Advice for First Time Authors

 As many of you know, I have been seeking out new authors and their first book to read. I have read some amazing stories, but noticed a few disturbing trends in some books
Today I want to share with you something that all writers need to be aware of, yet it is far too common in first time authors. I’m not going to preach about vocabulary, sentence structure, dangling what-cha-ma-call-‘ems, adverbs, or any of that stuff. I’m going to shoot at something far more basic, yet all too often neglected or just overlooked, but either of these two points can cripple your career as an author.
Point one:
If you want to write a series, by all means write a series. Plenty of writers do it, and some have made a career out of it. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this.
Recently I was reading a first novel and really enjoying it. I liked the characters and the author’s voice. The plot was good and I was having fun until… I turned the page to see, “The End the story continues in book 2,3,4,5 available here.” What the Hell? We were in the middle of the conflict, nothing at all had been resolved, and that’s it? This is how to make a reader feel cheated. No, I won’t buy the rest of the series.
I have found this several times in the past few months and it is such a shame. The proper way to write a series is to have each book resolve it’s conflict and finish off with a proper sense of closure. Yes, it is clear that these characters have more to do, but for the moment, they have a chance to breathe.
David Eddings was a master of this. Read any series of his to see how it is done properly. If you want to see a new author do it right, check out Phoenix Child by Alica McKenna Johnson. Alica nailed it first time.
Point two:
Now this one drives me crazy and I have recently found it in a book by a well-received author. I call it multiple personalities. The author starts off writing the story in the first person. Cool, no problem, but then he starts leaping from body to body.
example: Chapter one starts off, “I am a space faring female robot escaping the Galactic police. I am afraid. Is there no one who will help me?”
Chapter two starts off with, “I am Captain Nogor of the Galactic Police. I am hunting a runaway robot. I will catch her or else I will perish.”
Chapter three starts, “I am Junbi, a farmer on a backward planet. I am in love with and hiding a female robot from the Galactic Police.”
See what I mean? I just started a new book, first chapter is written in the first person. The second chapter is written in the first person. Chapter one is a female character, chapter two is a male character. What the hell are you going to do when they meet? Beat you way through one of these books and you may end up needing therapy.
Here’s how it works, people. One character gets to be written in the first person, the rest in the third person. I ain’t that danged complex.
I didn’t include any examples of the books where they got it wrong, but I urge you to take a hard look at your work and make sure this isn’t you. The last thing an author wants is to piss off his readers.
So, has anyone else out there ever encountered this? Yes? No? Maybe so? Talk to me folks, tell me what you really think. You know you want to. J

25 thoughts on “Advice for First Time Authors

  1. Terrific points, Prudence. I wrote my first novel as a stand-alone, but have a prequel and sequel outlined in case I/publishers decide to go that route. Your insight reassures me that I've done the right thing.

    As far as jumping from one person to the next in first…I'm not sure I've encountered it. Sounds confusing!

  2. It is confusing, August. Darn near drove me nuts. I'll send you a private message with a title to check out. It is a great story, but you really have to work at getting through it.

  3. Nice blog, Prudence. My goodness you're prolific! Go girl! I'm going to have to check out some of your books. They all look inviting.

  4. Yes Prudence, I do know what you mean.

    And though it is not in my nature to grab a book from a series, I can certainly see your point. Don't leave someone dangling. Finish the conflict, then proceed with another story that involves the same character/characters.

    Thanks for the tips. I really appreciate it. 🙂

  5. I have to agree, my friend. I realize that all new artists want to put their own mark on their work, but if you cannot find an audience, you are pushing the envelope too far. The impressionist era was great for art, but it really sucked for writing.
    Writing like that shows every literate person who reads your books that you are in fact not very literate. Not that you don't/can't read, just that you are not well-read. If all you ever read is one genre of book, you will never be a truly excellent writer. You may only write one genre, but you should read many. If you do, your brain will come to recognize what a good book looks and sounds like.
    I have seen books that jump between two different first person POV's, so I know it can be successfully done. There have to be external clues however, and they are usually contained in the chapter title. The author also has a definite understanding of which is the primary character and remains solely with that character after the two have met. This is NOT, hear me well, NOT a method that should be attempted by a new author. Build an audience first, established authors are forgiven more easily if they try something new and it bombs.

