3. The Independence

There should have been more books after my second novel, Only His Kiss, was released in 1999. But three things came together that slowed my momentum.

First, I was involved in a traffic accident. In August 1998, I’d finished a book signing at Barnes & Noble and gone home to change clothes in order to ride my motorcycle to a friend’s house for a barbecue. I was stopped at a red light when I heard squealing tires. I checked my rear view mirror. Violent, the impact, and it won me a ride in an ambulance. I was treated and released from the emergency department of the hospital, but the soft tissue damage to my left hip altered my health forever.

Second, it was suggested that I change genres, from writing Christian romance to Christian women’s fiction. “Chick-lit” affords more publishing opportunities, and the writing is taken more seriously. I made a few attempts, but I couldn’t get excited about the stories.

Third, during my twenties, a couple of incidents got my attention that decades of reminders reinforced; I would do well to sit down and shut up. By the time I entered my forties, the pathway of indignation that should have incited me to stand up for myself was gone. So, when another activity — one that would steal away the time I should have spent writing — came along, I kept the peace and went along. Let’s not piss-off anybody.

I’d lost momentum. I stopped even trying to write. I was halted.

Then my Muse, Sparky, came to me with an idea about a woman who rides a motorcycle and grew up in an outlaw motorcycle club. I had a new agent, and he shopped it around to publishing houses, but it was too secular for the Christian market and too Christian for the secular market. He suggested I publish it myself. I released Spanky’s Secret in May 2022.

But now, I have a decision to make about the next book. Should I go the conventional route, through a royalty-paying publishing house, or should I continue to be my own publisher? A while back, my agent let me know he hadn’t given up on me, that he’d like to see any “work in progress.” But since then, he’s retired; even his agency’s website is gone from the Net. Though he could recommend me to another agent and agency.

For right now, I’m going to remain independent. Biker romance has a small readership, so the Deviant Few Motorcycle Club series isn’t likely to land me a publishing contract. And I enjoy the freedom that NOT writing on contract gives me; I set my own deadline, I don’t have a word count limit — meaning the book can be as many pages as the story requires — and the only content guidelines I have to follow are my own.

Though I will reveal something that was recently revealed to me — that I have one book that needs the distribution that only a publishing house can give it. Someone needs to write a novel that exposes domestic abuse for the insidious evil that it is. In a year or so, as soon as I finish and release the next biker romance book, I will be that someone.

2. The Endorsement

I’ll never forget those moments after the FedEx package arrived.

I’d taken the envelope to the breakfast bar in the kitchen. When I read the return address, I moved toward the living room as if I were on autopilot, my attention fixed on the packaging as I tore it open. I reached inside, drew out the contents, and turned around to sink onto an ottoman. Fresh from the printer, about a month before the official release date, it was a copy of Airwaves, sent with a note of congratulations from Julie, my editor.

I stared in disbelief then ran my fingers over the cover as if to feel it for myself. It was real. I was holding the proof. I opened the book and turned to the copyright page.

© 1998 Sherrie Lord

There it was — I was no longer an aspiring novelist. On contract with a royalty-paying publishing house, I was now a published author. I had the endorsement. I am a professional.

A few months later, my publisher hosted my attending the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) International Convention in Dallas, Texas, a massive week-long trade show for bookstore owners and purchasing agents who come to see new offerings for their book and gift-ware departments. It was amazing, three days of meeting other authors whose names I knew from the bookshelves and the speakers I’d seen on television. It was surreal, the people who wanted to meet me and my publicist taking care of every detail as she escorted me to the interviews she’d lined up. (Though, between you and me, the interviews themselves were no big deal; I’d already logged thousands of hours on the air with my own radio shows.)

The most memorable moment was when she stood beside me, taking copies of Airwaves from a shipping box and sliding them sideways on the table, the line of people on the other side of it stretching down the aisle as far as I could see; I autographed 240 copies in 30 minutes. The unknown population of readers interested in my work — now they had faces. I asked each person their name … and I thanked them.

Another memorable moment happened a year or so later. I was in Atlanta, Georgia, a stop-off on my way to visit family. I took a side trip to a local mall and happened upon a bookstore. I took a peak at the fiction section — and there it was. Actually, there they were, several copies of Airwaves. I took one from the shelf and stepped to the front desk. I loved visiting with the staff that day; I enjoy meeting people. And yes, I autographed those copies. I smiled as I left the store. I’m smiling now as I recall it.

