Tag Archives: #writerproblems

First or Third Person? Present or Past Tense? How Do You Decide?

5 Jun

So you’re writing a book…but your book requires some decisions. Your narrative needs structure. And there are a million options to choose from. So how do you decide a perspective and a tense? What is the best combination for your book?

Let me start out by saying that making the choice to write in first/third person or past/present tense is different for every writer (and often every book). This decision might also differ from what an author prefers to read. For that reason, I wanted to look at this discussion from two different perspectives—as a reader and as a writer—and how I decide, so that you might be able to see how you can make that decision for yourself. Of course, there are a lot more options and specifications than I’m going to get into today. Consider this the basics.

First or Third Person

As a reader…

I love both first and third person. I honestly can’t say if I favor one over the other. As long as the novel is written well, I love the story, though I probably prefer third person for multiPOV stories, only because nailing numerous (and immediately recognizable) voices in first person is basically impossible. (Which I’ll explain below.)

As a writer….

I tend to write in first person. In fact, all of my currently published novels are in first person, though they are also in multiPOV first person…which I just called “basically impossible” above. (Because it is!) Both of my published series are written this way, but none of my recent, unpublished projects are, because UGH. First-person, multiPOV is hard! Nailing a unique voice for each character while staying in the moment is a constant battle. Right now, I’m writing my first third-person book, and I’ll be honest, I think I’m in love. Why? I have an unpopular opinion about first vs. third person. Strangely, I think third person is more intimate than first. Most would argue me, and I totally get it. The average first-person book truly gets into someone’s mind and feelings. But I feel so NARCISTIC in first person (with all the I, me, we, etc.) Because of that, I tend to avoid discussing feelings on top of a first-person point of view. But in third person. Boy, in third person, I feel like I can let those emotions fly. 

Present or Past Tense

As a reader…

I HATE present tense. LOATHE it even. I know. I know. That’s been the favored tense in YA since The Hunger Games. But it drives me nuts. While many have described past tense as sounding like someone telling a story (as if it had already happened), I actually find present tense to feel this way. “I jump over the fire and land on my feet!” sounds like something your uncle shouts around a campfire while telling his college-glory stories. I just don’t like the way it sounds. Present tense makes me feel like I’m being talked at rather than coaxed along. Past tense, however, helps me disappear into the story. That being said, some of my favorite books are in present tense. Don’t get me wrong. I’d never put a book down solely because of present tense, but it will make it a little bit harder for me to enjoy at first.

As a writer….

I write in past tense. In fact, I’ve never written in present, nor do I have the desire to. (But never say never, right?)

So how do I decide what to write in?

Honestly, I don’t.

When I set out to write a book, the POV and tense happen pretty naturally. Granted, there are some exceptions. For instance, I wanted to have Noah and Sophia tell my now-unpublished book, Take Me Tomorrow, but Noah—well, to be frank—is on drugs, and he doesn’t make a lot of sense (or he makes too much sense). So, he was cut out. It turned out to be Sophia’s story anyway. And though I tend to write in first person, my current project is in third person. (It’s actually my first serious project in third person.) Why is this one in third person? I have no clue! It just sort of happened that way. But I’m glad it did. The tone suits it perfectly.

Keep in mind…

First/third person and past/present tense are not the only options out there, and, quite frankly, these are just shells of your options. In third person, for instance, you have to choose between limited third or omniscient third (all-knowing). Then again, who says you have to decide? Some books combine different types of structures to write a book. RoseBlood by Anita Howard had third-person past for her male protagonist, while her female protagonist was written in present first. That way, you could immediately understand where you were and who we were reading about without stumbling. Your book’s options are unlimited.

So how should you decide?

Listen to your gut. Even if you write an entire series in first person and then realize it needs to be in third, I say go for it! Everyone’s writing journey is different, and though there are always trends to consider, nailing your voice is more important than trying to hit constantly-moving goalposts. There are pros and cons and limitations in both perspectives, but I tend to choose perspective/tense based on what the characters tell me to do. It happens overtime. I might not even know until I’m knee-deep in outlines. It might change, too. And that’s okay! Change happens at every process. Write how the book demands to be written. Try first, attempt third, experiment with both, and you’ll eventually find that natural point where you can’t turn back, because the words are endless. But that’s just my perspective. 😉

~SAT

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#WriterProblems 11-15

21 Mar

Recently, I spoke with a couple of fellow writers when we began discussing writer problems. I showed them my #WriterProblems series that I did almost a year ago, and then, I realized I never shared 10-15. I also realize many of you may not have seen the cards I made for writers back in the day, so you can read Writers Problems 1-5 and 6-10 by clicking the links. Below, I’m covering 11-15, and I hope you have as much fun with these as I do…even though they are writer problems. 😉

Writer Problems #11

Autocorrect. It Thinks It Knows Everything.  11154822_3124201782664_4775317025677171708_o

I have this problem ALL THE TIME, particularly while writing The Tomo Trilogy. One of my characters actually is named Miles, and my laptop—despite my attempts to change the settings—insists on lowercasing his name because it’s a noun (not a proper noun). Don’t even get me started on invented words and names.

