So, the last two months of querying were kinder to me than the two before that. I don’t want to be too specific for fear of jinxing things, but let’s say I got some advice about revising the first chapter that could maybe potentially lead to something good, agent-wise, in the future. (It’s hard to type with my fingers crossed all the time, but I’m trying.)
Some of the advice had to do with head-hopping, i.e. point-of-view shifting, i.e. the kryptonite of all beginning novelists.
I’m still in the process of figuring it out, particularly the difference between an omniscient point of view — when the reader knows everything that’s going on everywhere — and head-hopping, when you’re switching too fast from one character’s head to another. Part of my narrative is in close third person, with readers seeing things from Eliza’s perspective, and part of it is omniscient… it’s split just about down the middle, and I’m not sure if it’s working or if it’s too jarring.
I’ve scanned all my favorite books and discovered some interesting stuff. Stewart O’Nan does it differently every time, but my favorite of his books is in close third. Lorrie Moore does all sorts of cool creative stuff in second person; Who Will Run the Frog Hospital has a second-person perspective from a character named Gwen, which is awesome. Margaret Atwood’s older work almost always uses close third person and switches heads only at chapter changes. When she has scenes with multiple characters in one place, the person who “owns” the chapter tells the story; I’m thinking especially of The Robber Bride, which has such amazing interactions between so many characters whose heads we’ve inhabited. (Interestingly, Atwood starts writing in first person for her more recent work and her science fiction, all of which I like less than the older stuff.)
As for mysteries, PD James writes almost entirely omniscient stories — without saying “XX thought,” for example. Most of the other mystery writers on my bookshelf seem to use first person, particularly the women-centric ones, and the voices are very very strong.
I’m trying to take this blogger’s advice about the difference between omniscience and head-hopping, and I think I understand the concept of voice, but it’s hard to apply it to my own work. Advice — and more sets of crossed fingers — appreciated.