So what’s it like? Am I rich? No, but money was never the goal. As long as I have my needs — and a few of my wants — met, I’m content.

Am I famous? Marginally. I do get a kick out of conducting a search of my name on Google; it’s interesting to see where I turn up. But it’s not as if I tell people who I am when I meet them. I let it come up in conversation, if it does. But it never ceases to boggle my mind that at this very moment, there are people reading my books. It makes me smile; maybe they love my characters — my friends — so much that they’ll be willing to lose a little sleep tonight in order to enjoy their company for another few pages.

Just one more chapter, then I’ll turn out the light.

Mainly, what I get out of the deal are three things:

Personal satisfaction. I had a goal — to advance my skill as a wordsmith to such a level that a literary agent and then a publisher would stake their time, resources, and professional reputation on me. I accomplished it. Nothing can ever take that away.

Self-confidence. It’s always a little intimidating, the volume of work that lies ahead of me when I begin typing words onto that first page of my next novel. There are going to be plot twists I write myself into that I’m going to have to figure out how to write myself out of. Ahh — no biggie; that’s what I tell myself. I know how to do this; I’m a pro.

Responsibility. Readers are waiting for my next book. And since readers read in order to experience and to feel, that makes me a conduit, one tasked with observing, analyzing, then interpreting. I observe the things people do, analyze their reasons and motivations, then take what I’ve discovered and interpret it back to those who care to listen. I escort readers to a window they haven’t looked out of before, then I explain to them what they’re seeing. It’s God who gave me this gift; it’s both my pleasure and my privilege to give it back. It’s my responsibility.

1. The Apprenticeship

I took the first steps toward my career as a writer and my standing as a published author while I was in junior high. It was the teen novel, The Outsiders, that inspired me; if S.E. Hinton could write a book before she was old enough to get a drivers license, why couldn’t I be a writer? I began writing short stories for my girlfriends to read.

Then life intruded; I got married. I birthed two sons. And I resumed my career in broadcast radio, a vocation I’d begun when I was seventeen. Thirteen years would pass before I took up my pen again, this time after I started college and talked my way into a graduate-level creative writing class. Our assignment each week was to compose six pages of something — anything — and be prepared to read aloud in class; we would critique each other. I had an idea for a story set in a Montana radio station. But this wouldn’t be a short story; it would be a full-length novel — a romance novel. The spark became a flame, and it burned hot. I wrote the entire first draft — 160,000 words, approximately 350 printed pages — between Christmas break and final exams in May.

I would write six more drafts of Something in the Airwaves — except it wasn’t good enough for publication. I set it aside and began a second novel. This one, Noble’s Healing, was set on the Santa Fe Trail in 1865.

Between my junior and senior years of college, I took a break for about eighteen months and acquired a lowly position in the newsroom of the local paper. My responsibilities were small, writing wedding and engagement announcements and the occasional obituary, but I got to know the editors and approached one of them about writing a piece for the special Christmas supplement.

I’d embarked on the next step in my apprenticeship, being schooled by the skilled. I learned how to meet a deadline, how to search for topics readers wanted to read about, and how to not get bent out of shape when a professional points out an error. I learned how to make my writing stronger, clearer, and more concise, to answer in the final paragraph the question I’d introduced in the opening one. I studied at the feet of wordsmiths who’d been at it for decades, and I learned confidence.

I returned to college, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental regulations and hazardous waste management, and I landed a position in an environmental engineering consulting firm. I had an office with my name on the door. I kept writing for the newspaper, but I added to it two articles for national magazines, and I was invited to write the forward for an Idaho back country trail guide. Nine years after I began writing my first novel, I’d also seen my 70th byline in print and I’d completed the seventh draft of that second novel. Noble’s Healing was ready. It was good enough.

I phoned a literary agency that had been suggested to me. Yes, it was accepting new clients, and the gentleman on the phone gave me a list of documents to send in my book proposal package, which included

  • The first three chapters,
  • A 10-page synopsis of the story,
  • A character list,
  • A bibliography of my publishing history, and
  • My resume.

But he warned me to be patient, that I wouldn’t receive a reply for 30 days. In other words, it would be a month before I’d get the rejection letter. He was wrong; three days after I dropped that bulky manila envelope in the mail, I received the phone call. Her name was Kathy, and she was calling from the airport, on her way to meet with publishers in New York City.

