Monthly Archives: March 2015

Creating a Multi-POV Outline

I recently finished a rough outline for my new multi-POV YA novel, and it was tons of fun!

I’ve never written a truly multi-POV book before, and I was new to the challenges of outlining one. I had to consider not only what order events should unfold in, and how they should lead into each other, and all that, but I also had to consider which POV to show them from. At first I flailed a bit, but then I found a method that not only worked well for me, but turned it into kind of a fun logic puzzle which served to draw ideas together to form scenes that would carry more punch than those ideas would have separately.

I am SO not an expert at this, but nonetheless, I hereby share this method with you in case it’s useful to anyone.

For each arc or section of the book (around 5-7 chapters’ worth), I made lists of the following:

Events that Need to Happen – The key points that formed the backbone of the arc, and that absolutely had to happen in this section.

Perspectives I Need/Could Use – Characters who I should definitely use as POV characters at some point in the section, either because what was happening was particularly important to them, or because they were at a key point in their own internal arc regardless of what the main plot points were, or just because we hadn’t seen them in a while.

Relationships I Need to Develop – This might be romances blooming, friendships strengthening, enemies turning on each other, familial relationships that needed establishing, etc. Any relationship I needed to establish, strengthen, or change around this point in the book, whether it seemed to tie into the plot arc or not.

Things that COULD Happen but Don’t Need To – This was often a wonderfully fruitful list. Some items were things from my original sketchy outline that could happen here or elsewhere; others were new things I brainstormed on the spot; others might be ideas I’d originally had but wasn’t sure about anymore. I could draw scene ideas from here that combined well with the relationships, perspectives, or events in the previous categories, or I could send ideas here to die if they didn’t fit in anymore. It gave me freedom to brainstorm and be creative without feeling like whatever I put in this list was canon.

I had a fifth heading at the bottom of the page: Scenes This All Suggests. By the time I was done filling up the previous four lists, usually there were some clear combinations and clumps forming, where a needed POV fit perfectly with a needed plot event and a relationship I had to develop. (For a made-up example, I might go “Hey, I need ninjas to attack and kidnap Hubert, and I also need to establish romantic attraction between him and Bessie, so I can have the kidnapping scene be from her POV so she’s all worried about him and we know she likes him!”)

I found the lists made it easy to look at the elements of my developing story, moving them around and recombining them like Legos. Seeing the lists right there next to each other helped my brain make connections, and often I’d wind up excitedly brainstorming new scenes right there in my notes as I thought of cool ways to combine things to increase dramatic tension or add layers to a scene.

It was a lot of fun, and turned the outline from a messy tangle I couldn’t get a grip on to something I could understand and manipulate much more easily!

I’d love to hear from others who’ve written multi-POV. How did you handle the planning stage?


Contest Giveaway: 35 Word Pitch Feedback

Two great pitch contests are coming up that use a 35 world pitch: PitchSlam and NestPitch. I have a particular soft spot in my heart for PitchSlam, since I had the great pleasure of participating (go Team Spyder!) last year, and was amazed at the time and care the hosts took in giving feedback to each participant.

As part of my continuing efforts to give back to the writing community that has done so much to support me, I’m offering free feedback on your 35-word pitch to the first 10 people to post in the comments!

Before you do, though, you might want to read this post I made a while back on avoiding vagueness in short pitches, and to make sure you’ve clearly conveyed character, conflict, and stakes.

I will happily give ONE of the following kinds of feedback (your choice—please specify if it’s not clear):

A) If you have a few pitches using different approaches and you’re torn between them, I will tell you which one I think is working best (or if I think you should combine elements of a couple different pitches, I’ll tell you that, too).

OR

B) If you have a pitch but are having trouble getting it down to 35 words, I can try to make tightening suggestions.

OR

C) If you have your 35 word pitch and just want feedback, I can tell you the one thing I think would most improve your pitch.

I can only take the first 10 commenters, alas, since my time isn’t infinite, but I will do more giveaways in the future.

Good luck to all participating in both these contests!


Contest Requests: Awesome, But Not Where the Rainbow Really Ends

I adore pitch contests. I think they’re an amazing way to meet other writers, get feedback, connect with the writing community, test out your pitch/query/first page without closing any doors, and more. They are absolutely amazing, and I think every querying writer (or about-to-query writer) should participate in them.

That said, you know what? In my experience, querying is flat-out a better way to get agent requests.

When you enter a contest, you’re not targeting agents who are seeking work like yours, or who you’d be eager to have represent you. You’re putting your work out there in front of a whole bunch of agents, some of whom may be perfect fits, but others of whom won’t be. When you query, on the other hand, you’re deliberately selecting agents who you think are a great match for you.

Here are my own stats from when I was querying and entering contests:

Requests from Twitter pitch parties: 2

Full/partial requests from blog contests: 2

Full/partial requests from querying: 14

One of the agents who requested a partial from a blog contest never got back to me on the material she requested, too. And, like many writers, I got my agent from regular querying. She found me in the slush pile.

So… By all means, do contests! If you get picked, yay! If you get requests, double yay!!!

But if you get picked and don’t get requests, don’t feel bad at all. You’ve proven you have a strong pitch and pages, or you wouldn’t have gotten picked for the contest. The particular agents just weren’t a great match for you. You can find better matches with regular querying.

And if you didn’t get picked for the contest, never fear! You’ve still gotten all the best benefits contests have to offer (see feedback, connections and friends, etc, above).

The only way to not win a contest is not to participate. Any which way, Just Keep Querying. And good luck!