers will keep us accountable and encourage us when we think we can’t go any further.
  1. Write When You Don’t Have the Time. So often I hear people who want to be published talk about how they’ll start when they find the time. The truth is that time is NEVER lying around waiting to be found. Following our dreams takes sacrifice. We must be willing to make the hard choices and carve out time to write.
  1. Stay Active in the Industry. Join writing groups—locally and online. Give back to the writing community at large by volunteering to help others. Trust me when I tell you that no matter where you are in your writing journey, there are those less experienced. And by staying active, it’s harder to quit. The times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel it was having to answer to others that kept me going.
  1. Write When You’re NOT Inspired.We cannot wait for the mood strike to write. Inspiration is a fickle mistress. If we’re serious about pursuing publishing dreams, we must move beyond depending on our mood to be able to write.
  1. Remind Yourself Why You Write. For me, written words are the way I process life. I don’t talk things out, I write things out. God designed me to be like this. Writing is His gift to me. I have those words taped above my desk so I’ll never forget.
  1. Write Through the Fear. Being a published writer goes hand in hand with fear. We’re afraid we won’t be good enough to be published, then that no one will read the book, and finally that we won’t be able to write another book.

These are my tips to keep from being a scaredy-cat writer. What would you add to the list? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Brainstorming With Mind Maps by Connilyn Cossette

 

Stuck. We’ve all been there. You are writing a scene and the words won’t flow, your imaginary friends…ahem, your characters won’t speak to you, and even that third cup of coffee isn’t helping. There are a variety of ways I have endeavored to solve this problem—other creative outlets, taking a walk etc. But I have found over the past few months that one of my greatest tools for getting my words flowing again is mind mapping.

I learned this technique while researching ideas for homeschooling my kids and when I realized the potential for applying it to writing, I was hooked. It’s a little hard to describe a mind map without visuals, (I’d advise Googling mind map images) but I’ll give it a whirl.

MindmapA mind map is a type of diagram with a word or an idea placed at the center (usually within a circle) and then as brainstorming occurs, each new idea is written on a line branching from the main circle. As you work through a mind map it begins to look a bit like a crazy spider, with all sorts of legs branching off one another.

So for example, if I am brainstorming a new scene, I write the main idea inside a circle at the center of the paper. I will then make lines for different characters, setting, actions, symbolism, motivations, and sensory information etc. I will then allow myself the freedom to just write as many ideas and details as I can and branch off of each line. This process gives me the permission to play a little bit without being concerned about dialog, timeline, or structure. I close my eyes to visualize the scene and explore sensory details. I imagine character backstories, mannerisms, and wounds. I tell myself that I am not married to any of the ideas, so it gives me license to explore the scenes and the characters.

Inevitably as I work through my mind map, great new sensory details spring to life in my scene. I am a very visual person, so my mind maps are full of color and sometimes the odd doodle. I was actually forced to move to legal sized paper because my mind maps get a little out of control sometimes. Try it out! You are only limited by the size of your paper and your imagination.

~*~

When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids, Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Her novel Counted With the Stars won the 2013 Frasier Contest and will be releasing in April 2016 with Bethany House Publishers. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.