No Cheating

I may not be the quickest study when it comes to writing, but I learn from my earlier mistakes.

I really wanted to give “Character Q” Point of View (POV) status in the rebuild of Death Out of Time.  I think “Q” would provide an interesting vantage point for the reader. When I started the original manuscript, “Original Me” would have dived in, thinking, “No problem, let’s do it.”

You see, “Rebuilding Me” knows better.

In the rebuild, Madeleine wonders if there’s more to “Q” than meets the eye. And her thoughts on that matter influence her actions in other aspects of the story. I want readers to share her perspective on this throughout the book.

So what would happen if I gave “Q” POV status?

Well, “Q” would have to reveal to readers — before the final third of the book or so — whether Madeleine’s ideas are accurate or not. Why, you ask?

Because we spend significant time in a POV character’s head, seeing the action from his or her perspective. If Madeleine is right, how could “Q” realistically avoid thinking something that would show her to be correct? Let’s say Madeleine thinks “Q” is an arsonist, and it turns out she’s right. If we spend a quarter of the book or more looking at the world through “Q’s” eyes, how could that be kept hidden? Surely “Q” would have some thoughts about fire, even if they were indirect. “Q” might wax poetic on the “dangerous beauty” of a campfire, for example.

To avoid this, “Original Me” would have set up all of “Q’s” POV scenes to avoid dropping any clues. I would end the scene before “Q” would logically be required to reveal something and then switch the action to another character’s POV in the next. Problem solved.

No, it’s not. “Rebuilding Me” knows that’s cheating. I’d be manipulating the story—and readers. Some readers might not notice or care. But most would. Even if they couldn’t articulate their dissatisfaction in writing workshop terms, they would know I was withholding information that readers have the right to know. I’ll bet you’ve read at least one book where you’ve thought, “A character should have revealed this information in the first part of the book,” or, “No one could have solved this mystery because the main character held back all her knowledge about the vital clue until the reveal.” The author cheated you, likely through manipulation of POV.

I have never wanted to cheat in my stories. When I did in earlier drafts, it was through sheer ignorance. And when betas brought the cheating to my attention, I made revisions to fix the problem. And now, as I rebuild this novel and draft new ones, I know from Step One to be careful with POV. Doing so will save me a lot of headaches and revisions down the line. And I won’t be cheating.

Am I right? Have you ever felt like the author cheated in a book you’ve read by withholding information?

From Cyberspace to Real Place

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by one of my best blog buddies, Kourtney Heintz. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for nearly two years, and I’ve learned so much from her writing, querying, and publishing experiences. So it was a real treat to be there for her talk on “How To Be a Part-Time Writer” and then to go out afterward with her and fellow blogger and writer Emmie Mears. It was inspiring to hear the passion, dedication, and professionalism in their voices as we talked about our experiences. Both writers now have agent representation, and I’m confident their names will be well-known to readers before long. So if an opportunity like this arises for you, hide your shyness, put on your extrovert mask, and go for it!

54 thoughts on “No Cheating

  1. Yes I totally agree. I think I remember Kate doing a Limebird post along similar lines a while ago. In an attempt to have a twist, or a surprise for the reader, some writers end up withholding things that wouldn’t naturally be withheld, which certainly can leave the reader feeling cheated or misled, which is not a good thing!

    That’s great about the workshop with Kourtney! Was that your first time of meeting a blogging buddy in real? I always wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to do that 🙂

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    • There are times when information can be withheld, but it’s a fine line. If the story’s internal logic is violated, then it’s cheating. I’d rather err on the side of caution and so I won’t give “Q” that POV status—at least in this first book. Down the line? Very possible!

      This was the first time I’ve met any blog buddies, and I’m so glad I did. I had a great time hanging out with Kourtney and Emmie. So did my husband, who willingly made the drive to Virginia with me. 🙂 I hope you’ll get the chance some day and will enjoy it as much as I did.

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  2. I enjoyed your thoughts about what a character should and should not know. It reminds me of those television series where the detective arrests the criminal after giving a long winded explanation of how he found him to be guilty, and you realise half this stuff was not revealed to the viewer in the first place. I’ve never been to a writer’s workshop, but I really should go to one.