  • Had I written the entire book?
  • Had I submitted a proposal package to any other literary agents or agencies?
  • Was I under any kind of agreement with any other literary agents or agencies?

The best we could do — she had to board her flight — was a verbal contract over the phone. Kathy became my literary agent.

Two months later, she had two contracts for me to sign. Something in the Airwaves would be re-titled Airwaves, and Noble’s Healing would become Only His Kiss. I had a publisher.

Kathy later told me that I’d “climbed over the transom,” that the questions bantered about the offices of her literary agency and among those at the publishing house were — Who is she? Where did come from? What has she written before? I guess that’s because the first time anyone in the industry had seen any of my writing, it was already ready to go. That’s the value in the apprenticeship. If there’s any lesson here for aspiring novelists, it’s this — Don’t get in a hurry. Pay your dues. When you launch yourself, make sure you have the powder behind you to go all the way.

Why Did I Write “Spanky’s Secret?”

Okay, let’s talk about why I wrote Spanky’s Secret. Specifically, why I wrote a story set in an outlaw motorcycle club? Because Spanky’s Secret

  1. Shines a light on discrimination — Discrimination paints with a broad brush, viewing people as a group; not as individuals. It assesses worth based on people’s performance—wealth, status, and education. And it stereotypes based on gender and race. Bikers, especially those in an MC, tend to keep to themselves; they want nothing to do with “citizens.” When the two worlds must mingle, such as at a gas station, the bikers will ignore the citizens as if they’re invisible. It’s not an action; it’s a reaction to the treatment they’ve received. I truly wish each of us could be known by how quickly we leap to accept and respect others, not for what we have in common but for the things that make us unique and for what we can learn from each other.
  2. Addresses social issues — I can’t reveal all the issues, but domestic violence is one of them. Another is how much it costs the members of law enforcement to run toward the chaos any sane person would run away from. The toll on them emotionally is crushing; first responders have some of the highest suicide rates in America.
  3. Illustrates what a strong woman may look like. — “Strong,” as it refers to women, is not synonymous with “bitch.” Strong women stand up for themselves and work past their fear when it comes to doing the hard things. They don’t tolerate disrespect and are confident enough in their womanhood to not be threatened by the masculinity in men. But they are also kind, helpful, and considerate of others.
  4. Illustrates the things I admire about men. — Why is it that men should connect with their feminine side when it’s not demanded of women to get in touch with their masculine side? Women are wired to be nurturers, peace-makers, and care-takers. Men are wired to be problem-solvers, protectors, providers, and builders. Granted, we have a generation of men who believe they are superior and have the right to control women; that is abuse. For me, I love to see men being men.
  5. Corrects the errors perpetuated by Hollywood and authors of “biker romance.” — Hollywood produced a riveting drama when it set a series in an outlaw motorcycle club; too bad it was all BS. That’s not how MCs operate. I’ll go into detail in a subsequent post dedicated to this. As for the other biker romance books out there, they’re a bit like Sons of Malarky meets Fifty Shades of Gray. Of the half-dozen authors whose bios I read, none of them mention any experience with motorcycles much less motorcycle clubs. It seems to me they’ve chosen a setting for “alpha males” to have sex with willing women; it’s soft porn. What disappoints me is the misconceptions they capitalize on.

Okay, your turn. Tell me watcha think.

Who I Write For

Spanky’s Secret, Deviant Few Motorcycle Club, is not a “Christian” romance novel. I don’t anticipate seeking any contracts with “Christian” publishing houses in the future. If you’re still with me—I’ll have lost some of you already—let me explain.

My literary agent attempted to secure a contract for my first writing of Spanky’s Secret. He was told it was too secular for the Christian market and too Christian for the secular market. He suggested I self-publish it, and that freed me to write the story that demanded to be written.

It’s my assumption—and it’s a pretty safe one—that the Christian publishing houses wouldn’t touch Spanky’s Secret, because it’s an absurd idea that a woman who grew up in an outlaw motorcycle club could also have God in her life. For real? As if this woman had any control over the culture she was born into. And as if Christians can’t be found anywhere except in “Bible-believing churches.” I think God laughs at that. Or maybe He weeps.

