Friday, December 6, 2013

Switching Horses Midstream

I really enjoyed Bruce’s article: “To Be or To Have Been—POV and Tense.” It came at a time when I was wrestling with a new novel, one in which I decided to do some experimenting. I began writing in the first person, present tense. Several noted authors write or have written in this style, so I decided to give it a go.

 Writing in the present tense is SO immediate, and it is easy to get lost in the character’s head. It is also easy to get hung up on the mundane—expressing the character’s thoughts and feelings to the point that the storyline falls by the wayside. (But what an easy way to fill the word count quota that Charisma House requires!)

Forty pages into my draft, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. It just wasn’t working for me. Present tense is just too . . . present! I got lost inside my character’s head. Did the reader actually want to know THAT MUCH about what my main character was thinking and feeling at this precise instant?

So I spent the rest of the day converting the manuscript back to past tense. Now as I look over what I’ve written, I feel there is a better, more natural flow. And I’ve been able to climb out of my main character’s head and focus on advancing the storyline. There's nothing inherently wrong with first person, present tense. It’s just not for me as a writer.

Now regarding POV. My original draft of The Return of Cassandra Todd was written in the first person, past tense. But after consulting with my editor, I decided that my approach was too limited because I had two principle characters and wanted to give them each a personal voice. So I spent three months and rewrote the novel, switching to third person. It worked much better and I was pleased with the results.

So why is my new manuscript written in the first person when all my other published ones are in the third person? I still want to grow and challenge myself as a writer. I don’t want to always be limited to one style. Besides, the storyline for my new novel really lends itself well to the first person POV. We’ll see how it goes. Who knows? Once my editor gets a hold of it, I may be doing another three-month rewrite!

Has anyone else ever changed their mind partway through a manuscript and switched to a different POV and verb tense? Come on now, ‘fess up.

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