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    • To be honest, I haven’t been to any workshops either. I read articles and books about good writing techniques, but a hands-on session hasn’t happened yet. Those television shows are a good example of what I want to avoid. A careful reader should be able to pick up the clues I leave, and those clues should be enough to solve the mystery. But if the reader only sees an assistant being sent out to “run an errand” for the detective, then it’s not fair for the detective to announce at the very end that the assistant really went to the County Courthouse to find the birth certificate proving the murderer has been using a fake identity. That’s cheating!

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  3. Great post JM – we should never underestimate our readers. I started following Kourney’s blog a few months back being a bit newer to the blogging game than you, but if her workshops are as rewarding as her blog, I’m sure you would have taken many learnings away with you. I think you’re right about cheating your readers, but I also can’t imagine the complexities involved writing a mystery, it must be all the more ‘mysterious.’ 😉

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    • For a true mystery, I’m not sure I could handle more than two characters sharing POV status. I’m still mulling over the options for Meghan’s novel. Do I give POV status to Detective Sandberg? Can I write believable scenes from a detective’s perspective? I’m not so sure. That story might be limited to Meghan’s. I have more flexibility with Madeleine’s story, but for certain elements of the story, I want readers to see through her eyes. So, sorry, “Q,” but at least for this book, we won’t be in your head. 😉

      I did learn some great pointers from Kourtney’s workshop. But I suspect I absorbed even more helpful information from listening to her when we went out afterward!

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  4. I think this is why multiple POVs in a novel is difficult to pull off–especially when we want our main characters to “solve” a mystery or figure something out that’s going to break open everything.

    You’re right, many readers wouldn’t notice or care, just like many writers don’t notice or care. It’s a pet peeve of mine, but I know that it happens in many books and they still sell.

    It really does come down to whether or not we want to write the best quality book we can, or if we’re willing to cut a corner here and there simply to make our original premise work.

    Glad to hear you had a fab time with Kourtney and Emmie!

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    • I suppose if the characters and story are gripping, it’s easier to overlook manipulation like this. But if they’re not, then POV manipulation, like other weaknesses, can really stand out. I don’t mind readers having other information that Madeleine doesn’t, but on this particular issue, I think it helps for the story to be limited to what she experiences. I think that will make a more interesting “ride” for readers. Or so I hope. 😉 But that means no POV for “Q,” no matter how entertaining that could be. Maybe in a future book, though….

      It was a really fun evening, even for this shy introvert. Those two writers really have what it takes to succeed at this for a career!

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  5. Let’s just say, I am glad to be the reader and not the writer. It seems from the surface that all writers sit and just start writing what is on your mind. I had no idea how many things have to go into the preparation and compilation. Great work! Looking forward to the final product. (I wish I had the talent!)

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    • That’s actually the way I wrote both my first manuscript and the first drafts of this one. 😉 It can work for some writers, even after a dozen books. I’m learning, though, that I should do at least some planning to save myself from massive rewrites down the line. Not that I’ll ever do a full-blown outline like we had to do for term papers! But just enough to see where there could be problems down the line or to be sure I follow the right story line when there could be several….

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  6. JM, POV is difficult! When I workshopped my novel for the first time in a class in NYC, I received some great comments and criticism, but the instructor said, “this first chapter seems like a 4th or 5th chapter.” We need to know how she got to this point. Maybe that’s what you are referring to when you say the reader feels cheated. And when I took his advice, I realized how right he was. I get inside my own head and forget that others don’t know my character as well as I do. I wrote four chapters and it made much more sense!

    And yes, I’ve read books where I feel cheated or confused. And that’s because I didn’t know the entire POV of a character. It must be even more difficult in a mystery! I commend you for taking on that task. But writing, like anything gets better the more you do it. Consistency, which I have become lax on, is part of the perfect formula for writing a good book. Look forward to hearing more about your experiences!

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    • Oh, yes, making sure the reader has all the information they need is hard, too! We know so much more about the characters, their pasts, what’s ahead in the story…. Well, it’s easy to forget that readers don’t have access to our thoughts, only our written words. I tend to be too subtle sometimes because I’m afraid that I’ll give something away too early if I word things “more clearly.” But enough test readers have shown me that I’m usually providing too little information, and I’m getting better.

