Hi Write It Forward Members,
I'm working on a book about a bicycle tour my wife and I took a couple of summers ago shortly after our wedding. I've been through one editor's evaluation and am currently getting ready for another. The first eval suggested I change the "we" voice to an "I" voice and simply relate Debbie's perspective from my own as she told it to me. The editor said the reader would never be able to relate to a "we" voice because the reader is not a "we." Although I understand the premise, I'm frankly struggling with that advice because it contradicts the very working title of the book, which is Two Are Better.
I have attached a sample (layout is still a to-do item!) that shows one approach to preserving, if not highlighting, Debbie's voice in the story. You will see it in the lavender sidebars headed with "Debbie says."
I'm interested in some feedback. Does this work for you? Is it disruptive to the reader to shift back and forth? Would it work better if Debbie's comments were placed inline with the rest of the narrative, at the point where they should be read? If inline, how should it be labled to identify it as Debbie's words? Any other ideas?
I would appreciate any feedback you are willing to render.
I'm afraid I have to agree with the editor. I read some of your blog posts - written in that same "we" perspective, and every time you want to say something specifically about either Tim or Debbie, you have to break flow to tell us who's thoughts or feelings you are conveying. It makes the reader have to work too hard!
I don't think you should banish Debbie to the margin though. If you write from your first person perspective - because that is exactly what it is - even though Debbie was with you sharing the same adventure - you can add Debbie's perspective when it varies from your collective adventure. For example, "I am humbled when Debbie says, "Blah, blah, blah." This gives your reader a sense of Debbie too, particularly if she has lots of wonderful or profound words you want to share with the reader. You can also develop your personal relationship with Debbie more if you show us why she's so special to you from your own perspective. And from that perspective we also get a strong sense of who you are by what you say about Debbie. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?
Basically, give the reader enough credit to know that the two of you were on the adventure together and that where you are Debbie is too. Refer to Debbie often as my wife, my riding buddy, my third wheel or however else you want to but you should write from a first person perspective since it literally is your first person account of the adventure you were on with Debbie, right?
Hi Kathryn, and thanks so much for the feedback. Perhaps this is 'my bad' for having placed our blog link at the bottom of my post. There was an attached pdf file, a sampling of the rewrite, I was trying to point to--did you see it or just the blog?
Great job in getting started on your book. I took a look at the sample and I don't like the side posts. This is good for brief one statement type of comments, but in this case, it's like trying to read two different books at once. Possibly you should try writing as you have in first person and then just adding the interesting tidbits about Debbie as you go????
Have a Victorious Day!
You have pinpointed my struggle with the sidebar.
I'm considering taking the full content of the sidebars and simply inserting them into the main narrative, in effect, handing Debbie the microphone. She speaks in her first person, and then hands it back. Not sure how this would work, but feel compelled to keep her voice alive in the narrative.
I would love to hear what you or others think of that idea. Thanks for checking in.
Just try it and send us another sample. It's hard to say how it will sound/read unless we see it.
Have a Victorious Day!
Thanks to Marianne's suggestion, I have attached another pdf file, which places Debbie's comments in the first person inline with mine, in the body of the narrative.
I would love to hear any feedback on whether this approach works for you or, otherwise, what you'd recommend?
That reads fine to me! I look forward to hearing what others have to say.
Have a Victorious Day!
I looked over both your versions, and read the other comments. I can certainly appreciate the challenge you're trying to tackle!
I agree with Marianne; I definitely like the 2nd version over the first. In general, side columns for blocks of text are cumbersome. The insertions of Debbie's "voice" seems to work better. I would wonder, though, whether 200 pages or so of this format might get tiresome for your reader. It's hard to say.
I hope this is at least a little bit helpful. Best of luck to you!
Thanks so much for your feedback. It was helpful. And you do raise a good point.
