When Writing My Book

Head Hopping

Hi, my name is Nicola Sheridan, I am a contracted author currently enduring the editing process of my first published book ‘Magical Gains’, the first in a trilogy of paranormal romance novels. Throughout the process of writing my book, I have come across a number of problems that I have learnt to solve, and which I will be sharing with your through my ‘When writing my book…’ column. For this issue, I will be discussing ‘head-hopping’, a writer’s inability to plan or construct their story before writing, leaving one to guess and make up as they go along.

If you ask a writer what was the biggest issue they faced when writing a book, you’re likely to get a variety of answers. Some will say they don’t know where to start, many will say finding the time to do it, or how to create good tension. My biggest issue is Point of View.

I am what is typically known in the writing world as a “pantser”. I don’t plot, I barely plan, I just write – and generally only when I feel like it. Subsequently when I write, I don’t really consider whose point of view I’m writing in, it could be the hero, the heroine, or it could be that guy on the park bench watching everyone. Therein lays my first issue.

Points of view are the modes of narration through which the reader sees the world, including First, Second, Third Person Limited and Third Person Omniscient. First Person Narrative uses “I”, allowing the reader to see the world through the main characters eyes only. Second Person Narrative adopts the “you” and Third Person Limited applies “he” and “she” showing the point of view of one or two main characters only. Finally, Third Person Omniscient draws on the points of view of multiple characters.

Generally speaking, in paranormal romance, publishers like the novel to be written in either first person or third person limited. I personally find this very difficult, because of my need to know all of the characters thoughts. Subsequently, the first draft of “Magical Gains” was written in third person omniscient.

As the editing process for “Magical Gains” continues, I have found for the first time I am under pressure. I can honestly say that when writing “Magical Gains”, I did not have any difficulties; I didn’t care about point of view, as at the time, I had no intentions of publishing it. When urged to send “Magical Gains” to a publisher by a friend, I was amazed to be given a publishing contract. Now, however, the pressure is on to organise the many (and varied) point of view issues that I had not considered before. Consequently, with very little time until release, I am re-working scenes I haven’t touched for over a year, whilst still trying to maintain the story’s momentum. This combined with trying to edit and revise the follow-on novel, and write the third in the series, I am well and truly under pressure to produce. Thus, my advice to any aspiring author is to research the most common point of view used in their target genre before writing, and stick to it!

Originally published in Metior Issue 1, 2011

Words by Nicola Sheridan

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