      It’s interesting that you needed to add chapters at the beginning of your story. Many of the articles I’ve read say that most beginning writers should chop their first few chapters—they tend to bog down the action with backstory and information dumps as they try to “set the scene.” The reader is getting too much information at first, and “the story” doesn’t really start until Chapter 4 or 5. You’ve avoided that common pitfall!

      I think my writing improves with each draft, rewrite, and new story. Sometimes, though, it seems like very slow progress, or I feel like I’m back at Square One. But the fact that I’m still here, still writing and blogging, is a good sign. And, fingers crossed, someday I’ll be writing about my publishing experiences. 🙂

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  7. That’s true – and this shows how important it is to think about POV before starting to write (something I didn’t do, of course)! It can be more interesting to make a certain character completely mysterious. That’s the way people are in real life anyway since we can’t usually hear each other’s thoughts. Then at other times, it’s better to let everyone know what that character is thinking. It’s probably best to somehow think about those different versions of a story and figure out which one would be better before writing it – unless we want to revise for years, that is. 🙂 That’s great that you were able to meet up with blogging friends! It must be kind of strange when they turn into real people like that.

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    • I certainly didn’t think about POV when I first drafted this story. 😉 A lot of characters had it, and the story was almost omniscient POV. That was scaled back in the last version. And it’s being further limited in this rebuild. The story should be easier to follow this way, too, which is another factor to consider when choosing how many characters’ heads to be in. A lot of readers will give up on a book if they can’t keep the characters and story straight.

      Last week’s meeting was great. There are some bloggers where you just know you’ll have things to talk about and things in common. This was definitely one of those cases. 🙂

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  8. I read a book where the murderer turned out to be the main character. Problem was, the entire novel was told from first-person POV. In other words, the murderer was the narrator, but we didn’t find out until the end. It was a classic mystery, so I won’t give the title so as not to spoil the book for anyone, but I felt cheated. About a quarter of the way into the book, I thought: “The author better not make the main character the killer.” But that was indeed the case. After spending all that time in his head, one would expect the character to have shared some thoughts on the murder.

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    • That’s exactly what I want to avoid with this. Maybe the example you describe can succeed if we know the murderer’s “profile” is that of a psychopath or pathological liar—something that could justify them not revealing themselves through their narration. But if manipulating the information they provide (or don’t provide) makes it impossible for a reader to “suspend disbelief” or to figure out what happened, then I call that cheating. It’s fine if I don’t solve the case before the protagonist—but the opportunity for me to have done so has to be there!

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  9. It’s only cheating if your reader needs to know what “Q” (your example) actually thinks and sees. I tend to restrict my POV’s in order to withhold info from the reader that I can later use to surprise or turn the plot. Either way is fair to me.

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    • Aw thank you for the fantastic shout out, JM! And for coming all the way out to Leesburg for me! It was great to get a chance to talk in person.

      And yes, I too have struggled with this POV thing and cheating readers. I think you are right not to be in Character Q’s POV, if he has to withhold information for the mystery to work. It’s not playing fair with your readers and they may not be able to articulate exactly why but they may feel frustrated and dissatisfied in the end.

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      • My pleasure, Kourtney! I hope folks will come away from this post thinking they should do the same if the opportunity arises. 🙂

        In this story, Madeleine’s thoughts about “Q” really influence her behavior and actions in important ways. And I want readers to share her ideas. There’s no way “Q” could honestly withhold that information in every scene presented from their POV. So no POV for “Q.” 😉 Maybe in a later book, though….

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    • If by restricting POVs you mean limiting the number of characters with POV, I think that’s fine. We the readers can be surprised with them when another non-POV character does something unexpected. Where I give up on a book (or won’t recommend it) is when the story’s internal logic would really require a POV character to reveal information and the author doesn’t follow through.

      As I mentioned in an earlier comment, if we only see an assistant being sent to “run an errand” for the detective, then it’s not fair for the detective to announce at the very end that the assistant really went to the County Courthouse to find the birth certificate proving the murderer has been using a fake identity. That’s the kind of cheating I’m hoping to avoid.

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  10. How fun you got to meet Kourtney. I would love to meet some blogger friends someday. We’ll see if that ever happens. Good luck with your POV. I have several stories in the works that keep bogging me down because of POV. That can be tricky when you as a writer are trying to figure out the best way to get the stories to the readers.

