Changing POV is not unsmart; it simply requires thought, organization, and execution to be done properly (and that really is the only way to go about doing anything). Changing point of view between characters has become a fairly commonplace method of helping to move stories along and develop plot lines. But it must be done well. Skipping back and forth between characters can be an arduous process, and if done poorly, can have the reader missing parts of the story, or at worst, completely clueless as to what is going on in the story. But if done well, the different POVs can weave together a story that is much larger, much complex, and much more realistic than what one character’s point of view alone could have brought to the story.
I believe that this method of writing is completely dependent on what type of story/setting the writer is attempting to create. It is similar to how a writer decides on to use an omniscient narrator, or if they want to go with the more personal touch of a first person point of view. I think that single person POV stories tend to try to sway the reader to hold the same view point as the main character. After all, it usually works better for the story if readers agree with the main character. But having multiple characters’ viewpoints in a story can really change the whole dynamic of the story. The plot can be thickened, black and white can be distorted into grey, and readers have to learn to decide for themselves what side, if any, is right or wrong. It opens a whole new way to bring up plot lines to readers, or to drop information on them.
But I think it all depends on the writing itself, and the story that the writer is trying to create. If you, as the writer, want your audience to know the backing of the story, go with the omniscient narrator. If you want the audience to be swayed to one side, to empathize with and support your main character, single person is the way to go. But if you want readers to have to think, try and hold multiple viewpoints, changing point of view is the way to go. It sounds like I’m pushing for narratives to be done only with multiple viewpoints. Not true, I want narratives to be written as the writers want them to look. I simply want any narrative to be the best version it can be.
As writers, we all know how difficult it can be to think of things to write about. In fact, it’s probably why most of us don’t write as often as we should. It can be so frustrating to have the urge to write and be creative, and yet absolutely nothing comes out. It’s like hitting a brick wall. You just stare at a blank page until you can’t even think anymore, thrown down your pen, and go watch Netflix. It is so sad, and I know the feeling all too well.
It is so sad when this happens! We do not force ourselves to think, so every time we give up easily, it makes the next time that much easier for us, until we don’t even try at all. Creative writing requires a brain muscle that needs to be worked and flexed in order for it to get stronger and more reliable. No one ever said lifting weights was easy, but if you do it, you will eventually get stronger. If you make yourself write two paragraphs each day, about whatever, eventually that will seem easy to you. Once you are confident with that, add to the length to build that needed endurance so that eventually you will be able to write and write. The daily practice from writing will eventually pay off, as it is always fun to do something that comes easily.
When you are trying to think of things to write about, it seems that you see the world so much clearer. Take time to even think creatively throughout your day, even if it’s not writing specifically. This is not a solely after work activity, though don’t tell your boss I said that! Make up a story about some interaction between people you just saw on the street, or pretend that dog you just passed by can talk, what would it say?
It really is a beautiful way to see the world. It is as if your eyes are sharpened to all the events and details around you – anything could be a source of inspiration when you open your eyes to it. When you have this mindset, everything becomes important, and your brain connects with your eyes in a whole different way. You start to see and think in descriptions, your mind is constantly turning out plot points, and you are just more in-tuned with more than just the surface level of what is around you.
As a human being, you should be aware of your surroundings. If you aren’t, then now is a great time to start. You will be surprised at what the world really looks like. A bird on a tree branch could inspire a short story, or a puddle of water in the lawn could inspire a poem. It is so cool to be able to see and think the way. It is a special thing to be able to view the world around you with much more awe, wonder, and respect than your average human. We as writers have this gift, and it would be such a loss to not take advantage of it.
If you don’t have it, it’s easy to get. Just stop and look. Wonder. Be curious. Use these thoughts and feelings to write and write.
