This isn't the first time I'm starting a novel. Not even the fourth. But it is the first time I'm trying to consciously pay attention to good advice.
And top of the list of mistakes to avoid - Head hopping. Using more than one point of view.
Evidently, I'm not the only writer who thinks, well if I want to follow one character in this scene and that character in another altogether different scene, why can't I simply be inside each character at different times? After all, I can hear each one's voice so clearly. I know each one's quirks almost as well as my own.
Even though I've seen practiced writers do it brilliantly (right now I'm reading J.K. Rowling's Casual Vacancy with more point of view characters than I can remember), head hopping is something novice novelists should avoid.
I'm told - it confuses readers. They like a straight forward narrative and a character they can sympathize with. They like a story that isn't chopped up into little bits and pieces.
I'm told - it shows an author's weaknesses. No control over material No ability to sustain a narrative. In the same way that too many section breaks after each scene indicates an author who's relying on gimmicks rather than craft.
I'm told, and this is meant to be kind I'm sure, that even though Tolstoy could manage an omniscient narrator, I am not Tolstoy. Yet.
So while it's fun to imagine a couple out to dinner, she's thinking if he spends one more minute talking about himself I'll spill my drink in my lap and leave. While he's thinking, that soft, teary look in her eyes means she's falling hard for me. I'd do better to focus on the waiter who's pegged them as a bad match and poor tippers.
Still, there's hope.
I've also been told that once I've proven myself as a storyteller who can manage the material, go the distance with a single narrator and still create a world of characters, then on the next book. or the one after that, I'm free to hop into as many heads as I want.
Photo is courtesy of the New York Public Library's newly available Digital Public Library of America.