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    • It was such fun. But I’m amazed at the miles she has logged recently for “The Six Train’s”
      promotion. New York, Virginia, Tennessee, and I know she’s going to Toronto next week! I’ve also probably missed a few places…. Her dedication and professionalism really showed—plus it was fun to be talking writing with other writers. 🙂 Since I first drafted the two manuscripts, I’ve learned so much about so many aspects of writing. And I realize now how important it is to know which character(s) will tell the story before getting too far into it. That can save us a few major rewrites, yes?

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  11. I hate it when writers don’t play fair. And I don’t become a repeat reader if tricked and writer isn’t an honest story teller ..(it’s like those “reality shows where people are buying houses and there’s always some criteria of the buyer or some major feature of the house kept “secret” until the choice has been made. No wonder you guessed the wrong one – didn’t have al the information)
    Hard with a mystery, to carefully toss in just enough clues and information.
    Sounds like Kourtney and friends deal was a terrific event

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    • I am really not a fan of reality shows, and for reasons like you note. Information purposely withheld, staged behavior, … There’s nothing real (or even realistic) about them that could generate any interest in me. Some popular writers get away with cheating and shortcuts, but I tend not to stick with them. Of course, I’m sure hearing that would make them cry all the way to the bank.

      It was a great time. If you get a chance to see her in person, you should definitely try to go. You wouldn’t be disappointed!

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  12. Yes, I have felt cheated because information was held back. But I don’t like things to be too obvious either! The other thing I hate is being fed too many false clues and a small part character stepping into the limelight near the end.

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    • A few well-placed red herrings are good. As you say, though, too many will weaken the story. And that bit player who appears early on and then doesn’t show up again until the end to save the day is another cheat. That’s sloppy/lazy writing. I have a real admiration for those writers who can pen five, ten, or twenty books and stay true to their craft—and readers.

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  13. Wow, what a great post JM. You’ve given me much to think about for both my WIPs. I’ve been struggling with the ending of my first one from the moment I finished the first draft. It just hasn’t been sitting well with me but I couldn’t quite figure out why. Could it be because of the POV? Could I be ‘cheating’ with that last chapter? Obviously this is way too vague for you to answer for me, but you’ve given me something to really think about. Thanks!

    It’s so great that you had the chance to met Kourtney! I live in the same state and she’s had so many events here and I have not had the chance to attend any of them yet either because of work or other conflicts. I do hope to make that happen before her tour ends 🙂

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    • I do hope you can make it to one of Kourtney’s events. She’s a wealth of good knowledge and experience for new writers, and really nice to talk with afterward! I had a lot of fun. 🙂

      I’ve learned that when one of my stories doesn’t sit well with me, it’s a good sign something is wrong. And it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what isn’t working. With Death Out of Time, I came to realize the answers could be found in my betas’ comments. The relationship between two main characters wasn’t working, there were a lot a people to keep track of, and not enough action happened in the middle. It took months for this to really sink in and for Madeleine and me to find the fixes. And we’re still working on them.

      I know of writers who ended up rewriting a story with a different character taking over POV duties—and thus changing the orientation of the story. It does tell differently when seen through a different character’s eyes! And in this case, the main character who has been dropped had POV status. That’s a major change to make.

      The best advice I can offer is what we hear so often—when we finish a draft, we should put it in a drawer for at least a few weeks, but even longer is better.Think about other stories or spend more time with other interests. The break really does us good, even if we think it won’t.

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      • Hi again JM. Excellent points and I’ve been taking that advice. My WIP has been set aside for the summer and I’ve been working on a new story. Funny how that ending keeps coming up in my mind, nagging at me. Definitely a sign that something is not right. Thanks for helping me see that!

        I do have to get back to it that WIP and strengthen it. Part of me would like to keep putting it off – the fun part is in the writing, where I am now with my new story (WIP #2). The hard work is in the revisions, which is where I need to focus on my first WIP. I think the hard(er) work is scaring me off, but it’s good to see you putting your head down, focusing and getting it done. It’s motivating!! 🙂

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        • Revisions aren’t easy for me, either. They really take time and effort—I think they can be more difficult than writing the initial story. That’s where it’ll be interesting when I do sit down to write Meghan’s next story. Will the initial planning help me write a better first draft? And will that make the revisions easier? We’ll see. 😉 And I’ll definitely let you know the answer!