Outlining a story? What a novel idea! Literally, if you’re writing a novel or short story you may want to consider outlining it first. There are the conventional ways of outlining: free writing, visual maps, the snowflake method, etc. Then there are the unconventional ways for those who don’t find outlining via pen and paper to be helpful. Try out the following methods and see where they take you:
Use voice recording
A voice recorder will allow the ideas to roll right off your tongue and into something malleable. The Stream of Conciousness way of speaking is similar to free writing and is available everywhere as long as you have a phone, laptop, or voice recorder on your person. Perhaps you’re working on a scene with a lot of dialogue? Read aloud your conversation and you’re ear will pick up on any mistakes that you’ve might have made. Don’t have a voice recorder and can’t afford one? Check out this online voice recorder! Also, don’t forget, most smartphones come with a voice recorder.
Storyboarding is an outlining process of drawing out scenes from your story. Storyboarding is a powerful method because you’re able to visually see what’s going on: what are your characters doing, the setting, the placement of characters, etc. Draw out your story even if you’re not a great artist. Stick figures and shapes will do just fine. Or you can use Storyboardthat, a free storyboard creator.
If you have Microsoft Office, then you most likely have Onenote, though many of you probably have never used it. It came with the pack but remained forgotten. At least, that was my experience. Over the years though, I discovered that Onenote is not only a perfect tool for taking notes but for outlining stories. You can create a new notebook for the novel you’re working on. Within each notebook, you can break down different parts of your story into tabs so you can outline chapter by chapter or however you deem fit. The best part is that you can incorporate the first two methods mentioned above into Onenote. You can record audio and clip your storyboarding into your tabs. Don’t have Onenote and can’t afford it? Use Google Drive instead which is free!
These are but a few ideas to work with when outlining a story. Find one that works for you! If you’re interested in more conventional ways to outline, check out Lit Reactor’s article, 8 Ways to Outline a Novel. You can even incorporate these styles into the different mediums mentioned above for a truly innovative way to outline.
Want to scare a writer? Easy! Just ask to read their work. Nothing drives fear into the heart of many writers than someone reading their unpublished manuscripts. The tendency is for writers to write and write and then stash their manuscripts somewhere where they themselves may never read it again. This very fear prevented me from writing for a long time until I attended college and majored in Creative Writing. By taking creative writing classes, I learned how absolutely necessary it is for others to read your work.
A creative writing class is unlike any other class you’ll take in college. Classes are small and composed of students from all kinds of majors: english, history, engineering, biology, etc. Desks are moved to form a rectangle and faced inwards with the idea that if you’re going to criticize someone’s manuscript, you better do so to their face. The professor sits at the front of the classroom taking a whole side of the rectangle by themselves, becoming both an equal and an authority figure. The professor ensures the rules of workshop are followed by everyone; give positive feedback and no malicious criticism, only constructive. Generally, the professor doesn’t referee much because of the mutual respect you develop for your peers. How can you not respect them when they’re allowing you to tear their work apart?
Most of the time, you’re reading your peers’ manuscripts and giving feedback during workshop. Giving feedback is easy, but receiving it can be difficult. I’m not going to lie, it hurt in the beginning. Nobody likes being criticized. It makes you feel vulnerable, naked, even humiliated sometimes. Atlast, when your workshop day arrives you’re going to sit there while 15 to 20 other students tell you why your story was or was not good. A part of you wants to shut it out, but this hurt is essential! You learn so much about your writing style, both the good and bad. Your peers will point out weak characters or plot points and then give you invaluable advice on how to fix these weaknesses. They offer new ideas you can use that you would have never come up with yourself. For example, I wrote a short story about a man who learned in medical school he could speak with cadavers. A peer asked during workshop, “Wouldn’t they have had a grandparent that died before going to medical school?” I was shocked to my core. Of course, how obvious! But the obvious wasn’t apparent to me because all my grandparents are either alive or died when I was too young to remember them. Readers bring a well of new perspectives and experiences that your stories can draw from. You just have to listen.
Creative writing classes will also bring you out of your own head; to see things from someone who isn’t you. Characters and scenes may seem fleshed out to you, but that’s only because you’re able to fill in the missing pieces within your own head while writing. You may not realize those pieces are missing on the page. Readers become frustrated even if just one piece is missing. Or there could be too many unnecessary pieces. Does that make you a bad writer? Of course not! Every writer needs to get out of their own head once in awhile and creative writing groups are the best way to do that.
