by Lisa Hall-Wilson
Deep point of view is a style of writing that aims to immerse the reader in the story so they share the character’s emotional journey as though it’s their own. This is achieved by removing the author/narrator voice from the writing, which is easier said than done. Deep POV is very popular in some genres and is growing in popularity in others as readers increasingly search for an experience in addition to being entertained.
I was asked by my students if I would create an FAQ for deep POV, and this is the first post towards that goal. These are some of the more frequent questions I get asked on my blog and in my free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions In Fiction.
1. When Can I Use Italics In Deep POV?
Typically, in deep POV you don’t use italics for internal dialogue or self-talk. Most readers can figure out when a character is thinking without the he/she thought tags or using italics. Where italics is used in deep pov is if there’s telepathy or mind-speak involved (looking at you paranormal and fantasy authors) to distinguish when a character is thinking from when they’re speaking to someone without words.
2. Is First Or Third POV Better In Deep POV?
You can use either effectively. When writing in first person, you are not automatically writing in deep pov though, so keep that in mind. This becomes more a choice of personal preference and genre/audience. Some genres seem to trend more towards one than the other.
3. Is Deep POV Better In Past Or Present Tense?
Same answer as above. Both can be equally effective so it’s more about personal preference and genre.
4. What Are Some Books That Use Deep POV?
I have read most but not all of these. My students will sometimes ask me about a particular book and I’ll use the Look Inside feature on Amazon to read the first few pages. These books are or seem to be written entirely in deep POV and represent a wide variety of genres.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen
Her Galahad – Melissa James
Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold
Dreamlander – K.M. Weiland
Cry Wolf – Patricia Briggs
ROOM – Emma Donaghue
The Last Seers – Lisa Hall-Wilson
Cross My Heart – Pamela Cook
Cursed Wishes – Marcy Kennedy
Tough Road – Elizabeth Safleur
The Ladderman – Angela Archer
Because Of Dylan – Erica Alexander
5. Why Can’t I Use Emotion Words In Deep POV?
Most of the time, writing that the character is mad, happy, depressed, anxious, etc. is considered telling. With deep pov, we want to write as though we are the character experiencing this story in real time. We don’t label emotions in our own minds very often, we FEEL emotions. This creates the immersive effect readers crave. For those who are aware of this rule in deep pov, what more often happens is showing AND telling.
Steve kicked the can down the street, hands shoved so far down his pockets he might’ve pulled up his socks. Too depressed to go home, he trudged past home and headed to the park.
Steve kicked the can down the street, hands shoved so far down his pockets he might’ve pulled up his socks. He trudged past home and headed to the park.
6. How Do You Anchor The Beginning Of A Scene In Deep POV Without Telling?
Sometimes it’s telling, often it’s author intrusion, but making sure the reader is rooted in who, when, where, etc. at the beginning of a chapter is a challenge for those new to deep POV. When done well, you can set aside this rule in deep pov if you’re able to become the character – inhabit their skin so to speak for a bit – and let the character feel their way through a scene.
It was five days later when Jerry sat down for breakfast.
Jerry slumped onto the only uncluttered chair at the table with a bowl of granola and the week’s stack of newspapers under his arm. He opened the oldest paper and spread it across the table. He had five days of news to catch up on.
7. How Do You Remove Filter Words Like Felt, Saw, Or Heard In Deep POV?
These filter words are considered telling in deep pov but are totally acceptable in other styles, and it can be hard to shift the mindset to write without them. Try to write it as though YOU are the character and the character has no audience. Don’t write as though the reader is listening in. Write so that the reader feels like they’re right there next to your character living out this story with them.
She felt herself drawn to the last door on the left. <-- Instead of telling me she feels something, just write what she feels.
She stared at the final door, the light shining out from beneath like a safety beacon on a dark night.
She heard twigs snapping behind her in the dark. <-- don’t tell me she hears things, just show me what she hears.
Twigs snapped behind her and she spun towards the noise.
8. How Do I Write In Deep POV And Not Give Away The Character’s Whole Plan?
In deep POV, you have to rethink your ideas on tension and conflict. In other styles of writing, keeping the reader in the dark is one way to build tension for readers, but you can’t keep secrets from the reader in deep pov. If your character knows what’s about to happen, the reader knows what’s about to happen.
Instead, think about surprise. If your character is able to create a plan and fully execute it without alteration maybe you need to be harder on them. Let the reader in on what the character expects going into a situation – and now make life harder for them. Whatever they’re expecting – what if it doesn’t happen, or happens at the wrong time? If the reader knows the stakes going in, how much of their plan depends on one element, then the reader is leaning in and cheering for the character to succeed.