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  14. “Rebuilding You” is a quick study. No example comes to mind at the moment, but I know I’ve read books where I felt “cheated” by the writer either leaving out clues or manipulating the ending. The other disappointment I feel when reading some books is when the writer is not skillful at planting clues and I figure it all out long before the ending.

    How great you took the opportunity to learn from and meet with one of your blogger buddies.

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    • Well, I spent 8 months avoiding this story and thinking it would never see the light of day before I got to “Rebuilding Me.” 😉 And my fingers are crossed that the first final draft of this version will be better than the early drafts of its forerunner. I’d hate to think I truly was back at Square One.

      When I read books like you describe — with weak writing or poor plot or character development — I wonder how something like that finds an agent and press when some amazingly well-written and gripping stories are turned down again and again. I think that shouldn’t happen, but apparently some people of influence don’t agree!

      I’m so glad I seized this opportunity to meet up with Kourtney. I learned a lot while having a great time. Even if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. 😉

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  15. All so very true. As a writer, you are always an omniscient story-teller no matter what type of narration/POV style you use. You are always concealing things until you choose to reveal them. The art is about making the way you reveal events feel natural rather than contrived. It can be hard to figure out what the best way is to tell a story and it sounds like you’re thinking about it in the right kind of way.

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    • It’s so important for the flow of information to be consistent with a story’s internal logic and structure. That’s what allows the reader to “suspend disbelief” even when reading sci-fi or fantasy set in mythical worlds. Even if a writer chooses to use an omniscient narrator who reveals the thoughts of twenty characters throughout the book, the information reveal needs to fit that logic and structure. When it doesn’t, most readers start noticing that something isn’t right. I don’t want that happening in my stories.

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  16. That’s a tough one, JM.

    I don’t mind more than one POV in a complete work. Sometimes, it really helps a story to know what’s going on on the other side of the fence. For example, I had two POVs for my last NaNo: one of them the principal runaway, the other the captain chasing after her. And, I really enjoyed having both perspectives at work at the same time; I felt both their stories became fuller for knowing each one intimately. A professional editor or agent might tell me I couldn’t do that to make that story sell…but I didn’t care about salability. (insert raspberry noise)

    Sometimes, it’s important to knowingly withhold info from the characters (and the reader). ALIEN is a great example of this. (I don’t think I’m spoiling much, as the film is almost 35 years old, at this point.) Ash isn’t revealed to be an android working for the Corporation until almost halfway through the film, and it’s designed to be a shock, for both the audience and the characters. Ian Holm does a great job of leaving little clues as to his nature, and, looking over his performance on repeat viewings, it’s obvious, but the audience is “led” along a different train of thought. It works, though. The characters and audience are so busy worried about this xenomorph thing killing them off that they can’t see what’s under their noses.

    I suppose a mystery is an animal unto itself, but I don’t see how doling out information in an organic or conversational way is cheating the reader, necessarily. I had another story – a romance – where the protagonist concealed his affair with another woman from his girlfriend. I addressed it in dribs and drabs before the whole bomb gets dropped between the main characters, but anytime I tried coming out and saying it before that, it felt more info dump than organic progression. The affair itself wasn’t the important part of the plot at that point, but the way the characters were growing together, was.

    I think another POV like Sandberg could be a lot of fun, personally. You’ve already got a strong sense for his voice. “Q” could offer your readers a deeper glimpse into the mystery in smaller inter-chapters, perhaps. Like, a page devoted to his/her POV, as s/he works, observes, whatever. A lot of writers might smack my knuckles for suggesting such a thing, but I think making a story should be just as much fun for you, the writer, as it should be a ride for the reader.

    But, I’m not publishable, so take *everything* I say with a Lot’s wife-sized pillar of salt. 🙂

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    • I love multiple POVs in a story, as long as I know whose head I’m in and as long as they help drive the story. The last version of Death Out of Time before this rebuild actually had six. In the rebuild, it’s down to three. “Q” would have been a fourth.

      Since I want readers to share Madeleine’s thoughts regarding “Q” throughout the story, I realized I couldn’t make POV scenes for “Q” work with that desire. It’s important for Madeleine to wonder things because that drives a lot of what she thinks and how she interprets events in the story. If I didn’t mind readers knowing the truth about “Q,” there would be no problem with giving them POV status. For now, at least, I think it’ll be more fun for readers to share Madeleine’s curiosity on the subject. 😉

      As Carol notes above, writers control the release of information in a story, choosing when to reveal it and when to keep it hidden. How well we accomplish that plays a huge role in whether readers will accept that flow or will find themselves constantly pulled out of the story, thinking, “That should have been revealed sooner,” or “where did this come from?”

