by Giselle Renarde
I'm not a "trained" writer by any stretch of the imagination. I have a degree, but it's not in English or Literature, though I did take an English Literature course along the way. Been there, done that, got The Norton Anthology to prove it.
When I was in high school, there was a class called Writer's Craft. It was a creative writing course. Some of my friends took it. I didn't.
I wrote stories when I was a kid. I wrote a lot of stories, actually. My Grade Three teacher told my mom I would grow up to be a writer. I dismissed that idea. I wanted to be a number of things over the course of my young life, but a writer was never one of them.
And yet here I am, a professional writer. Funny how that happens, huh?
When I started writing, I knew NOTHING. Less than nothing, because I didn't know the market either. I've talked here before about my first round of edits on my first ebook (The Birthday Gift) with my first publisher (the now defunct Dark Eden Press). It made me want to quit writing forever. It was in that moment that I realized how little I knew.
I felt really stupid. And I was really stupid.
I had no idea what point of view was. Seriously. I didn't. I'd never thought about it. I started my career writing letter-style erotica for Hustler Fantasies and the like, so I guess I somehow knew enough to write a letter in the first person. Maybe I just lucked out. No, DEFINITELY I just lucked out.
So... The Birthday Gift was (and still is!) written in the third person and I'm pretty sure that was the first time I'd ever written a book wherein the "I" was "she." I was extremely not good at it. Wish I'd known that at the time, but my editor was quick to enlighten me.
I've never been the kind of author who confuses tenses or head-hops, thank goodness, but my very first editor had to teach me about "deep third." Did I have any idea what that was? Nope. But she helped me understand that in this genre you really need to get inside the character's head. It's a lot like writing in the first person.
Actually, I've spend the past three days revising a story that was originally published six years ago, which means I probably wrote it seven years ago. Yup, you read that right: THREE days revising a SHORT story. It was in rough shape, and I'll tell you why: I learned writing on the job. And when you're learning, you're not always producing glorious prose.
Early in my career, everything I wrote in the third person was awkward and clunky and just... really really not good. Not that I realized it at the time. If an editor told me I needed to shake up my sentence structure, I'd go overboard and create these sentences that were just incomprehensible. I was trying too hard. I needed time to relax into my writing.
I've always been more comfortable writing in the first person (past tense--present just keeps slipping into past which is why I've never written anything longer than about 2,000 words in first person present), and it's kind of my default. I especially like the unreliable narrator aspect of it. It's nice not to be the authority. The character can really take over and misspeak and be wrong about stuff and that's okay.
I also feel like when I'm writing in third I need to showcase MY voice, whereas writing in first person feels like slipping fully into the character's skin. It's a wonderful kind of escapism. This character steps into my life and I get to become her completely. Or him.
So it's pretty well established that I had no effing clue what I was doing when I started life as a writer. Do I know what I'm doing now, 8+ years in?
Good question. I know what point of view is...
I guess that's a start.