Writer Problems #12

Getting Too Attached To Writing Utensils 12829300_3124202422680_364883757868105374_o

Maybe it’s just me, but I treat my pens as a writer the way most readers treat their books. I do not lend them out, because they rarely make their way back to me. (And I buy expensive pens.) I know many writers use laptops nowadays, but I write a lot of my novels by hand before I type them up, so there’s a certain amount of familiarity for me when it comes to pens. I might even get upset when I have to throw one away, because—well—it helped me write chapters 1 through 20 in my latest WIP.

Writer Problems #13

Searching For Character Names
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Picking the PERFECT name is hard enough. I mean, there is so much to consider. The background, the culture, the time period, the sound, or just the personality. Because of this, I am in love with surfing BabyNames.com. It’s one of my most visited websites. Even when I’m not writing something new, I’m browsing it, because who knows when I’ll need a new list of names to use? This has caused some interesting scenarios, including the one you see in my card. That actually happened while I was attending college. I was browsing BabyNames.com in between classes, and a girl stopped me to tell me congratulations. I gave her the strangest look (and actually replied “For what?”) She walked away like I was the strange one. It took me half a day to realize what transpired.

Writer Problems #14

Trying to Choose a Title 12823365_3124202542683_6786956300042952189_oTitling your work can be a difficult, maddening journey. Even though publishers often change titles, it’s nice to have a working one that feels complete or one that will catch an agent’s attention on a query letter. This issue is especially important for self-published authors, because, well, they literally have to choose it. Cue the madness. This could mean considering trends (like short titles when I made this or the longer, poetic titles now), or it could mean concentrating on symbols throughout your story. I actually wrote an article about this—Titling Your Novel—but the ironic part is that I wrote this article a LONG time ago, when Bad Bloods was called November Snow and when November Snow used to be called It’s Only a Matter of Time. (See? Those titles can get out of control.) I’ll have to rewrite that article soon.

Writer Problems #15

When The Coffee Runs Out wp15

Okay. So this card is a bit of an exaggeration, but…not really. It’s the symbolic version of what ACTUALLY happens in my head. I am a coffee addict, so without it, my writing brain wanders to places and scenarios and characters that have NOTHING to do with what I should be concentrating on. Hence the magical forest.

So how about you? What did these writer problems remind you of? Share your story below. Feel free to share and use these as well! On a side note, I could always continue to make these cards as well. Just let me know if that’s something you’d like!

~SAT

Cover

A little excerpt to start your week off:

“Do you think fate’s possible?” she asked, and I stiffened.

Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it.

“Yes,” I said. “I think it’s very possible.”

She smiled and pulled me down to kiss me, even though I knew she wouldn’t if she understood the ramifications of it all. Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates, selfishly and without control.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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#WW Staying Focused as a Writer

8 Jul

#WW Staying Focused as a Writer

Staying focused. It sounds simple but is all too complicated for many. It’s different for every writer, but I’ve recognized quite a few common stressors among authors. Some get overwhelmed by finding time to write and manage social media. Others can’t finish a novel without another one sneaking up on them. Some even ditch novels altogether. Like I said, it’s different for everyone, and there are many reasons behind the variety of #writerproblems out there. (Hence why there is an actual hashtag for such things.)

So, today, I wanted to discuss one I deal with as well as the ways I’ve kept myself in check over the years, but I would love to hear about how you manage your writing!

My issue is completing a novel when a new one suddenly demands my attention.

How are we supposed to concentrate on such a beautiful day?

How are we supposed to concentrate on such a beautiful day?

While I have no problem finishing a novel or coming up with an ending, I used to have a hard time keeping focused on the one I need to complete next. Any time I got a new idea or a new character, all I wanted to do was obsess over the new, potential story in front of me. I realized it was a problem when I spent more of my time planning novels than actually writing them, and while this happened to me a few years ago, I learned a lot of little tricks to keep me focused. In fact, this exact issue happened to me recently. While I’m mainly working on the rewrite of November Snow, I have another completed novel—one that’s never been released before that I refer to as “D”—and while it is complete, there is something wrong with it in my gut. And I realized what it was just the other day. Now, all I want to do is go fix everything in that manuscript. But I have to control myself. This is how.

1. Give Yourself a Time Limit

Whether it’s writing in a new novel or posting on your social media, tell yourself you only have an hour or two to do what you want before you continue to do what you need to do. Maybe you give yourself a few days. (I did.) However much time you need, give it to yourself, but try to set a time limit so you can get back to your original task. For instance, I gave myself a few days to jot everything down for “D”, but eventually, I know I have a bigger goal that needed attention, and now, I’m back to focusing on November Snow. “D” will gets its day soon. This isn’t to say I don’t want to work on November Snow. I do. I want to work on both, but I had to pick one because of other goals I’ve set (publishing dates, for instance).

