Happy 2021, everybody! Hard to believe we’re already halfway to February, and yet here we are. I’m sure many of you are grappling with writing resolutions—I am, too. Even though I managed to crank out a few short stories last year, my writing output was far lower than I would’ve liked. I have the feeling 2020 had that effect on a lot of people, not just writers.
While 2021 has not exactly kicked off much better than its predecessor, I remain optimistic not just for myself but for all of us. As for my own writing resolutions, I hope to write consistently all year long (including here on the blog). I have two different novels that are beyond first drafts and needing attention to get them finished, plus two ideas for new novels that I’m really excited about. One of them might actually be the most ambitious idea I’ve ever had. It will take a staggering amount of research as it deals with something many people hold very dear, but if I pull it off I think it could really be great. Before any of that, though? Rewrites on my debut novel, The End of Jimmy Ray Day, coming out (hopefully) later this year. The primary issue I’m tackling right now? Head hopping.
Some of you may ask exactly what head hopping is. A lot of newer writers do it, sometimes without even realizing it—it’s jumping to different characters’ POVs, sometimes even in the same paragraph. It can be confusing to readers and take them right out of the story. That’s not to say it can’t be done, and done well, but it takes some precision and care to really pull it off.
When my editor read my novel, her main note was that I needed to fix head hopping issues. Some of the hopping was unintentional and amateurish, but some of it was purposely done to show another view of an incident the protagonist had already experienced, or to show what circumstances lead up to a situation the protagonist was getting ready to walk into. Nevertheless, she suggested cutting and/or rewriting ALL of the head hopping, and presenting the entire novel only from the POV of the protagonist.
That threw me for a bit of a loop when it was first suggested, but after a lot of “wordless writing”, i.e., staring into space and thinking about the story, I saw what she meant. Even the intentional head hopping was messing up the pace of the story. The End of JRD is a pretty short book, and a quick read—but the jumps to other characters’ POVs slow down the action. All from the POV of the protagonist, the pace will be quicker, and hopefully make the book really hard for readers to put down. It has, however, forced me to rethink a lot of different aspects of my story: how characters act, when to reveal key plot points, etc. It’s still the same story, but now it just zags when it used to zig. I’m presently working on finishing said rewrite zags, and I believe my editor was right (which gave me a boatload of confidence in her)—when all is said and done, the book will be unputdownable (god, what a word). The hardest part is not rushing through it, because I am beyond excited to get the book past the editing phase and move on to cover design, marketing, and everything else that comes my way on this roller coaster ride.
I wish you all luck in your writerly endeavors, and hopefully the new year is a little kinder to us all than the last one was. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do to ensure my book stays in one head and one head alone. It reminds me of the Pink Floyd lyric—”There’s someone in my head, and it’s not me.”