This has been a particularly harrowing week for the writer/editor in me. Dealing with writers who have difficulty accepting the edits required on their books is a struggle, but it’s more of a struggle when they’ve forgotten what they wrote. Or worse, didn’t know in the first place.
Do you read your own books?
Several years back, I sat in for an author’s reading of his own book, and in the middle of the reading, he teared up and paused. His words meant something to him, and the story spoke to his heart, because he knew the story inside out. He’d read it over and over after he wrote it, perfecting it, prior to sending it to the first editor.
I decided right then, I wanted to be like that writer.
Two years later, when I sent my first manuscript to the publisher, I’d read it and retyped much of it, more times than I could count. Not on a computer, but on a typewriter. I didn’t have a computer at the time.
The lesson came when the publisher rejected my book. He’d circled every mistake I made in the book in a fat read pen. So I had to type it again before I could send it to anyone else. But he’d pointed out a mistake I hadn’t realized I’d been making.
Because I knew the outcome, I’d been head jumping inside the story.
His big, bold, red circles reminded me to read from one perspective and make sure that person was ALWAYS the only one talking. I read it several more times as I corrected my own head jumping story telling process.
There are some good recommendations for reading your own books, and I’m going to share them.
Read as yourself!
The first several times you read your book, read it as yourself. Read it as if you are the main character in your book, and setting the plot into action from that perspective. Write your whole book from this perspective, first. Don’t get into the head jumping habit, but do notice when you jump from one person to the next and make a note of it in your manuscript.
This is important!
Each time you read through it as yourself, the main character, be sure you note these areas and highlight them, so you can go back to them after you’re done.
Before you shift characters yourself, separate off chapters and sort out the thoughts of the other characters. Then write the chapters from that character’s perspective. Be sure you’re in a new chapter and write the whole scene from that character’s perspective – even if it means rewriting the scene or chapter completely from a different perspective.
This gives you opportunity to view the characters and events from another perspective.
Read your book as the next character.
Now read your whole book from the next character’s perspective, and make sure you’re not head jumping, but rather each character is defining his own thoughts, actions, and voice. Use character definition to define the settings from various perspectives and live your story from other people’s point of view.
You have the option of writing your chapters from a variety of perspectives… Imagine writing from the antagonist’s perspective? Can you imagine how much more insight your reader might gain if you write a chapter or two from that perspective?
Writing your story from different perspectives gives you a deeper understanding of your characters, of your scene, and of each setting in your story, because different characters will notice a variety of different things in each setting.
You may want to keep a couple of chapters about the same events from different perspectives in the book. Consider for a moment, seeing the murder from the perspective of the main character, and then from the perspective of the villain? Perhaps it really was self-defense?
A stellar version of each perspective in your book could clear up a variety of misconceptions about the story. Do you see the value in finding more than one perspective?
Before you send your book to the publisher, be sure you’ve read it!
The best advice I can give you about writing your book and getting it published is that if you haven’t read your book until you absolutely LOVE your book, you can’t sell it. Read it. Love it. Share it with your own perspectives and reviews.
When co-authoring a book, I was asked to rewrite a couple of the chapters outside my character’s perspective. Some months later, I re-read the book cover to cover, before we set it for publication. I could identify the characters, and the perspective, but I couldn’t identify without looking, who had written which chapters. Once again, I fell in love with the book.
When we took it to the publisher, it was easy to sell the book because we both loved reading it.
I’ve read it a time or two since then, and I still love the book.
~ Kera Stone