As I’ve said before, I am about 20,000 words into my first novel. That is roughly about 1/4 as long as what I want my finished draft to be, so it seemed like a good stopping point to edit. I wrote a scene (that I love) that literally shifts some of my time frame, and I need to make the appropriate changes to three other scenes. My rough draft also haphazardly switches from first-person past tense to first-person present tense at completely random moments. Observe:
Carla appeared on my other side, and took my other arm. “You know she doesn’t really understand the dynamics of the cafeteria.”
“Who, me?” I asked in confusion.
“You’re right,” Mia said musingly. “These things can get very complicated.”
I stopped walking, yanking them both to a stop. “We are just talking about eating, right? How complicated could it be?”
Nolan walked up from behind, loaded down with blankets. “We all know you’re very smart, love, but you’re going to have to defer to experience here. It’s actually quite political. You know, you may even enjoy the mental challenge.”
I roll my eyes so hard, I almost give myself a nosebleed. Maybe since I was homeschooled, I am a little more mature than my friends here, but I hardly think that the process of consuming sustenance could really be any cause for concern or drama. With that thought, I shake loose of my friends who are obviously just trying to psych me out, and march through the double doors.
Is it just me or did the talking seem to stop when I walked in? It has to be just me; these kids never shut up. Is that table staring at me? Oh my god, what is that smell? Is that…teenager and sloppy joe? Seriously, is that kid literally staring at me?
I slowly back up until I almost run into Mia.
“Oof!” She complains, jabbing me sharply in the kidney. “The food is in front of you!”
You see that? It’s absolutely ridiculous. I just arbitrarily switch tenses half-way through, which is A LOT of work to try and fix. It’s especially difficult because I have no idea which tense to actually stick to. Everything I have written in the past has been first-person past tense, but I recently read the work of an author whose writing style and topics reminds me of my own. Her name is Stephanie Perkins, and she’s really fantastic with capturing the perfect YA characters and situations. She also only writes in present tense. Don’t assume that when I picked up her books, I instantly noticed that she was in the very small minority that do this. I honestly do not notice these things at all, and had to go back through books I liked to see which ones used what. The one thing that had me leaning more towards present tense is this one scene is Perkins’ latest book Lola and the boy next door. It was at the end of the book and Lola finally gets together with this amazing male character, and due to the present tense writing…it felt like you were really there and experiencing it. I thought that conveying what she did with that scene alone would make it an amazing writing tool. Unfortunately, after converting the first 20 pages of my rough draft to present tense, I realize that it just isn’t working for me. It doesn’t come as natural, and I’ve read some articles that say agents and editors think present tense makes you stand out…and not necessarily in a good way. So now I know I need to go back and redo all the editing that I’ve previous done, which makes me want to have my own personal pity party. So to avoid this, I am avoiding my rough draft…for probably a few more days.
(Haha I have no idea where this came from. I found it on Pinterest, and it makes me laugh)
Sometimes I worry that my English background is a little weak when it comes to writing a book. I think I have the imagination…maybe the discipline, but to be honest, I haven’t taken many classes on the technical aspects of writing. I took AP English in high school, so I never had to take an English class in college. I was a business major (both times), so there was never really any need. I’m obviously proficient enough to write the necessary papers, and there are websites that help with citations and crazy rules like that. However, I’m aware that I probably use more commas than I need to, and I can’t definitively say that I always use the correct noun-verb agreement.
Is it too much to ask that I just write whatever I want to write, and someone just come behind me and make sure it all looks consistent and correct? I’ve found some online companies that offer this, so don’t think I’m above it. In the meantime, I am just going to pout and complain some more…and maybe buy this book: