Writing from the Heart

In this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journey. The following blog is from Stephanie Murphy. Stephanie is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida.  She is the author of “Strong and Courageous: Encouragement for Families Touched by Autism,” and “Faith, Hope, Courage and New Beginnings.”  She is actively involved with her husband in his life’s work as a missionary to young people in Europe and Costa Rica. For more information on the author visit her website, blog site and Facebook page. To begin your self-publishing journey, get a free WestBow Press publishing guide today. 

I felt God’s leading to write both of my books—from my heart.  Although many of the articles I had written over the years had been published in various Christian magazines, including LifeWay’s MatureLiving and ParentLife, this was different.  There was a whole new level of vulnerability attached to writing a book.

As a new author, I wasn’t completely clear on what I was doing as I took the first step.  I began writing—every day.  The more I wrote, the easier the words flowed as I tapped into a creativity I had always known was there but hadn’t completely harnessed.  Now, with the discipline of daily writing, I was able to find a canvas for the expression of that creativity.

Both of my books were birthed out of adversity.  My first book, Strong and Courageous: Encouragement for Families Touched by Autism, was written to encourage families who are raising a special needs child.  Having walked the journey with my own daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, I was able to share not only from my professional experience but also from the heart of a grandmother who deeply loves her little grandson who has autism.

I began writing my second book, Faith, Hope, Courage and New Beginnings, after I lost my husband to death several years ago.  I continued writing as I walked through that painful loss to a place of healing and new beginnings.  As a professional marriage and family therapist, I had counseled numerous individuals over the years who were dealing with loss and grief.  I found it to be true that you cannot fully relate until you have experienced your own deep personal loss.

Although it comes with the price of feeling quite vulnerable at times, I am glad God has called me to write from my heart.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!  I am thankful for my experiences with WestBow Press as they were able to turn each of my writings into a beautiful and meaningful finished product.  Their assistance provided the structure I needed to turn this into a manageable process, with step-by-step professional guidance for what could have otherwise been an overwhelming undertaking.

I recently had a woman tell me she had read my book over and over, trying to figure out how I had written it because she also wanted to write a book.  My advice to her was, “Just start writing—from your heart!”

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so through the Blog Guidelines Page. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length.

 


Point of View: Second Person

Welcome back! We hope that your self-publishing journey has been progressing smoothly. In a previous post, we began talking about point of view, also known as “person.” We began by discussing first person, identifiable by the use of the pronouns “I” or “we:”

I stepped to the side of the door and pulled my gun from its holster.

I waited in the car an hour before Lucas finally arrived home.

Today, we’ll talk about second person. Even seasoned writers occasionally trip over this one, usually because it simply isn’t used very often in fiction. Second person, which uses the pronoun “you” in both the singular and plural forms, is appropriate when the writer is addressing the reader.

If you think about it, you’ll find that you use it all the time – in emails, instructions, advice, and speeches. You leave a note to your son on the refrigerator: “There’s meatloaf in the oven, you can heat it up when you get hungry.” What about that email to your sister? “You should really think about it before you quit your job, especially in this economy.”

In both sentences, the writer is talking to the reader, almost like an actor looking directly at the camera to deliver his lines.

So why isn’t it used in fiction? Because of the actor/camera example cited above. There simply aren’t many instances when the narrator of a story addresses the reader directly. As with most things in life, there are exceptions, though. Take Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City:

Eventually you ascend the stairs to the street. You think of Plato’s pilgrims climbing out of the cave, from the shadow world of appearances toward things as they really are, and you wonder if it is possible to change in this life. Being with a philosopher makes you think.

Is McInerney addressing the reader directly, implying that it’s the reader’s story? No; in this case, he’s using second person to create a feeling of detachment in the narrator. Essentially, this is a first person story being told in second person, with the narrator “stepping outside himself” and viewing his life as an observer.

As mentioned above, the second person also has a plural form, but the pronoun “you” is used for both.

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so through the Blog Guidelines Page. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length.


Writing in First Person Point of View

Points of View

Today we’re going to begin discussing point of view: WHO is telling your story? What information does that narrator have access to? It sounds simple, but many are the writers who have made point of view mistakes, or who aren’t completely sure about that pesky “second person.”

Basically, there are three points of view, called (appropriately enough) “first person,” “second person,” and “third person.” Today we’ll focus on first person because, well, it’s called “first.” It’s also the point of view that writers are most comfortable with.

First person is distinguishable by the use of the pronouns “I” or “we.” The narrator is a participant in the story, and is recalling events that he or she experienced personally.

I lifted the sheet and examined the body.

I waited in the car almost an hour until she arrived home.

Does that mean that the narrator has to be the main character? No; Dr. Watson can narrate a story, but Sherlock Holmes is still the main character.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Please remember that when you use a first person point of view, the narrator only has access to information that the character would realistically have. For example:

I climbed the stairs to the second floor, walked down the hall to room 207, and knocked. Inside, Mary Ann, came to the foyer, paused a moment to fix her hair in the mirror, and opened the door. “Can I help you?” she asked.

So what’s wrong with this? Unless it’s a glass or screen door (or the narrator has X-ray vision), which should be obvious from the text, he has no way of knowing that Mary Ann fixed her hair before opening the door. On the other hand:

I climbed the stairs to the second floor, walked down the hall to room 207, and knocked. I could hear footsteps in the foyer. They paused, and then the door opened a moment later.

In this case, the narrator is using information that he realistically would have had by simply using his senses.

Home officeWhen to Use First Person

First person is, for obvious reasons, almost standard for autobiographies. After all, the narrator is telling her own story, the things that she experienced firsthand.

The pronoun “I” indicates that first person singular is being used, but there is also a plural form (“we”). So when might it be used? It’s common in self-help books, for example, when the author is including himself with the readers:

We continually seek happiness through accumulation of wealth and possessions, not realizing that it’s often the quest for more possessions that is making us miserable in the first place.

It should be mentioned that some writers switch between first and third person points of view in the same book, or sometimes remain in first person but switch narrators. If you use this device, you should always make it obvious to the reader that this has occurred (by starting a new chapter or speaking in a different “voice,” for example).

And that’s all that we have time for today! In future posts, we’ll discuss second and third person.

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so through the Blog Guidelines Page. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length.


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