This is a safe assumption because the publishing houses have to answer to their readers. I received a letter shortly after Only His Kiss was released; a reader didn’t approve of Noble, the hero in the story, being divorced. “God hates divorce,” she wrote to me. So did Noble, but he was helpless regarding the dissolution of his marriage. I guess she missed that part. So … I’m not interested in writing for that audience. I don’t want to be limited, I don’t want to limit God, and I don’t want our work together to have to first pass through a gauntlet of opinions about what God would and would not do. God is bigger than that, and I refuse to place myself in a position of having to apologize or explain.

I want to write stories about the gritty part of life, about people who live messy lives. Things are seldom black and white. I believe if mercy had a color to it, it would be gray. I want to write about HOPE; it’s my favorite word. It’s tattoed in a bracelet on my right wrist.

And because God is my Friend, and I tend to mention my friends in my conversations, I guess I can’t help but talk about Him in my writing. But I will not push Him on anyone, and I will not attempt to define what a Godly life looks like. That’s between God and individuals. Others have the same ability to listen and hear Him as I do. And it would be the greatest confession of UN-faith to assume He can’t possibly reach them—or that He hasn’t already done so simply because their life doesn’t look a certain way.

If I’ve offended you, you aren’t in my audience of readers. The Christian bookstores are full of wonderful books written by my Christian author-friends. Buy their books. I mean that with the warmest of intentions toward you. And thank you hearing me out. I appreciate it.

Spanky’s Secret, Deviant Few Motorcycle Club

Available May 27, 2022, in paperback and Amazon Kindle (other Ebook locations to follow in June 2022)

Like fifty miles of dirt road—that describes the opposition Spanky and David will face.

Everyone in Crystal Creek has heard of Spanky, Daughter of Grudge, Deviant Few Motorcycle Club; other women ride their own, but there’s a mystique about her, and Officer David Marriner wants her. She may be the only woman he’s ever met that he can talk to about what he deals with out there, when he’s on patrol. He refuses to become like his father, the chief of police, who seethed with silent rage and frustration. Except Possum, the club president, wants her. Grudge, one of the club’s founders, may demand her patch. The club may brand her a traitor. And even the big showdown resolves nothing. The bullet doesn’t only injure; it blows Spanky and David apart. It appears she’ll do anything for a patch-holder, and there are secrets—Possum, drugs, and a baby.

Pre-Release Jitters

I’m a wreck today; the number of tasks I must accomplish threatens to overwhelm me as I prepare to release Book #3 on Amazon Kindle, sometime in May 2022. I’m tying up the loose ends associated with writing a novel and making it available to the reading public. In an attempt to eat the elephant one bite at a time, once I hit the “publish” button on this post, I shall create a todo list of all the paciderm parts on the menu and in what order I intend to serve the courses to myself.

There are writing bites—the back cover blurb, the book’s Forward and Gratitudes sections, and the manuscript itself, which I still need to reformat using the Kindle Create software. I think I’ll print it one more time and do one more read-through. I’m trying to avoid those inevitible emails from readers, comments that remind me that I could have done better, that despite all my efforts, errors still slipped past me. They cast doubt on my standing as a professional wordsmith. The paramount reason, though, is that errors jolt the reader, jerking them out of the pretend world I’ve created and back into their own reality—that there are household chores nagging at them, or that they should turn out the light and go to sleep.

There are publication parts—the copyright and ISBN I need to purchase, and the book page I need to create on Amazon. In my spare time, I’m checking email every thirty minutes for word from my cover artist, who is incorporating the revisions I requested to the draft she sent on Tuesday. I hope this newest attached file will open onto my laptop screen with artwork that brings to life the characters and their story—which have existed only in my imagination up to now.

Which is the most overwhelming of the things that threaten to overwhelm me—that it’s very close to being real and being true; I’ve written another novel. My art was silenced for decades, and yet—I did it again. For years, it was only an idea; now, very soon, my imaginary friends will speak their conversations into the minds of people I don’t even know.

Nearly as overwhelming is the realization that a goodbye looms, mere weeks away now. Constant companions, these characters have been. I know them as well as I know myself. They created themselves and told me who they were, what was important to them, and the events in their lives that shaped them into the people I’ve come to admire. I’ll miss them. I’ll grieve their absence.

I know that’s coming too—starting the next book in the series. It’s awful; a published novelist in a critique group I attended, before I could call myself an author—authenticated by a royalty-paying publishing house—likened it to being a conductor with an orchestra that had yet to perform together. First, you had to tune all the instruments and practice a measure at a time, cuz it takes a while to get a rhythm going, to get that synergy that makes the music sound effortless.