These are the short answers, of course, but sometimes that’s all you need. *smile*
Do you have a deep POV question I could add to my next deep POV FAQ post? Please share it down in the comments!
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Lisa Hall-Wilson is a national award-winning freelance journalist and author who loves mentoring writers. Fascinated by history, fantasy, romance, and faith, Lisa blends those passions into historical and historical-fantasy novels. Find Lisa’s blog, Beyond Basics for intermediate writers, at www.lisahallwilson.com.
by Leigh Cheak
As a writer, your ideas are all in your head, and the job is to wrangle them out and get them onto the page for other people to read and experience. But all writers know that it’s not that simple.
Sometimes, you have to hook those ideas and pull hard. Sometimes, they come out like the slow drip from a faucet. And sometimes, they roar on out with the force of a waterfall. It’s tangled and messy, and first drafts are usually awful. (“Shitty”, according to Anne Lamott.) And sometimes, we need to get out of the muck and see our work from a different perspective.
I like a road map to help with arranging my writing. I like to see where I’m going and plot my course. So I grab a pad of sticky notes. Whether you’ve got ideas but don’t know where to start, you’re waist-deep in a story and can’t figure out where to go from there, or you’re at the end but it’s just not adding up, the answer (at least for me) is sticky notes.
I believe sticky notes can save your writing at any point in the process.
Let me explain.
- They’re small, so you can only write main points/details. This forces you to summarize and only write the important stuff.
- They’re sticky. You place them down somewhere, and they stay put. No wind or animal tail sweeping it off your workspace.
- They keep their sticky pretty well, so you can move them around and stick them elsewhere.
- They’re colorful. If you’re a color-coding champ, you can use different colors for main points, specific details, certain characters… your imagination (or ability to organize) is your limit.
Why bother with sticky notes?
When you’re in the story or an essay, it’s easy to get lost and not know where you’re going. Using sticky notes helps to pull that focus out and see things from a macroscopic viewpoint. From there, you can see the progression of events/ideas and decide how to best arrange them. And the wonderful thing about this organizational method is that you can use it to start writing, while you’re in the writing, or after as an editing tool. By pulling out and viewing the progression from an aerial perspective, you can make more informed decisions about where the writing is going and what makes the most sense to go where. You can see potential holes, or disconnected ideas, and figure out how to patch them in or circumvent them. You can also decide which darlings need murdering.
Because they’re small and sticky, it’s easy to manipulate them into new configurations to try new things. Feel free to play! You can easily undo anything that doesn’t work out. It’s not so easy to do that with Word or written pages.
And the sticky means that you can plot your storyline, leave it be, and then come back to it in the same arrangement (unless little goblins mess with it while your back is turned). You can even use wall space to organize your notes because gravity has less jurisdiction with the sticky. Space-saving and writing-saving—sticky notes really are unsung heroes!
When in doubt, use stickies
Stickies can help you decide if you want your story to be linear, or if it’s best to jump around in time and/or perspectives. And if you have a new idea, slap it on a new sticky and find a place for it. The size of your sticky web is limited to you and how many pads you have.
Need to get somewhere, but there’s no clear transition? Lost sight of the conflict? Boom. Sticky. Write your ideas down. Crumple up the ones that don’t work. Or maybe just move it elsewhere and come back to it. I like to keep a sticky graveyard for ideas, just in case one happens to have good resurrection material. Especially if it’s a long piece that I’m working on over a lengthy amount of time.
When I use stickies, I feel like I’m assembling the pieces of a puzzle and then making them fit. I enjoy the tactile pieces and moving them around to see what makes sense where. It’s a fun way to manipulate your story without being trapped by the blank page.
Two Camps: Plotters and Pantsers
I totally stole these two terms from my dear friend, Justine Bylo, who’s also written for WITS. We both identify as Plotters, and we like to use sticky notes from the get-go. We’re also type-A perfectionists (surprise!). When it comes to writing, we like to know where things are going and make logical moves from point to point until we get to the end. I know many other writers are the same, and like to have things thought-out and organized while writing. It’s comforting to have an outline and know that we’re writing towards the next pit-stop instead of the very end of the journey. Using sticky notes help us to line up our plots and chart the course. We make small steps of progression until the end.
Our opposites are Pantsers: writers who fly by the seat of their pants. These writers often have no idea where a story is going, but trust that they’ll get where they’re meant to be. I sort of envy these people, because they can have some wild adventures along the way. They’ll find sticky notes helpful in the middle or end of the writing, when they’re stuck and need direction, or when they’re looking at a tangle of words they need to make accessible for readers.