2. Be Aware of Triggers

Another aspect of this I have to control has to do with triggers. I will use music as an example. I’ve only recently started writing with music on, but now I have associated playlists, and they help me focus almost immediately. If I hear “Murakami” by Made in Heights, November Snow is the only thing I can concentrate on. But “Dreamland” by Fan Shiqi triggers “D” so fast that I’ve learned to avoid that song when I’m trying to focus on November Snow. Keeping the right triggers around me, while avoiding the wrong ones, not only energizes what I want and need to focus on, but also prevents distractions.

3. And finally—Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

This is going to contradict my first tip, but if you go over your time limit or you simply change goals altogether, that’s fine. You know in your gut what you need and want to do. It’s a matter of being honest with yourself, understanding yourself, and accepting yourself and your artistic process. I could beat myself up all day that I lost time on the November Snow rewrite for “D”, but that would be counterproductive. I got something done, after all. Now, I just need to get more done. Just keep moving.

This is how I’ve stayed focused through my #writerproblems. How about you? What are your tricks and tips?

~SAT

Announcements:

We’re 20 days away from Minutes Before Sunset!

Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2, is also up for pre-order.

And? Clean Teen Publishing listed another Goodreads Giveaway!

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Also, I’ll be at Penned Con in St. Louis Missouri on July 25. If you want to meet me, send me an email! I’m just going as a reader, but I do have my first author event booked for October 17-18 at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX. Other events will appear on my Events page in the near future.

In other news, I’m also accepting guest bloggers again. My earliest available date is in October, so be sure to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested. I accept any posts about writing and reading, and I encourage bios, photos, and links. I look forward to hearing from you!

writing

#WW Writer Problems 1–5

22 Apr

#WW Writer Problems 1–5

If you’re on my Facebook, then you will be familiar with today’s content. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing little cards that I make called Writer Problems. I only have a few out, but I decided that I wanted to share them on here too. So today was born, and hopefully, more days like today will follow. Basically, I’ll be sharing 5 cards at a time and explaining where the inspiration came from (because there are too many hilarious stories that go on behind the scenes of these), and I think many writers can probably relate to my writer problems.

Adding this information since I received an email requesting it: I highly encourage you all to share these photos if you want! Never be afraid to take anything from my website. In fact, I love it! But please give credit to one of my websites. If you want to use these photos, for instance, please don’t crop my website name out. Thank you!

Writer Problems #1

No matter how many times I press SAVE, I still think I’ll lose the entire document when I close it (even though I use a flash drive).

1

I’m currently working on…well…so many projects. Like most authors. But I have a problem. I’m a very neurotic person – very superstitious, very particular, and I have my rituals and my fears and they practically control my life. ::takes big breath:: So, one of my OCD issues is closing documents. I can’t. Whenever I am working on something – like a novel – I seriously struggle to close the twenty documents I have up at all. Even though I also save every five minutes, which is a problem in itself, I say a little prayer before I ever close anything. On top of that, I’ve been known to reopen everything after I close it just to check. And then I save it anything. And I might open it again. It’s exhausting.

Writer Problems #2

Eureka! I have a new idea! Now if I could only finish my other ten ideas… 

2

This goes back to my first problem. I never read one book at a time, and I never write one book at a time. I’m constantly working on different projects at the same time, so it isn’t rare for another project to sneak its way into my schedule. I’ve found that it’s both a blessing and a curse. My biggest issue is picking which novel to write next.

Writer Problems #3

Strangers catching you staring at them because they look like your characters.

3

Oh, goodness. On top of being neurotic, I’m always rather awkward, and one of those things that I tend to do (which often gets me in trouble) is staring at people. A lot. Even if people don’t look like my characters, I’ve found myself staring at someone that I WISH was one of my characters. You would think that I would get better at hiding my stalking eyes, but…I haven’t. I just stare. Creepily from my corner. Taking notes.

Writer Problems #4

Having nightmares about your novel during writing, editing, publishing, and after publication.

#4

It’s sort of like having the classic dream of showing up at school in your underwear. It happens – even though you’re no longer in school – and I find it’s even more frustrating when you’re out of school and have dreams like that. I have dreams of never finishing novels that are already finished. I have dreams of being called the shittiest author of all time. (But I think Honest Trailers already gave that to someone…) I have dreams of characters never coming out and talking to me again. Ah! I could go on and on about all the dreams I have revolving around books, but my heartbeat is racing.

Writer Problems #5

Hearing a song that inspired a novel…and now all you want to do it WRITE.

5

This particular card had a funny backstory to it, but I first have to explain how I make these. Basically, I pay attention to my everyday life, and when something reminds me of a writer problem I have, I create these. So, I might not even be going through what is on the card, but I will be going through something similar. For instance, in this case, I was doing the dishes, accompanied by my handy iPod mini – it’s green – and I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li came on. For those of you who listened to the 8tracks soundtrack for Take Me Tomorrow, you will know that this song heavily influenced my writing time, so just hearing it, made me want to go work on that trilogy. I struggled to continue washing the dishes, and it reminded me of times I’ve been out in public at an event and heard a song like this, which made it difficult to even concentrate at all. Writing consumes you.

Have any of these writer problems affected you? Have any funny stories to accompany them? Share below! And let me know if you want me to continue these cards and stories in the future. If you like them, be sure to follow me on Facebook because that is where I share them first.

~SAT

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