Be more like Tolstoy. That is the most recent lesson from my writing mentor.
Like any good teacher sending home a report card, my mentor begins with a positive note: “There’s good writing here,” but quickly he delves into the critical meat. “The constant bouncing around in POV and chronology is getting hard to follow.”
The thing that hurts most about this comment is that I thought I had fixed that problem (well, improved it anyway) in the last submission I sent—not enough, obviously—not nearly enough.
Then my mentor floors me with another staggering analysis of my work: “It’s as if you’re structuring the novel like a movie or TV show that’s constantly cutting back and forth from one setting/time/character-arc to another, as if you’re afraid [my italics] the reader will get bored if you stay in one place for more than a few pages.
Of course it’s the old story: the more you know, the more you realize how little you know.
I must credit my mentor with giving me a very constructive suggestion near the end of his comments. He suggests that if I MUST hop around in POV and setting so much (as Tolstoy does in Anna Karenina) then, like Tolstoy, I must immediately, generally within the first sentence, situate the reader.
Yes, I can do that (I think).