NaNoPubMo: Day -7 and Counting

Today I gave the go-ahead to a more established cover designer. She wants $250 for a cover, or $800 for a four-book series, which seems reasonable. We’ll start with one cover. If I don’t like it — well, one of the advantages I have (one of several) is that I can blow $250 if I have to. I’d rather not, but it’s not going to mean I’ll be eating Top Ramen.

My light reading-matter at the dinner table these days is Author Publisher Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. Yes, an actual paper book (gasp!). Not everything in it is relevant to me, but I look at books of this sort in a simple way: If I find one tip that saves me $20, I’ve paid for the book. Every page doesn’t have to be a gem. In this particular book, I don’t need the statistics on the tectonic shift in publishing, I already know that stuff. And I’m not concerned with their advice to writers. But when they get into the varieties of formatting (for Kindle, iBook, Kobo, etc.), I’m learning stuff.

Tonight I’m starting the search for a web designer. Turns out there are now web design firms that specialize in author websites. Still early days — we’ll see how that plays out.

Today I got back to editing my novel series. I’m now creeping up on halfway through Book III. Fluff it up a little here, nip and tuck there — it’s not a heavy edit. But last night I hit a scene that was boring. I’ve read all of the scenes in the story a dozen times, and none of the others has ever struck me that way. What’s happening in the scene is, the good guys are planning what they’re going to do next. No action, just talking heads. What to do? Inject a pointless argument? Maybe not an ideal solution.

I decided to try something completely different.

Most of the book is in third-person limited viewpoint. If you’re not a fiction writer, you may not know what this means. It means that in any given scene, the reader is in one character’s head, and only one character’s. It’s third person, past tense (“She stared out the window, wondering when Steven would arrive.”), but you can never see or know anything that that character doesn’t see or know. There are, in the course of my four volumes, at least twenty different viewpoint characters, but with only a couple of trivial and carefully structured exceptions there’s only one viewpoint character per scene.

In the boring scene, one of the characters is a spunky farm boy. He’s so fearless, he invited himself along on the heroine’s mad adventure — demanded that she and her friends let him hop up on the wagon and ride off into the unknown. In the boring scene he’s just sitting there while the adults talk about stuff. So I started wondering, what if I switch to first person narration for this one scene, from the point of view of Dunny? Let him tell the reader what’s going on, and give us his unvarnished reactions to it.

In essence, Dunny pushed himself into the narration just as boldly as he pushed himself into the story. The kid is a pistol! He’s a very secondary character, almost lost among six or eight primary characters, but this one scene gives him a chance to strut his stuff.

Switching from third person to first person for one scene in the middle of a novel is, of course, a risky technique. Readers may be disoriented. But that’s one of the advantages of self-publishing! I know darn well a New York corporate publishing house would never let me get away with it. Where we’re at here, it’s totally my call. If I fall on my face, so be it. The way I look at it, in a story of this length, doing stuff that’s different is almost essential to keep the reader engaged. That’s my excuse. Dunny didn’t need an excuse, he just pushed his way in and said, “Here, let me do it.”


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