effective narration 101: narrative omniscience, part two

Before we jump into the second installment of our examination of narrative omniscience, here’s a link to part one and to the rest of the entries on effective narration, if you’d like a brief refresher:

  1. First-Person Narration
  2. Second-Person Narration
  3. Third-Person Narration, Part One
  4. Third-Person Narration, Part Two
  5. Narrative Characterization 
  6. Narrative Orientation in Time

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the implications of perspective (first person, second person, etc.) on narrative omniscience.

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no book is without its merits and no writing is without its flaws

Today, I want to talk to that little voice inside you. It is small and hopeful. It says things to you like this: “When the editor gets this book, they are going to realize that the choirs of angels bent towards the earth and deposited this manuscript into their hands.” It is the voice that tells you to hope that the editor doesn’t change anything because everything is perfect exactly as it is. It is the small niggle that wants you to hope that your book, your work, your writing is transcendent and spectacular and divine.

And the thing is, your work is those things.

You are absolutely right to think that your story is magnificent. If you didn’t believe this, deep down, you wouldn’t be writing. Not one author who has shared their work with me has said, “You know, I really think this is utter crap, but I’ve got nothing better to do than beat my head against the wall, so do you think you can take a look for me?” They might be nervous, and they may be worried that their book isn’t very good, but deep inside, there is still that voice that says maybe this is actually the best book in the entire world, hm?

I get that. But it’s time that I had a little talk with that voice.

The thing is, there has been no professional editor in the history of forever that has handed back a book without comments or changes or suggestions. No one’s work is so untouchable that an editor isn’t going to have anything to say about it. Whether you’re writing your first book or your four hundredth, an editor isn’t doing their job if they’re not challenging your narrative decisions, your character development, and your choice of language.

I know that it’s nice to get gold stars. I love it when people tell me that I am awesome, too. But it is my job to help you make your book better. I will be nice about it. I will not tell you that you should never write again. I will give you suggestions, and I will hopefully not make you cry. You are not alone on this mission to share your story with the world.

But if all you really want is for someone to read your book and tell you it’s perfect, ask your mom. That’s her job–and she’s probably way better at it than I am.

raising the tension without ruining your story: a primer

Okay, I know what this is like. You’ve got a great character. You’ve got a stellar story concept, and your conflict is tight. You know everything is going to work out eventually, and the good guys are going to win.

But you want to raise the stakes a little bit.

You want your character to get in a bit of a pickle, perhaps have a setback or two on their way to ultimate victory–and you want the tension to skyrocket. I get it. These are all good intentions. And, if you play your cards right, they’re the key to happy readers and a well-received story. No one wants to watch Frodo trot into Mordor and drop the ring in a volcano with a smile on his face, right? We want to see him suffer.

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starting the year off right (for real)

We humans are certainly suckers for ritual. Even if we don’t want to admit it to ourselves, the plump promise of the new year has the internet (and most internet participants) in a tizzy. Ten Secrets to Setting Resolutions That Stick! Lose Forty Pounds in Thirty Days! This Year YOU Can Be a Best Selling Author!

While I am no stranger to the New Year’s Resolution (and Happy 2013, by the way), I think this practice of lumping all the personal change one can imagine on a singular event at the beginning of the year causes more harm than good. Beyond all of the research about habituation taking time to establish (as in: overnight changes are never going to work) and the well-covered New Year’s phenomenon in gyms and fitness centers across America, what I think it ultimately boils down to is this: resolutions can actually inhibit personal growth.

Why? Several reasons.

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your first book is less important than you realize

Here’s a public service announcement: your first book does not have to be your best book. And, as a corollary: if you’re not a best selling author by 30, you probably should not give up.

I feel like I’m screaming into the void when I tell people that it’s okay that they’re 27 and not yet a best-selling author. They assume that since they haven’t started (or haven’t yet published), they’re already too late. I can’t convince them otherwise–they won’t hear it.

And the people who are in the middle of writing their first book treat it like some sort of proving ground. “This book will tell me if I should continue writing,” they say. Their writing career hinges on its subsequent success or failure.

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