    Pru, you called it with Eddings. Garion always knew what the final battle would be, but each book held major precurssors that helped strengthen the core group and draw the reader further into the story. I think I have read nearly everything Eddings ever did. Almost time for my yearly re-read of the Belgariad and Mallorean, but I can't get them on my Nook. Good thing I have the hard copies!!

  6. Prudence thank you so much for your lovely comments. I'm wanted people to feel like I finished the story, yet look forward to the next adventure.
    Great advice! POV can be a challenge, but it's so important. Critique groups can help a lot in keeping POV consistency.

  7. Alica, you did an incredible job. Pheonix Child was a standalone book that left your reader wanting more. This is the trick to writing a good series. Done right, it can go forever. Eddings actually had to put and Afterword into the 10th of his series about Garion to say that he had written enough on the character and would not be furthering the series. Then he went and wrote two supplementary novels that encapsulated the entire story from start to finish, each in the POV of a single character. After that, he turned around and wrote another book about how to write this type of series! You are on a good track my friend.

  8. You are so right. Have an unresolved ending leaves one in a lurch. I wouldn't read any more of the authors books as I'd feel cheated. Multiple POV's leave me dizzy and I'll put down a book, however if there are two POV's, with each in it's own chapter, that's fine.

  9. Totally agree! And I really need to read Phoenix Child. It sounds like an awesome story, and knowing there's more – but not left unfinished – is a big plus. Holly Lisle is a master of writing series, too – she even has a course about it, and not cheating the reader is first and foremost. Hopefully I've done this as well with my book.

    I hear you with the first person, too. I wrote one book where the heroine just had to tell it in her voice, but the hero needed some face time away from her too, so I did just what you noted: her POV in first person, his in third. A couple of contest judges didn't care for the technique, but most didn't even mention it (and it got very good scores).

  10. Hi Alvarado, I agree that POV can be tricky, and I can deal with the personality thing if the story is good, but then I a writer too so I will probably forge ahead where others may not. It is the unresolved ending thing at really gets me. I've been reading a lot of new writers and their first novels. I seen that a lot, but I've also found some great stuff. Some of these new folks have got a fan in me for certain.

  11. Hi Jennette, I really have to read some of your work. I like your blog and the way you express yourself.
    About the POV thing, it is easy for me. I'm a storyteller, so I write as the narrator. That solves the problem and let's me focus more on the story.

  12. The multiple first persons is a trend, but I can be done well. Poisonwood Bible has multiple first persons — of each of the family — but it's an excellent book. On the other hand, I read one of Lisa Gardener's. She had third person for the main character, and first person for two of the other characters. It left me frustrated because it was too much of a change.

  13. Hi Linda, thanks for dropping by. I have to say, as a reader, it is a trend I can live without. A trend that makes a book more difficult to read is not going to be helpful to the sales report. I like eating too much to chance it. tee hee

  14. Wonderful post, Prudence. I agree with every bit of it. I struggled with closure on mine at first, not realizing the story would become so long. I, too, feel each book needs a proper end and my story clearly goes over the length of one book. But now that I have had the time to step back and take a good look at it, I believe that problem has been resolved. I simply needed to tweak a few things.

  15. I am so glad I'm not the only one who sees ending in the middle of a conflict as a problem. Like you, if an author makes me buy another book just to see what happens I won't. I don't mind things carrying on from one book to another, but those have to be major arcs, not the current plot. I mean even George Lucas ended each of the Star Wars movies at a low point of action and not in the middle of a battle scene, though the real story was carried through it all.

    I haven't run into the new character in first person for each chapter yet, but now I can be on guard for it.

    Thanks for the great post.

  16. Hi Virginia, thanks for stopping by. I've been told that the multi character first person style is the latest trend. Seriously? I remember the hula hoop and the pet rock too. I expect this trend will fade fast too, at least I hope it does.

  17. When I started writing the first in my series I thought it was going to be a one off untill I was half way through – then an idea grew. I hope each book has finished off the present conflict but left enough to bring people into next one!

    two of them are narrated through interviews so all those 'I' dont clash the second was written by one person so the problem of different POVs didn't come up

    good post – enjoyed it

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