For Pantsers, sticky notes can get them out of the thick of things so they can see the map and that can guide them to streamline things to make the most sense. They might not need help getting started—they know they’re in for something amazing—but they might need some help with putting the ideas in the most logical order, or finding the holes that can trip up readers.
So whether you’re a control-freak plotter or a free-writing pantser, sticky notes can help you anywhere in the process.
I recommend you use the KISS method with your stickies: Keep It Simple Silly. Make sure each sticky only has one point/idea. You want to be able to move the separate parts around. And remember, just because it makes sense in your head does not mean that it will make sense to your reader. Arrangement is key. If a reader can’t follow you through the journey they’ll likely give up, no matter how awesome your dialogue, action, or description.
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser and what stage of writing would you find using sticky notes most useful? Have you done something similar to help with your writing? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you? Let me know down in the comments!
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Leigh Pierce née Cheak is a poet/writer and editor living just outside of Nashville, TN with her new husband and her two fur-babies, Mila and Misha. She obtained her MFA in Creative Writing at Western Kentucky University. Her poems have appeared in The Poetry Gymnasium, 2nd Ed.; Wildflower Press’ Anthology: Wild Voices, Vol. 2; The Windhover; The McNeese Review; and Beecher’s Magazine, among others.
by Melinda VanLone
Book covers are a lot like fashion, except the expectations change over the course of years instead of seasons. Everyone’s seen the cover of their favorite book change over the years, whether it’s traditionally published or indie. You might even be thinking about how nice it would be to change your own book cover to something more exciting or more “now”, but something is holding you back.
If you spent a lot of money on your current cover, it’s hard to swallow that it might need updating. After all, that’s even more money and time you’ll have to invest. But there’s a time and place for everything, which means there’s a time when changing your cover is the right move.
Some Reasons to Change Your Cover
1. Trends Change
As with most things in life, nothing lasts forever. That trend of only showing a bare-chested torso today could indicate that your book is out of touch with modern times tomorrow. It’s a smart business practice to keep up with the current trends and adjust when needed. Your book is a product, after all, and it needs the best packaging for the market.
2. Genres Change
New book genres and sub-genres crop up almost every week. When they do, they tend to come with new expectations for cover art. A steamy romance today, for instance, needs more flesh showing on the cover to indicate the heat level of the story. If you’ve written a book that has slipped into a new category…remember when New Adult wasn’t a thing?…you might need to change the art to reflect that in order to reach more readers.
3. Authors Change…Their Minds
You’ve probably learned a lot since your first book cover was commissioned. The world is a very different place than it was a few months or years ago. What worked then maybe just doesn’t work now.
Perhaps It Is Timing
Analyzing the market, target readership expectations, and overall shelf life can provide compelling clues as to when it would be worth the plunge into new art. For example:
1. Sales have fallen off the charts
Whatever your high point was on sales, if they’ve taken a nosedive even with pumped up ad spends and good click-through rates, along with other marketing efforts, the first thing to tinker with is the cover art. Often that one change can bring readers back.
2. Plans Have Changed
If you started out thinking you were writing a stand-alone, but then it turned into a trilogy…which kept going…your series and brand might need a refresh to bring cohesion. Readers love to know that books in a series belong together and the easiest way to show them that is with the cover art. So if the brand is looking scattered or dated, a refresh can breathe new life and bring new readers to your backlist.
3. The Brand Feels Dated
When I first launched my House of Xannon series, I studied the market and current trends and positioned the book within the New Adult category. Back then it was a new niche, barely defined, and had little expectations. Trying to bridge the gap between Young Adult and plain old Adult wasn’t easy for the art world.
Back then, it was fairly common in New Adult Fantasy to see magical symbols as the main focus, and no actual people. A lot of big names were taking this approach, so I did too.
But here we are years later and now that cover feels out of date, stiff, I hate the font, and it doesn’t attract the reader I’m seeking. It was time for a change, so recently I took the plunge and re-branded all five of the Xannon covers to update them to the current genre expectations. The new look attracted more readers and made my ad spends more effective.
If you are traditionally published, getting the cover art changed might not be something you can control. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask about it, and point out the reasons why you think a change would help market the book better. If you’re an indie author, then the decision is all yours. One of the things I love most about being indie is the ability to pivot. Indie authors can be nimble and flexible when something isn’t working.
While it costs money and time to re-do a cover, in the end, it might result in new readers and more sales...and how could that not be worth the effort?
Do you have book covers you need or want to update? What are some covers you've seen that you love? Melinda is open for questions down in the comments!