I no longer take creative writing classes, but I do have a creative writing group. After my last class, we all decided that we not only knew each other well but respected and admired each other as writers. It wasn’t difficult to set up a Facebook group and run it the same way workshop was ran. If you’ve never taken a creative writing class and can’t afford to, create your own creative writing group! All you need are fellow writers who aren’t afraid of constructive criticisms.
The moral of this story is this: whatever you decide to do, always have your manuscript read by others. You simply cannot grow into a great writer if your stories never see the light of day. Collect perspectives like you do books and use them. It’s frightening at first, but well worth it in the long run.
If you’re a Buzz fanatic then you’ve probably read Melinda Harris’ post, “Three Reasons Writers Might Want A Blog” about the importance of keeping a blog. Here’s a recap in case you haven’t: a blog “keeps you writing,” “builds a readership,” and helps to develop an online “community.” Sounds rather nice, right? So we’ve established why having a blog is an awesome tool for any writer. Now it’s time to get technical. You want a blog, but what website builder should you be using? I’ve provided a list of pros and cons for three popular and free website builders that anyone can use which are WordPress.com, Weebly.com, and Wix.com. I built my own unpublished blogging websites using these three builders so I could personally give you an account of what makes each different.
Before delving into the differences of these builders, let me mention a few features that they all have in common. All three builders are easy to learn, customizable, have search engine optimization (SEO), can be edited from mobile devices, and allow you customize your blog posts using HTML. When used correctly, each of these features will help you build and maintain a stellar blog.
So, without further ado, let me introduce my findings:
Most likely if you’ve ever looked into building a blog or you follow a blog, you’ve come across WordPress and there’s a reason for that. Not only does WordPress power 25% of the web, but it was built with blogging in mind!
Weebly allows you to build beautiful and simple websites with pre-made themes ranging from business to blogging. This builder has a unique drag and drop features that simplifies any website building. For those who aren’t tech savvy, Weebly allows you to contact support via emails regardless of if you’re using a free account or an upgraded one.
Wix is an amazing builder for those who love a little extra glam for their websites. Not only are their themes fun and interesting, but, without having to upgrade to a paid website, you can upload video clips to use as your background. Plus, they have animation features that will bring to life any piece of content you write.
These are, in my opinion, the best of the free website builders that you can use for your blog. Wordpress would be your best bet if you want a no frills website that is devoted to blogging and building a blogging community. Weebly is a wonderful option for both those who are and are not tech savvy due to the ability to customize templates with code and their customer support. Wix is a must for bloggers who really want to stick out by using their amazing video and animation features. Weebly’s and Wix’s easily enabled e-commerce options make them great options for anyone who wants to mix business with blogging. If you’re still not sure which builder to use, create websites using all three and publish your favorite one!
To some, writers may seem like perpetual beings of wander; chain smoking, whiskey guzzling, caffeine addicts waiting for inspiration to pass through them as if they were some sort of filter between regular life and a higher state of consciousness. That writers spend most of their time in between this flux state of balancing the lows of writer’s block and the bliss-level highs of feverish inspiration. That is simply untrue.
What is true is how much writers work. Writers dedicate time every single day to practice their craft. They write on the weekends, on holidays, on their own birthdays, on spouse’s birthdays (probably not much but still). Writers write when they are sick, when their child is sick (and the writer just got done cleaning up an outrageous amount of throw-up for such a small person), they write when they feel lazy, when the game is on, they write when the great outdoors is calling them on a beautiful day and when their bed is calling them on a rainy day. Writers write, plain and simple.
A writer does not wait until inspiration calls them to the desk, they live at their desk. They don’t wait until they are pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, as if the clouds opened up and the hand of God selected them to write something great. Even though, those feelings are common and are what probably drew the writer to writing in the first place, it is not something to be relied upon nor capable of building a career on. Author, Neil Gaiman said it best, “If you only write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not…”
Now, not everyone is out to be a novelist, and some strive to be fairly decent poets, but the point that Mr. Gaiman is making is that the words aren't going to wait for you. It is up to you to find them, to write and rewrite and rewrite until you do; And the more you work, the better your chances of finding them.
