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Writerly Roundup – November 2016


Our Writerly Roundup blog series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don't want you to miss.



Photo by Jena Schwartz

Writing in Third Person Omniscient vs Third Person Limited, Reedsy

In this very helpful piece, the folks at Reedsy want to help fiction writers out by reminding you that your choice of narration directly impacts the effectiveness of your storytelling. Which voice best serves your purpose? First and second person have their own flavor, of course, but third person can take two forms: omniscient and limited.

In third person omniscient narration, the narrator has a god’s eye view of the story and is privy to all characters’ thoughts, as well as knowledge of the past and future. Then there’s third person limited, where the narrator’s scope of knowledge is intimately tied to a particular character — very often the protagonist.

The piece helpfully breaks down the benefits of each form and gives examples. Omniscient narrators convey the big-screen feel of cinema and have the ability to be objective. Limited narrators, on the other hand, can get inside a character’s head. Additionally, as in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones), authors can work with multiple points of view. The article offers specific reminders to writers working with both kinds of narration.

If you’re writing a true-crime-style procedural, you might utilize the POVs of a cop investigating the crime, a victim’s family member, and even the criminal himself. It would be pointless to give the perspectives of three investigating officers since their perspectives will be too similar. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t switch focal characters mid-chapter or mid-scene, since this toes the line of “head hopping”.

The piece includes two very helpful comic-strip infographics that illustrate the differences and capture the feel of each option. I usually write nonfiction, so I admit I’d not really thought about these two categories of third person, but this was a simple and straightforward way to understand my options.

The Late Bloomer’s Guide to Getting an AgentAllison K. Williams (@guerillamemoir), Brevity's Nonfiction Blog

In this Brevity blog, Allison K. Williams utters words that might have come out of my own mouth when she thinks about the timeline of her writing life:

I’m sure there’s something very meaningful to write about how life experience has given me more material and perspective and everything happens at the right time blah blah blah, but it doesn’t really take away the sting of not being famous already.

Williams considers a blog post by author Sharon Van Epps, who tells the story of her meandering journey towards finding a literary agent. Van Epps was by no means a slacker; she just “wasn’t ready” for a long time. Williams links to several of Van Epps blogs, all of which are helpful for a writer walking the same, slow path towards literary representation.

If you’re already in the query process, these blog posts can reassure you, you’re doing it correctly, or help you adjust your rhythm. If you’re not there yet, it’s pretty awesome to see another long slow timeline and how it played out to success.

I messaged Ms. Van Epps and told her how much I appreciated the reminder that our timelines are our own and that there’s no wrong way to do it. She wrote back and gave me an extra pat on the back—exactly what I had been needing.

(Re)Igniting the Writer’s Life, John Vorhaus (@TrueFactBarFact), Writer Unboxed

At first glance this piece appears to be another writerly pep talk, something we all need, of course. But John Vorhaus has more to say than just, “Keep writing” and “You can do it.” He’s given fiction writers a check list, a step-by-step exercise to get you through a tough day with the white page.

Set an appropriate goal for that time. You only have half an hour; you won’t be writing War and Peace. What you will be doing is experiencing or re-experiencing yourself as a writer. Without value judgments. Without any investment in outcome at all. Your appropriate goal is just this: to feel how it feels to write.

Vorhaus’s exercise helps writers create a character and assign them an emotional state: the basics. He assures us that 30 minutes is enough time to work on this process. Once we’ve completed the exercise one time, we can go back and repeat the steps again to find that it won’t be quite so challenging.

Set aside another small window of time (maybe 30 minutes; maybe 37). Do the same exercise. Solve another, similar problem on the page. I promise you something: You’re going to be amazed at how much more easily the problem solves the second time around. Why? Because you have the experience of the first time to draw upon.

It’s about practice, not mastery. It’s something we all need to get comfortable with, no matter where we are in our writing careers: the practice of writing.

What Does an Author’s Website Need to Succeed? , Donna Talarico (@donnatalarico), The Writer

This article won’t tell you how to write, but it offers up an important reminder: if you write, you want and need people to find you online.

Whether you’re applying for a job, pitching a freelance article, or querying an agent, the person on the receiving end of your information will likely look you up online.

In the past few years and with the advent of social media, many authors eschew the website, thinking that it’s an outdated form of marketing. Talarico disagrees. Moreover, she convincingly reminds us that a website that hasn’t been updated in years paints an equally ineffective portrait. Talarico also offers suggestions for improving your rankings on search engines.

Of course, authors will continue to market themselves on social media, and Talarico considers the weight of social media branding versus that of a personal website:

I once heard at a web conference that we “rent” social media, but we “own” our permanent web presence. There’s no personal visual branding opportunities on social media, save for a custom profile or header image. On a personal website, however, you control the look and feel. Your personality can shine through with the color palette, layout and vibe…

If you’re like me and you haven’t quite gotten around to finishing your website, this article is an important little kick in the pants.

35 Books for Writers, Penguin Random House

Just in case you missed this link last month, I'm going to give you a second chance, because it's a really comprehensive list. Short stories, long stories, hard stories, comic books, grammar, punctuation, memoir...after all, who doesn't need a little literary support? Also, Christmas is coming. Stuff your writer-friends' stockings with something they can read with a warm cup of cider.


Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we'd love to hear your input!

Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer living with her husband and their young sons in West Virginia. She holds an MFA from Chatham University and writes humor. Her work has recently appeared on Matador Network, in Brain, Child MagazineVandaleer, Animal: A Beast of  Literary Magazine, DefenestrationThe Higgs Weldon, and the Erma Bombeck humor site. She writes a regular nature column, Valley Views & Varmints, and has recently finished her first book of humor. Laura is a former blog editor for Literary Mama.

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Thank you so much for sharing the link and an overview of my The Writer article! That is was an "important kick in the pants" is SUCH a compliment. I'm honored! This was such a nice surprise for Thanksgiving-Eve! Note: My Twitter is @donnatalarico - the one listed is a handle I previously used for a former initiative.
Somehow I just found this! Thanks so much for including my blog
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