Thanks for stopping by. Gotta go; I need to eat.

Fear—The War With Yourself

I was watching some TED Talks on YouTube this morning. One in particular inspired me, Angela Lee Duckworth and her presentation, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She’s a teacher, and she conducted a study, the result of which led her to conclude that intelligence is no predictor of success. It’s the people with grit who achieve things.

Look up the word grit in a thesaurus, and among the synonyms that result will be the words courage, fortitude, tenacity, and toughness.

As I was brewing myself a second cup of coffee, I was wondering if I have that—grit. I don’t know if I do, or not, but I do know that I’m kinda fearless. Not that I don’t feel afraid sometimes, but I refuse to let it win. Fear is myself telling myself  No.

Fear is good when it warns of danger or possible death. No—don’t attempt to swim from San Francisco to Honolulu. That’s because no amount of courage, fortitude, tenacity, or toughness is going to keep my arms churning the water of the Pacific Ocean for 2,393 miles. However, fear is not my friend when it holds me back from amazing stuff, when I obey the No-command in order to avoid any of the following.

1. Ridicule

Okay, so people laugh at me. So what? Who cares what they think?

MC at event

2. Embarrassment

Okay, so I humiliate myself. So what? Like I’ve never done that before? I survived last time; I’ll survive again.

Quit college

3. Failure

Okay, so I might not pull it off. So what? It’s not like failure is a death sentence. Don’t eliminate myself; make them do it. And don’t not try just because it’s hard. The fear of failure will make me try harder.

Sailboat article rejected

What if you do fail?

The world isn’t going to come to an end; the sun will rise on a new day tomorrow, and now I have some knowledge. The timing was wrong, I wasn’t ready for the challenge, or it was the wrong place. No is an answer too.

Be Your Own Cheerleader

If you want something, go after it. No one can do it for you; but when you succeed, you’re the one who gets to feel great about it. And when that nasty little critic inside you perches on your shoulder and starts talking crap in your ear, argue with them. Fight back. Tell them. . .

  • So what?
  • It has to happen to somebody. Why not me?
  • No is an answer too; I’m smart enough to learn from the experience.

Prepare-to-Tow Checklist

There’s much to do when breaking camp, preparing the trailer to tow it to my next location. Since I’m doing this alone, there isn’t a second person who would notice a step in the preparation was missed. So, I created a checklist. If you’re still on the sidelines, you haven’t yet launched your nomad lifestyle, don’t let the list intimidate you. There are dozens of steps, but all but a few go really fast, no more than the time it takes to open a cupboard door and peer inside. This is a good start; modify it for your needs.

Preparing for Travel the Day Before

  1. Fuel-up truck.
  2. Zero-out trip odometer.
  3. Buy beverages and snacks for road trip.
  4. Check trailer tire pressures according to number on sidewalls. Top-up with portable air compressor.

Preparing, That Morning, the Trailer Interior

  1. Make PBJs and place inside truck cab, along with beverages purchased day before.
  2. Start black water tank draining.
  3. Take down and stow wall hangings.
  4. Bathroom
    • Secure loose stuff in clothes cupboard.
    • Put soap dispenser in sink.
    • Close shower door.
    • Secure bathroom door.
  5. Entertainment Center
    • Stow DVD player and sound bar.
    • Unplug and stow power strip and attached charging cords.
  6. Take garbage bag from hanger and set by the door to toss in the dumpster on the way out of the park.
  7. Refrigerator
    • Secure stuff inside.
    • Make sure door is latched.
  8. Kitchen
    • Stow coffee maker.
    • Set in the sink the soap dispenser, cutting board, and clock.
    • Remove glass tray from inside microwave, set in bucket for washing dishes, and set bucket on the floor of the shower.
    • Make sure nothing will tumble out of overhead cupboard.
  9. Living Area
    • Stow LED lamp, dehumidifier, and space heater.
    • Take coats & bathrobe from wall hooks, and drape on the bed.
  10. Systems
    • Close black water tank valve.
    • Begin draining gray water tank.
    • Turn off refrigerator.
    • Make sure water heater is off.
    • Make sure roof vents are closed.
    • Pull in slide-out.
    • Take garbage sack to truck cab.
    • Shake-out door mat & set inside trailer.
    • Close door & lock it.
    • Stow outside step.
    • Fold-in handrail.

