What happens when your life turns upside down? Ava Branson tells us how it affected her writing ….for the better!
As is true for so many people, reading has been a huge part of my life. From cherished Golden Books as a little girl to the genre that’s held my heart since my teens – romance. I’ve loved a multitude of genres, consuming everything I could put my hands on and fueling an already active imagination. Tales of all kinds would germinate and bloom in my head as I played with story arcs and endings with all sorts of plot twists in the middle. I felt blessed, and I was never bored!
Not terribly long ago, the realization hit me that the countless books I devoured had one thing in common. All were written in third person. Perhaps this was considered a rule of some sort, or perhaps publishers pushed those points of view. I don’t know the answer and frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought until I had an epiphany this summer. I’ll explain more about that in a minute.
Over the years, my longing to write grew along with my hyperactive and vivid imagination. My constant companion and source of endless inspiration wove and crafted lyrical tales. Beautiful heroines demanding snappy dialogue. Handsome heroes saving the day. My head was always full.
“One of these days,” I promised myself. “I’m going to write.”
The best of intentions slid to the backburner when the realities of life steadily encroached on my dream. Raising a family and other various and sundry things expanded to fill my world.
“One of these days,” I kept thinking in the back of my mind. “One of these days.”
Fast-forward a respectable number of years later and this newly-divorced momma of two amazing daughters (shamelessly proud of them) decided that, since I’d altered the course of my personal and family life rather drastically, why not go all the way? Why not do what I’d yearned to do for so long, but kept on the shelf because…well, see above. I woke up one morning and decided it was time. Enough daydreaming about “what if.” The dream of seeing any number of these lush tales that had occupied my mind come to life became my goal. And––in what may be an arguable moment of wisdom––I decided to write full-time. There was this new wave of indie authors and indie published books that were changing the landscape of writing and publishing and I took that as a sign to move forward.
A quick recap. Single mom, remember? I’d just closed a business with my partner that, while wonderfully fulfilling, was no longer cost effective to keep going. If you guessed I wasn’t flush with money from that event, you’d be right. Determination, I had plenty of. Money? Not so much. Hence, the hindsight and wondering what in hell I was thinking when I cut loose from the dock and set sail into the unknown.
So I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote more, wishing I could write faster because of the insane pressure I put on myself to “catch up” to the authors out there with a backlist and a dizzying publishing pace. I didn’t––and still don’t––know how some authors churn out these fantastic books so quickly.
Eighteen months into my giant leap of faith and coupled with my daughter’s over-flowing senior year in high school, plus life in general, I found myself burning the candle at both ends and in the middle…because I was thorough like that. Frustration with my pace built. My focus waivered and a growing massive wave of self-doubt in my writing abilities became an insidious companion.
I stumbled to a painful halt. To be fair, the then year––2015––was one that tested my steady, grounded self. My ex-husband (my daughter’s father) died unexpectedly. My only sibling passed away unexpectedly. Both girls graduated; one from high school, one from college. One got married. One moved away to school. There was much more, but those are some of the bigger events that occupied my head and heart. It was––as a dear friend pointed out––a year of biblical proportions. When 2015 came to a close, I kicked the door shut on that puppy with a vengeance and had a really big glass of wine.
To say all of this impacted my creativity would be an understatement.
I tried writing in between handling whatever was on the docket for that day/week/month. Only I had trouble sinking my teeth into the story I’d previously been fired up about. Like a wet blanket, my thoughts and words felt heavy. Lumbering. A death knell for a writer.
Was I fooling myself into believing I was an author of any worth?
Irritation with my lack of progress, self-doubt and any number of other negative thoughts slowly replaced other emotions. But writing was what I wanted to do, so I pulled up my big girl bloomers and decided it was time to fish or cut bait. After a swift, well-placed mental kick in the hindquarter, I snapped open my laptop to write the story that had been simmering at the forefront for far too long.
Despite having to pull the original outline to review (too much time had passed and some of the nuances had faded,) I hit the keys, determined to get words on the page, no matter how many…or how bad. I had to break the invisible beast whose tentacles had wrapped around all things creative in me.
With a deep breath, I let my fingers click away. For reasons I can’t explain, the words flowed freely and by early afternoon, I’d laid down almost five thousand words that day.
But a curious thing happened after about a thousand words in. After a quick break from the keyboard, I came back and re-read the last few lines I’d written. My mouth fell open. I’d written all those words in first person. “So, um, yeah, so what?” Well…everything else I’d ever written was in third person. Absolutely everything. Ever.
I have no real explanation except I’d hit a wall and somehow, some way, gave myself permission to just pound out words. No mental editor on my shoulder. No preconceived expectations. I just wanted to write. I sat there and stared for minutes, dumbstruck. The story took root and grew, and the bigger it got, the purer my voice sounded in my reading ear.
Since my writing speed had increased noticeably and the story flowed, I’d obviously hit my hot button. Giving myself permission to “let go” and let the story flow without thinking took me to a place I’d not even considered. Maybe I’d finally found my true voice? If the ease of which the words come now, I’m thinking I did.
So, here’s the net effect of this. Three manuscripts in various stages of “doneness.” All in first person and I can’t tell you how nice it is to find the fun back in writing again! Creative energy has come back in a fierce way and I’m loving writing again. It feels right. My characters feel bigger, tangible in a way I didn’t sense before.
The simple moral to the story is if you find yourself struggling with your words, your joy, your spark…maybe try a different point of view. It just might be what it takes to shrug off that heavy, wet blanket that’s weighing you down. Give that verve you had in writing a makeover––even if only one draft. Give your voice a new ring and see what happens! Who knows…you may find a whole new persona you love!
I’m not saying I’ll never write in third person again. I’m just saying I’m going to listen to my inner voice and let that boisterous wench go wherever she feels the need to! Saucy gal she is, I’ve little doubt she could be denied.
RU Writers, do you switch up POV? Or do you like one in particular?
Join us on Wednesday for Laura Drake!
Bio: Ava Branson is a native Floridian, born and raised. She grew up in a boating family on the Atlantic coast and had sand between her toes from birth. A ten year span spent living in Colorado taught her a love and appreciation of the mountains, but the ocean called her back home and Florida is where she settled, raising two children and any number of cats.
When she’s not writing (which is rare) she’s thinking of stories to write (which is always) and just hopes to be able to share a fraction of the countless romances she has dreamed up with readers.
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