Go find them.
In this day and age of iTunes and Google Play, you’ve probably heard of podcasts. Question is, have you actually listened to one? If not, you should fix that. Not only are they entertaining, but I believe that they can be a useful resource for writers. For the sake of limiting genres, I will be focusing on drama orientated podcasts.
The first reason you should consider listening to a podcast is the entertainment they provide. I’m probably not the only aspiring writer to be poor (wait, is that an infinite black hole in my pocket?), so paying for audio books isn’t really an option. That was until I listened to The Black Tapes, a modern audio horror drama. My. Mind. Was. Blown. At that moment, I was addicted. Basically, it’s a free audio book that uses radio as its mode of storytelling. Listening to podcasts make boring tasks, such as chores, a riveting experience.
Podcasts create their own sounds for their radio shows that place you amidst the action of the drama. If people are fighting, you hear it. If there’s a monster shrieking, you hear it. There’s no need to explain what something sounds like. The writer of a podcast has to carefully deliberate what sounds will give them the best effect that they are striving for. As a writer, I appreciate how podcasts teach you a new way of thinking that wasn’t available before; the ability to think using your ears. How do certain sounds add to atmosphere? How do character reactions to certain sounds characterize them? If I was to write this sound or describe it, how would I go about it? These sounds help you think about scene writing not just through your sense of seeing, but through hearing too.
As a writer, you will appreciate the creativity podcasts have to use for narrative structure. Podcasts are usually set in the present, which means that writers are limited in what they can do. Unlike reading a book, they can’t spend forever describing a scene or narrate in third person. Instead, they use a combination of first person and sound to convey what is happening at that very moment. Here are a few examples as to how podcasts narrate what's going on: In Archives 81, the main protagonist isn’t allowed to shut off his recorder as he archives, thus the audience hears everything that is going on, Small Town Horror begins with the narrator listening to two tapes he recorded when he was younger, Tanis’ protagonist always has a recorder on as he tracks down and dissects conspiracy theories. Narrative structure allows the listener to keep up with characters in present time and develop a fitting atmosphere for radio. These narrative structures could be useful to you if you’re thinking of writing a book that’s interview style or in first person.
Think of podcasts as the antithesis of a book; instead of reading and imagining what’s going on, you’re hearing and imagining what’s going on. Relying on a different sense forces you to think outside the box and normal conventions of writing. So give them a try! If it doesn’t work out, well, at least it was free.
William Faulkner once said to “read, read, read. Read everything-- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” You can easily replace the word “read” with “learn” because, as we all know, reading is learning, and the more you learn, the more tools you acquire for your writing arsenal. This is why I prompt every writer to visit the following sites:
Each of these links leads to websites that allow you to either audit online college courses from prestigious universities like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc. for free or take courses to earn certificates for a fee (always a great resume booster). Finally, classes you can take for fun without the pressure of grades!
These courses don’t count towards college credit, but I have found them to be an invaluable resource for writing. Through free online writing courses, I’ve relearned old lessons from new perspectives and learned new writing techniques from established bestselling authors. If there’s a subject I need to research that’s essential for a story that goes beyond just a simple Google search, I’ll peruse through some of the courses offered on these websites: there’s everything from computer science, architecture, humanities, law, etc. Best of all, by auditing a course or two when I’m suffering from stale ideas or writer’s block, I find that my writing feels more inspired and ideas begin to flow.
Everybody knows that reading the authors you admire will help you become a better writer, but nobody cares how good of a writer you are if you don’t do your research. It’s a good thing, then, that we live in a time where almost anything is accessible on the internet, even free classes. So why not learn from the experts? Take a gander and revel in the wonders of history, learn the lingo of computer science, or retake a few writing classes to get your pen moving.