Preparing, That Morning, to Tow the Trailer

  1. Turn off propane tank valves.
  2. Unplug & stow shore power cord.
  3. Disconnect fresh water supply, & stow the hose.
  4. Disconnect and stow TV cable.
  5. Close valve on gray water tank.
  6. Drain and stow sewer hose.
  7. Fold camp chairs and stow inside truck bed, under tonneau cover.
  8. Crank-up stabilizer jacks.
  9. Install trailer ball in truck’s receiver hitch.
  10. Start truck engine to warm up.
  11. Unlock trailer hitch.
  12. Grease hitch socket on trailer.
  13. Back-up truck to near trailer hitch.
  14. Hook-up trailer to truck.
    • Extend trailer tongue jack.
    • Back-up truck to trailer.
    • Lower trailer tongue onto ball hitch.
    • Lock trailer hitch.
    • Connect safety chains & trailer lights.
  15. Remove and stow chocks from trailer wheels.
  16. Stow pads that were under tongue & stabilizer jacks.
  17. Lock outside compartments.
  18. Inside truck, connect trailer back-up camera.
  19. Type new location into truck’s GPS.
  20. Put truck transmission in Haul/Tow mode.
  21. Leave campsite.
  22. Toss garbage in dumpster on the way out of the park.

Writing 401—#2, Opening Lines

I came right out and asked her one day. I’m talking about the literary agent who landed me the contracts for Airwaves and Only His Kiss, and the question every writer wants to answer with such prowess and proficiency that failure is impossible.

What made my manuscript stand out from the others stacked on your desk?

I might have hoped for any number of replies—that the characterization was stellar, the plot kept her guessing, that the writing was superb. Nope; what she gave me was four words:

“The three-second test.”

What’s the three-second test? The amount of time she spent looking at each manuscript submitted, the amount of time it took her to read the opening line. (But no pressure, of course.) If it didn’t hook her, she tossed the bundle of pages to the “discard” pile, and moved on to the next one.

“It’s a girl, sir.”

That was the opening line that convinced her to keep reading, to give me another five seconds, the time it took her to read the next paragraph of the manuscript that became my second novel, Only His Kiss.

The hook has to accomplish one of two things.

1. It must ignite a question—What’s going on?

The opening line must make the reader curious enough to part with the money to buy your book and to part with the time to read it. (If you just mumbled to yourself that you don’t care if they read it, only that they buy it, please close the door behind you.)

2. It must promise rich beauty.

The writing must be poetic, lyric; experiential. If the words were scenery, they’d compel the reader to snap a photograph every thirty yards. If they were musical notes, their journey would make the reader’s chest ache and their throat close with emotion. As an assemblage of words, the opening lines make them nudge the nearest human being, and say, “Listen to this. Let me read you this line.”

Above all, opening lines must be so quotable, they are memorable.

This one sparks curiosity. “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” Such is the beginning of S.E. Hinton’s young adult novel, The Outsiders. She was all of sixteen when she penned it. Since the book’s publication in 1967, it’s sold more than fourteen-million copies.

The first two words in this opening line are the first and last name of the primary character, a great launch for an epic novel, don’t you think? “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were,” — Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

This one is lovely. “There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth,” — The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough.

And this one is just plain fun. “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘Wild Thing’ . . .” — Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

There’s no such thing as spending too much time on the opening line of your novel or short story. Remember to fuss over, nearly as much, the opening lines to each scene. Because the opening line sets the tone. The opening line leads the team. The opening line weighs the anchor. The opening line is a fanfare. The opening line turns the key.

Writing 401—#1a, Point-of-View (POV)

Before a writer can type—or pen—even the opening line of any work of fiction, they must first make a decision regarding the point-of-view (POV). That is, Who’s going to tell the story?

Generally, there are three options.

  1. Omniscient
  2. Third-person Limited
  3. First-person

1. Omniscient

  • Simple to manage.
  • An anonymous narrator tells the story.
  • The anonymous narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of key—or even all—characters in each scene.

2. Third-person Limited

  • Challenging to manage.
  • One to three key characters in the book tell the story, each scene being limited to the POV of one character.
  • One key character in each scene conjectures the thoughts and feelings of the other characters, based on what they say, do, or reveal through their body language or facial expressions.

3. First-person

  • Simple to manage.
  • The primary character tells their own story.
  • The primary character conjectures the thoughts and feelings of the other characters based on what they say, do, or reveal through their body language or facial expressions.