      I think that’s what I was trying to get across most in this post. When we manipulate a POV character’s thoughts, words, and actions to the extent that we’ve violated the internal logic of the story, then we’ve cheated. That’s really what I’m trying to avoid and why I decided that “Q” couldn’t share thoughts with readers directly. If I was going for a different angle on the story, that might have been “another story” all together. 🙂

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  17. Oh so timely for me. I am writing something and I wonder….should the protagonist know or not. OK, I have to think about this some more, you’ve given me some good points here.

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    • There are times when the pantser and outliner in me are at loggerheads. And I’m learning that’s a good time to take a deep breath and really think about the story. I may take furious notes and write down potential scenes at those times, but I’m learning that it’s okay to toss those scenes out or to listen to the outliner. Every story will be different, I think, and that’s okay.

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  18. Getting POV right can be really tricky. There have been many times when I’ve begun a story and ended up changing the POV because I realise it works better from a different perspective. But you’ve done the right thing in really considering the impact this would have on the story as a whole and how this would affect the reader’s satisfaction in reading the story.

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    • I am learning more as I go, which is probably a good sign. The original version of the story was too complex, and I’m afraid that if I let “Q” speak, we’d run into the same problem. And I’m hoping to avoid making the same mistakes in this rebuild. Some writers might be able to make the story work by letting readers see “Q’s” thoughts in action. But I don’t think I’m one of them.

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  19. That’s why I LOVE first person POV. If your MC does not know something, there is no way to “let the cat out of the bag” until they find out. Some people find it hard to write this way, but I’ve found it liberating.

    It’s great that you got to go see Courtney. It sounds like she really appreciated you showing up. I feel bad for her that the turn-out was low, but that’s the chance we all take in those pesky live appearances. Sounds like you guys had fun though!

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    • I’m one of those people who finds first person nearly impossible. I can do the occasional blog post from a character’s perspective, but I’d be hard-pressed to carry that through a novel! I enjoy first person stories as much as third when it comes to reading, though.

      It was a great time and experience. I felt so bad that more people didn’t show up because they missed a great opportunity. And getting to talk writing with blog buddies in person? Priceless!

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    • Thanks, Elin! Isn’t it great to sit down and talk writing with other writers? Bless my husband for listening to me talk about the WIPs, but it’s not the same as talking with someone who knows the joys and frustrations first hand. Kicking ideas around, sharing experiences—can’t be beat!

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  20. It’s a difficult road we pave for ourselves as writers. How much is too much? Especially when the story is part of a series! That’s the exciting part too, you just don’t know what your character is going to reveal and when.
    Thanks for the great post JM 😀

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    • Thanks, Luciana! I really want this version of Death Out of Time to be the right one. And I think keeping “Q” mysterious is the way to go. That could change in later books—as you say, we don’t know what they’ll reveal then!

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  21. Hi JM! 🙂
    A while back I bookmarked a GREAT Jonathon Franzen.longform interview in The Paris Review. He discusses all the issues you raise in this post (POV/rewrites) and talks at length about learning from the mistakes he made in his first two books. Seriously, this is the best indepth look at an author’s evolution I’ve ever read. When you get a chance I think you’d enjoy reading it: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6054/the-art-of-fiction-no-207-jonathan-franzen

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    • Thanks for the link! I just took a quick look at the interview and will have to come back to it for a more in-depth read. Any writers who would think their first works are their best are probably deluding themselves or their audience. There are rare exceptions. And “the next book” isn’t always better than the previous one. But overall, we should be improving as time goes on.

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  22. There’s definitely a fine line between “cheating” and having an unreliable narrator who drops the right kinds of clues. I also think it’s hard for us to see that line in our own works, and that’s one of the reasons good beta readers are worth their weight in hardcovers.

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    • My betas have been priceless. 🙂 And it’s beta comments that really made me think carefully about giving “Q” POV status. The concerns they raised with an earlier draft were a major factor in deciding against it. Beta reviews are oh-so-tough but oh-so-necessary!

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