Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Wow, so it’s been a while since I shared something here, eh? These past few months have been trying for all of us, and much as I tried to fight it off, the state of things managed to seize me in its grip and drag me down too. But I’m shaking it off and making strides when and where I can. Most of its been background elements that won't show on here (yet), like updating the lore for my WIP world and, most importantly, its people. The bulk of it’s been educational in nature, though, taking myself through grammar courses and applying what I learned to my writing. The insight I gained from doing that made me realize how much I’d been doing wrong. I’m extremely embarrassed about it so, sorry to say, I’m not really up for elaborating just yet. Needless to say, I’ve done some house-cleaning on my website as I’ve restructured not only my approach to writing but also my approach to how I want to be represented. And just what is that approach, you ask? Well, the short answer is: I don’t know.
Let me explain.
I stand by the statement that anyone can be a writer. It’s an essential skill we are fortunate to learn during our grade school years and carry with us for the rest of our lives. What I was not prepared for, however, was how humbling it could be. I began this journey with a dream in my heart and stars in my eyes. I had a story to tell, so I sat down and wrote it. Then I recognized the horror of my first draft and wrote it all over again. Now, I work full time, so my writing (and all affiliated self-education to aid in that endeavor) is limited to the few hours I can sometimes scrape together during my free time, so it took me about a year and a half to write and rewrite that bad boy. Following that, I felt it was time to put myself to the test to see what I did well and what needed improvement. And since I’ve had zero luck finding a writing group that either worked for me or stayed together, I reached out to an editor to review a portion of my manuscript. Best decision of my writing career, right there!
I try very hard not to show it, but I’m still relatively new to the big wide world of professional writing and publishing. Needless to say, I’m still working on that thick skin I read so much about. But as much as constructive feedback can be a tough pill to swallow, it’s what makes us better writers. Like the aches after a workout— it hurts, but it hurts so good.
I took my editor’s suggestions to heart. I sought out some lessons on YouTube, read writing guides until my eyes dried out, and even swallowed my pride and bought myself a grammar textbook, drilling myself until certain things finally clicked. After that, it was a matter of applying those principles to my work. And rather than start by immediately diving back into my WIP, I decided to write a (self-indulgent) short story to put what I’d learned into practice. The results were confusing.
It’s True, From a Certain Point of View
The good news?
I’d managed to iron out my most significant issue. Huzzah, I can be taught!
The other news?
I think I broke something.
I had a discussion with a colleague several months ago, and in it, I can be quoted as saying something along the lines of, “Writing in 3rd person is my jam!” Well, I don’t know what happened, but I can’t stand by that statement anymore.
The short story I wrote to test myself with was a touching 3rd person introspective that should have meant the world to me, but I absolutely hated it. It felt flat and wooden, utterly devoid of life. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a canonical piece, and its sole purpose was to help me practice the things I’d learned. I edited it once, twice, and on the third time, I felt confident that I hadn’t made the same errors that riddle my current WIP manuscript. Yay me.
But I still hated the story, and that bothered me.
It was a sweet and personal little thing, focusing on one of my WIP’s main characters while simultaneously scratching the itch to write something with a bit of steam to it. And then I remembered that the last time I fell into a writing funk like that, I clawed my way out of it by dabbling in the 1st person with a little short called A Siren’s Tale. That seemingly reset me, putting me back on the path so I could crank out the end of my manuscript rewrite. It worked like a charm back then, so I figured, “Why not try that again?” Maybe lightning could strike twice.
Here to say that it certainly can, but I think it hit me too. I rewrote that test short in the 1st person, and it opened my mind in ways I lack the words to describe. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say it had something to do with my inner ttrpg-er. Once I stepped into that character’s shoes, she bled onto the pages instead of me, and the story was more organic for it. When I went back and read that short, I cried. It was everything I wanted that story to be and MORE. It proved to me that I hadn’t lost my edge. I could still write and arguably better than ever. I was thrilled!
I shared that story with my husband and some friends, and the feedback I received gave me the sustenance I so sorely needed to carry on. With that, it was time to face my manuscript again and tackle the issues that lurked within. And I did. I’ve rewritten my first three chapters (twice) and started combing through the ones that follow, but now I find myself facing the same issue I had with my test story— my 3rd person narration feels like it lacks a soul.
Float Like a Butterfly...
Everything I’ve read states that the 3rd person is the easiest perspective to write. More than that, it’s the most commonly used perspective for works of fantasy. It’s certainly the style I’m most familiar with, and since I’m writing fantasy, it seemed like a no brainer to go that route. I wrote my WIP, not once, but twice in 3rd person, and on this read-through, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve been forcing myself into a narrative voice that didn’t mesh with the one that comes naturally to me. The entire time I worked on that manuscript, I tried to write chapters that captured the essence of the subject character’s personality and voice. I wanted each one to feel as unique as the character themself. I could be wrong, but it sounds a bit like I was trying to blend 1st person and 3rd, no? While it’s not to say that can’t be done (I’ve been led to believe it can be), it’s not easy. More importantly, it wasn’t working for me.
So that brings me to my current conundrum. Is the 1st person my one true narrative style, or is it just a fling to get over this bizarre, perspective-based writer’s block? A Siren’s Tale and the above mentioned short are arguably two of the best examples of my abilities. They’re also the works I feel least embarrassed about sharing. The answer is simple— I should just give it a try. I did it once before, ages ago, when I was still penning the first draft. I didn’t like it then, but my writing has come a long way. And, as I said, I’m a role-player, a la tabletop RPGs. Embodying a character and giving them a voice of their own is old hat for me. So a change of perspective could be magical! Or it could be a train wreck. Either way, I have ideas, and the only way to determine their worth is to try.
And there you have it! That’s what I’ve been up to these past few months. Growing and changing, finding my way while still feeling lost. Hopefully I can report back soon with the results. Until then, be well, stay safe, and be excellent to each other~