Readers of fiction invest their time in order to experience and to feel. Their hope is to discover a story so well crafted that they can engage with its characters. They want to step inside the characters’ heads, and with such abandon that it’s as if they become those characters.

In order for that to happen, the writer must make the story’s world—its characters, setting, and plot—so convincing, the reader can’t help but become immersed in it. It’s a sales job, and it involves two things—engaging the reader, and insulating the reader.

To engage the reader is to get them so emotionally involved in the experiences and feelings of the story that the real world around them fades away. Then, once you have them, insulate the reader from any intrusions or interruptions that could jar them back into reality. In other words, make the reader forget they’re reading.

I believe the omniscient POV gets inside the heads of too many characters. If a story is 300 pages long, and there are three points of view, that sifts down to 100 pages per character. If there are only two points of view, each character has 150 pages in which to engage. The fewer the points of view, the more easily—and the deeper—the reader connects.

On the other hand, the first-person POV has too few points of view. As the primary character tells their story, the constant reminder is that this is their story. Did you get that—their story. It may be easier for the reader to engage emotionally, but I believe it’s more difficult for the reader to become the character, to disengage from the real world around them.

I write in third-person limited, because it’s a challenge. Each scene is limited to one character’s POV. Since I write love stories, my novels contain only two viewpoints—the hero’s and the heroine’s.

The first challenge is in selecting the best POV for each particular scene. I usually write the scene through the eyes of the character whose life or emotions are going to take the biggest hit by what’s happening. But sometimes, after I finish the scene, something tells me—you know how that is—to start over and rewrite it through the other character’s eyes. I’m never disappointed; that second shot at it always ends up being the one with the emotional punch.

The second challenge is to not slip-up by revealing something a non-POV character is thinking. If it’s not their scene, I can’t take the reader inside their head; I’m limited to what the other character says, does, or expresses through body language or facial expressions.

But then, I don’t take the easy way when I write. I enjoy stretching myself, approaching a challenge and crafting my way through it. I prefer to push the limits—especially my own.

Relocating—Another Nomad Adventure

It’s an amazing experience, the thing all Nomad-wannabes are aiming for and that the spectators on the sidelines—friends, family, and naysayers—can only imagine; that is, the moving to a new location.

I have the breaking-camp procedure practiced down to about 90 minutes. Once I’ve emptied the waste tanks, disconnected the umbilicals, and secured all the loose stuff in the trailer, I hitch up, type in my destination on the truck’s GPS, and start down the road. I’m moving to a new home.

I enjoy the drive, even through big-city traffic. I take in the scenery. Every location, even if it’s only 200 miles away, has its own vegetation, climate, and culture. I make a reservation at the next RV park, so I can take my time. I mosey.

As for the traveling itself, I watch my gauges—engine temp, transmission temp, and tire pressures—and I touch the hubs on the trailer every time I stop, to make sure they’re not getting hot. That would indicate the bearings need packed with grease. When you see a rig broken down on the road, and the trailer caught fire, that’s usually why; the hubs got hot enough to start the tire burning. As for the traffic itself, I never change lanes for those merging onto the freeway; let them adjust their speed. That’s what they’re supposed to do anyway. And I usually prefer the freeway over the two-lanes; the pavement is in better condition, so I’m not beating up the trailer, bouncing over broken pavement and potholes.

The real challenge when rolling down the road is getting some lunch. People used to say that a good diner is one where the truck drivers eat. No, the truckers eat at diners that have ample parking. That’s the truth. During my most recent relocation, I found it easier to pull into a rest area and make myself a couple PBJs, with it in mind that I’d dine out once I reached my destination.

Which brings me to that moment when I get my first look at the spot on my GPS that’s marked with a checkered flag. This will be my community, my new home. I hope I’ll feel comfortable, safe, and welcome. Perhaps I have friends here, people whose names I’ll learn during the coming days.

Once I set-up camp, I go exploring. How big is this city? What stores and shops are here? What will be my options when I need to buy groceries or when I don’t want to cook?

I smiled as I cruised the little town I’m calling home right now; it’s charming. I loved it within minutes. I found a little burger stand in a building about the size of a coffee hut; a couple times a month, I join the cars already lined up there. And I’ve learned some of those names—my new friends. I’m adventuring. I’m happy and content. I’m having a blast.