For the samples you reviewed, I picked a passage where Debbie had more to say than in other parts of the book to save time for my reviewers. There are many places in the book where she does not speak for several pages. I am definitely the predominant storyteller. I would estimate Debbie's voice is used on less than 20% of the entire content. The goal was to insert Debbie's perspective on things only she could speak about better.
I guess the question is whether there is more value in hearing her words from her perspective or mine. Any other perspectives on this?
First I want to say great job. I know you've been working on this project for a while. Kudos for your persistence.
I think switching constantly back and forth with the sidebars like that may get tiresome and confusing. I'd recommend that you, as the main storyteller, should just tell the story. You can say things like: Debbie told me later how her heart raced as the truck sped by. For those few moments, she held her breath, praying she could maintain control of the bike as the trailer bumped along the rumble strip.
Then, at the end of each chapter, let her share something relevant in her own words about that chapter's contents, experiences, etc. Take a look at how other joint authors switch back and forth. For example, (in a totally unrelated book) Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump break up their chapters with Robert's Perspective and Donald's Perspective in Why We Want You to be Rich: Two Men - One Message.
In contrast, in Gregg Pechmann's book Upside Down we included "Notes from Sharon" at the end of each chapter. Gregg (a 48days.net member) told the bulk of the story, but we included Sharon's voice in a meaningful way without bouncing back and forth within the chapter. (You can download a free preview on his site and see what it looked liked.) Dave Ramsey does this in The Total Money Makeover, too. (That's where we got that idea!)
Best of luck,
Thanks so much for your message and recommendations. I'll be checking into them further.
Yes, I couldn't have imagined how prolonged this project would become, but I am truly enjoying it and learning much along the way. I've been working on another sizeable project and had a death in the family, which have extended the timeline.
What God allowed Debbie and me to experience on our bicycle trip--and being blessed with one another in the first place--makes this project a labor of love. There is just a very strong compulsion within to preserve, if not spotlight, Debbie's voice. The perspective conundrum and the inclusion of photos, how many and where, are two of the tougher decisions that could have significant impact on the project.
Hello - I am new to this group and the 48Days site. However, I am not new to critiquing and editing as I have published four books and write for a newspaper as well as create web content.
What I would suggest is something you've already done:
From your blog - "We enjoyed a ride through forests interrupted by intermittent farmland and water. The views were lovely, albeit with the somewhat familiar look of home turf. Wild turkeys "
The second sentence copied has no pronouns. Since you state that the adventure is the two of you the pronoun we is pretty much a given, therefore superfluous and many times unnecessary.
2nd What kind of forest? A particular forest? A pine forest? What? What is considered a forest?
3rd What kind of water? Was it a flash flood? A river overflowing? How did water interrupt? What did it interrupt?
4th Was the ride interrupted or the view? Was the forest interrupted?
Suggested rewrite for sentences where you use WE.
Today's four hour ride meandered through several small evergreen forests with breaks in the trees for farmland, streams, and a bridge crossing over a river valley. (Which lends a better segue to your next sentence about the views.) The views were lovely, albeit with the somewhat familiar look of home turf. Wild turkeys "
Also, if this trip is over and done you can write it with the narrative in third person and use dialogue to share thoughts and real dialogues. Also third person lends better to having knowledge of what Debbie was thinking. Because no matter how close your relationship may be, unless she tells you what she is thinking you do not know what she is thinking. So from a first person perspective you can't write Debbie thought the views were breathtaking. Because you are not in her head. So make it third person. If you choose to make it first person using the "I" pronoun then write the narrative with using as few pronouns as possible.
Writing in third person also gives you the option to be partially omnipotent of fully omnipotent. Since the ride is over you know the beginning the middle and the end giving you the ability to foretell the future (for the riders) and the past in your writing, which you cannot do so writing in first person past tense. Use your intro on your bog header to say this is the trip Debbie and I took, then we, the readers, know it is about you and Debbie and your name is Tim and you can use his, her, Tim, Debbie and they.
Just one opinion, but we all have one.