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Melinda VanLone writes urban fantasy, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and furbabies.
When she's not playing with her imaginary friends, you can find Melinda playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.
by Jenny Hansen
It's been a while since I posted a "Top Writing Success Tips" post here at WITS. Previously I've offered tips from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Maya Angelou. Since I don't think any of us can ever have too much writing wisdom, I've gathered a few stellar tips from a writer I respect a hell of a lot -- Nora Roberts.
Even if you don't read romance, mysteries, or YA (she writes all three), she has tons of wisdom to offer. She is an "Every Damn Day" writer who has earned her place on the bestseller charts with a diligent work ethic that boggles the mind.
Nora Roberts' Top Bits of Writing Wisdom
In an article last spring, titled Here's How I Work, La Nora distilled her writing advice down to these three things (language alert):
Stop making excuses and write.
Stop whining and write.
Stop fucking around and write.
She ended this section with: "I take my own advice." Here are some of my thoughts on her advice.
1. Stop Making Excuses
I am the champ at excuses when it comes to writing, so believe me I am not pointing fingers here. I love that a New York Times bestselling author has such a refreshingly no-nonsense point of view.
We own this. Our writing, our dreams, our stories. We don't always own our time -- we have families and jobs and bills. But we can own our writing. We can give our writing dreams top billing.
Sometimes we simply aren't able to do as much as we'd like. We have kids and parents and jobs that need our focus. Heck, last year every bit of my life force was focused on surviving to this year's January 1. To put it in perspective -- as bad as this pandemic has sucked, it hasn't been as excruciatingly difficult for me as 2019.
This time last year, I told my BFF: "Some years you are the dog, and some years you are the fire hydrant." (Whichever one you are right now, it passes. I promise.)
Last year I didn't write much, by choice. I couldn't bear for the most joyful thing in my life to be tainted by drudgery and depression. This year, my energy (and therefore my writing desire) is back, and I've eased back into the joyful end of the writing pool.
Whether you are the dog or the fire hydrant, whether you are writing scads of pages or none...our writing is a gift and a choice. Own it. Do as much as you are able, without excuses.
2. Stop whining and write.
Nora Roberts works for 6-8 hours on the writing and works out for 90 minutes every day. Although she's more disciplined than the half the writers I meet, there's a lot to be said for routine. Routine can pull a writer through some hard times. Nora prizes her routine but she also credits the Catholic nuns she was schooled by - she says they taught her to just put her head down and do the work.
Our own Laura Drake is similar. Up at the butt-crack of dawn to write, a few hours on Facebook, more time for the online classes she teaches, time with her hubby and early to bed to do it all again.
Setting a routine, and putting your head down to do the work, is a winning combination to finishing books. It also gets you past the scenes when the writing is hard (aka when you want to whine).
As you might know from reading my Bikini Wax Theory of Writing, writing is not always a Disney frolic through the pages for me. I tend to write humorous books with really tough story themes. Tough themes equal tough writing. But those are the stories that come to me, so those are the stories I write.
3. Stop effing around and write.
Many writers are easily distractable. *raises hand* They get caught up on social media, the internet, the laundry pile. There's a lot to be said for just getting your writing done and out of the way first thing in the day.
If your elusive quiet time doesn't happen until the end of the day, you might have to wait until then to get your writing done. I knew one writer who was a full-time newspaper reporter, who finished her entire first book at the lunch table in the courtyard outside her offices.
Let's revisit the "make a routine" advice up above. No matter what time of day your brain clicks into high gear, building a routine around that time. Steven Kotler calls this state "Flow" and defines it as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Figure out your "flow" time, stop dinking around, and write. That linked Kotler article offers many examples of what "flow" looks like, and how to get that state of creativity.
Here are a few more posts I came across in my research:
- 27 Hard-Won Lessons about Writing from New York Times Bestselling Authors
- How Nora Roberts Taught Me To Be More Prolific
- Nora Roberts' Top 7 Tips for Writers and Authors
Which tip resonated with you? What no-nonsense tip keeps you going in your own writing life? Tell us all about it down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
by Eldred "Bob" Bird
In my last two posts here on WITS I talked in general terms about building your author platform, both online and offline. Today I’m going to dig a little deeper into building a long-term relationship with your readers. This is an important part of succeeding as a writer, but how do we accomplish the task? Like any other relationship it involves a little give and take.
How Does This Give and Take Work?
One key piece of information we ask potential readers to give is an email address. This allows us to keep them up to date on new releases, share our creative process with them via newsletters, and send the occasional promotional mailings. But what can we give them in return for this valuable piece of information?
