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For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

June 6, 2014
 
Guess what, guys! I ran 3 miles. And I didn't do it just once, but MULTIPLE TIMES.

I have never, ever, ever, ever, EVER been able to do this in my whole life!! 3 miles is usually miserable for me, and I barely reach the end...

But I finally tried going reallllly slow (thank you for that obvious advice, Mandy Hubbard), and WHOA...It actually worked! I ran the whole 3 miles without stopping! I have honest-to-goodness not been so proud of myself since I wrote my first book. Best of all, I actually look forward to my runs now. Insane, right?

Speaking of running, the #YARunsA5K fundraiser is still going strong!! We have tons of books still to be won, AND the next two auctions are LIVE! You can bid for a:
Finally, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has donated money or books! We're already 3/4 of our way to our goal, and we still have >1 month of fundraising left! WOOHOO!!
 

For the Misfits:
Win an ARC of Strange & Ever After
 
First off: Truthwitch sold to Germany AND Russia! WOOHOO!! I'm so excited, you guys don't even know. I actually burst into HYSTERICAL tears when my foreign rights agent called. I was in the middle of scrambling eggs, and I just dropped the pan (which was LOUD and MESSY) and started crying.

Good tears, of course. Good tears. ;)

Second off: There's a Twitter GIVEAWAY running until 12 PM ET! RT this tweet for a chance to win. :D

Ahem, finally moving to our third order of business: 
It's THAT TIME AGAIN!! Time for me to give away a SIGNED ARC of Strange & Ever After to the Misfits & Daydreamers!
 

ANNND, I'm giving away signed paperbacks Something Strange & Deadly and A Darkness Strange & Lovely too!! WOOT!

To win the books, fill out the Rafflecopter form here! I'll pick a winner in 2 weeks. (Sorry, US/Canada only. :()

 
 For the Daydreamers:
Changing a Draft from 1st Person to 3rd

I got a really good question in my inbox this week that I thought I'd answer here:
 
I read somewhere on your blog, that you changed your whole manuscript from third into first person, and I was just wondering if you might have any insights into the best way to go about doing that, and also how you knew it was right for your story and your MC to change into first person.
 
I did change an entire manuscript. The first two drafts of Something Strange & Deadly were in 3rd person, and then I changed them to 1st. Why? Because I wanted to bring the reader more deeply into Eleanor's head, and 1st person seemed the best way to do it.

I've also gone the OTHER way--written two drafts of a book in 1st person and then changed it all to 3rd. You can read about why here.

You can also read about the different points of view and choosing one here.

Remember: no matter how deep 3rd person POV is, there will always be a built in distance. The closest, most intimate POV is 1st person past*. Why? Because we're experiencing the story directly through the character's eyes. In 3rd person, the story is still being told to us by a narrator.

3rd person is useful, though (and it's my preferred POV now), but it does require a delicate balance of telling and showing. In 1st person, it's much easier to slip into "show mode" because--as mentioned--you're in the character's head and that filter is automatically built in.

Here's an example from the 3rd person (and VERY early) draft of SS&D:

 

"Tears fell now, mixing with the raindrops. It had all been too much, too much for the likes of a sixteen-year-old. But despite the sobs that hovered in her chest and threatened release at any moment, she forced her mind to stay focused on the present. She forced her mind to forget the intensity of the night and forget the world she had left behind. Joseph needed her, needed the dynamite, and Daniel was right: Eleanor had a job to do."


Notice the very telling and very distancing phrase: "It had all been too much for the likes of a sixteen-year-old." (I would never write something so horrible these days.) Here's that same passage once I'd changed it to 1st person (and edited the crap out of it):
 

"Tears fell now and mixed with the raindrops. But despite the sobs that hovered in my chest and threatened release at any moment, I refused to succumb.

Joseph needed the dynamite, and Daniel was right: I had a job to do."


I'm not saying that one version is better than the other (the editor in me still hates the final version too), but I DO know that version #2 is more intimate. We see Eleanor's thoughts as they happen, and even though the language is similar, the feel is completely different.

Of course, changing a manuscript from 3rd POV to 1st isn't just a matter of changing all the names to "I" and "me." You've also got to cut out as many instances of telling as you can and then filter EVERYTHING through your POV character's eyes.

In other words: Thoughts--we must have thoughts!

Here's a clip in 3rd (it's terrible; I was young):

 

"Eleanor dropped her eyes and swallowed through the tightness in her throat.  A heaviness had descended on her shoulders.

What a waste of time, what a needless risk. Now she would have to hire a cab home and sort out her newest tales of deceit. She lifted her skirts and shuffled from the room into the dark emptiness of Machinery Hall."


And here's the same section shifted into 1st person and sprinkled with internal dialogue:
 

"I dropped my eyes and swallowed. My breath shook as I tried to keep my exterior calm. I had thought--no, I had hoped Joseph would want me here just as Jie did.

Bricks of defeat hung over my shoulders, threatening to drop at any moment and crush me. I'd made a risky escape for nothing. Daniel wasn't even here for me to question. Joseph did not need me, and I would succumb to frustrated, useless tears if I did not keep breathing."


Notice: things like "useless tears" and "risky escape"--those are how Eleanor views them. Her filter--her opinion--has now been layered over the story. (I still think it's terrible. Forgive me: I was young. ;))

You have to have a filter in 1st person. You can get away without it in 3rd (then it's called 3rd person limited), but you canNOT get away without it in 1st person.

So, as you go through to revise your POV, make sure that you're constantly offering the character's filters, thoughts, and opinions.

But how do you even decide if you should even change POVs? You have two options:

 
1. Decided based on what feels better, or
2. Seek outside help. Change a few chapters, send the 1st person and 3rd person versions to a trusted reader and see what he/she thinks.

Don't change the whole manuscript, though, until you're totally certain the POV change is an improvement. :) Otherwise, you'll have just wasted a looootttt of time.

I hope this helps!! If I'm just confusing you or you all have more questions, feel free to ask them in the forum.


*Note: Some people use 1st person present, but this can easily be misused and lead to even greater distance than 3rd person. Unless you're really used to and comfortable with present tense, I suggest avoiding it. That said, if you want some examples of excellent first person present, then try The Hunger Games, Blood Red Road, Lola and the Boy Next Door, or The Eighth Guardian.

Now, to wrap up, here are the best writing-related links I discovered this week:
See you next week, my dears! And don't forget: if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. Thank you so much for reading!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.


110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018



I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.