Like many authors, I’ve been giving readers a free story download in exchange for signing up for my newsletter (I admit I stole this idea from the great James Scott Bell). You might think managing all those download requests will eat up most of your writing time, but the good news is the process can be automated.
I've included the steps below. This small bit of initial setup work will save you a lot time in the long run.
What You Need to Automate the Process
Before we get too deep in the process, you’re going to need to have a few things handy.
A Reader Reward
The first thing you need is something to give your readers. What would make them squeal with joy? Okay, maybe not squeal but you get the idea. Do you have the first chapter of an upcoming book you want to promote? How about a worksheet or tool you can share from a resource? Do you have bios of your characters or an extra scene that may have been cut from your novel?
I usually use stand-alone short stories for my giveaways. It’s a great way to give readers a taste of my voice as a writer. I also suggest saving the file in PDF format rather than EPUB or MOBI. PDF files are more universal and can be viewed on any device the reader may have handy.
A Place to Host Your File
Now that you have something to give to the readers, you’re going to need somewhere in the cloud to store it where it can be easily accessed and distributed. There are many cloud storage providers out there, but Google Docs is probably the simplest solution. I have a specific folder where I upload and store giveaway files. This helps keep things neat and tidy and makes getting the download links a snap.
A Way to Collect Addresses
You’re also going to need a way to collect and manage the email addresses you receive. You’ll also be using this same application to automate the delivery of your file. Two of the most popular solutions are Mailchimp and MailerLite. Both are free up to a certain number of subscribers, and both offer delivery automation. I’ve found MailerLite to be the most flexible and robust at the free level, and a good fit for most authors, but do your research and decide what works best for you as you scale up and move toward achieving you ultimate goal as a writer.
Putting it All Together
Okay, you’ve got your giveaway file uploaded to cloud storage and your mail management account is setup and ready to go. What next?
Create a Signup Form
The first thing you will need to do in your mail management account is create a signup form. Most sites have a wizard to accomplish this or predesigned templates you can customize. You need to decide what information you want from the subscriber and add fields for each piece. At a minimum, I would suggest first name, last name, and email address. You can add fields for a mailing address, but I would make those fields optional as they may scare some people off. What we really want is that email address.
Create a Confirmation Letter
Next, you need to create an email confirmation letter that will be sent to the subscriber when they enter their information and hit the button. Again, most services will provide a template, but take the time to customize the letter to your specific brand. By this time, you’ve probably developed a style you’ve applied to your website, social media headers, and communications. Make sure to carry that look over to your confirmation letter as well.
Create a Thank You Letter
Your Subscriber has confirmed their address, so now it’s time to deliver the goods! The thank you letter is where you’re going to give them the link to get their prize. Choose a template to customize and again, be consistent with you branding. Get a share link to the file from you cloud service—if you’re using Google Docs, right-click the file and copy the link—and create a button for the link. If you’ve created a cover image for the giveaway file, the thumbnail image makes a nice action button.
Putting Your Signup Button to Work
Now that we have all the pieces in place, it’s time to put them to work and that means asking for those email subscriptions. So, where do we do that?
The most common place to put a signup button is on your website. MailChimp and MailerLite both provide plug-ins and copy-and-paste code for websites. These plug-ins allow you to imbed your forms right on your site, as well as customize how your it appears and acts. You can choose to have a static form or a pop-up, and where the form will appear, if you want a delay on the pop-up, etc…
Your Social Media
Don’t have a website? Don’t worry, you mail management provider will also give you a URL that links directly to you signup form hosted on their site. You can add this link to your social media profile pages, as well as your posts.
Add a signup link to your “About the Author” page at the back of you eBooks. Put a button below your bio with your email and social media links. Don’t have an “About the Author” page in your books? You really should. It’s great opportunity to further connect with your readers. They’ve just finished you book and are probably looking for the next one to devour.
Some Final Thoughts
The fine details on how to accomplish the tasks above will vary depending on what service you elect to use, but the general idea is the same. For specifics on your chosen platforms, I suggest hitting YouTube and looking for the latest tutorials. Be sure to check the dates on the videos. Software interfaces and functions are always being updated (anyone who uses WordPress can attest to this), so you want the latest information you can get your hands on.
Setting these automations up can feel a little technical, so take your time, be patient with yourself, and break it down into bite sized tasks. If I can do it, I know you can. The good new is that once you have it working, changing your giveaway file in the future is a snap.
What other methods have you used to get email signups? What worked for you? What didn’t work? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma (available for pre-order on Amazon), reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives). His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.