Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Am Happy. Yes, She Was.

When I start the first page of a new project- there are some decisions that need to be made. I always have a rough storyline (Okay, that’s an understatement. I usually have a three-page, detailed outline before I start. Plotting gives my inner control-freak a delicious bone to chew on) and a main character.

But the first page requires me to figure out:

The tense of the story. Past? Present? First person? Third person? Omniscient? (<- I constantly confuse this term with ‘Omnipotent’)

The tone. Light and airy? Dark and mysterious?  I never know until I’m into the first or second page. Sometimes manuscripts surprise me by turning out much darker or lighter than I anticipated. 

In any case, I end up doing the first page hokey pokey for awhile until I find my groove. But then, as the story takes over, I don’t usually think about tense or tone until the thing is finished.

Until now.

This work-in-progress played with being third-person-past and first-person-present for a few days and finally decided she liked being first-person-present. After all, my last two manuscripts were written this way and I felt like my TPP was too rusty to use at the moment.

But then, 15k in, the damn thing changed her mind.  She just switched to TPP as I was writing chapter seven and refused to go back. I mean RE-FUSED. She even made me read the first chapter over in her desired tense and I begrudgingly agreed– it flowed better. You know how sometimes when you try to paint or draw an image you have in mind, it never comes out exactly like what you imagined? The lines are blurry or you can’t get the colors right? Well, that’s how my manuscript was feeling. But changing the tense kind of brightened those lines and put it closer to what I’d imagined.

So, yesterday was spent switching hunks of the text to third-person past and I still haven’t finished. *sigh*

I don’t think a manuscript has ever given me so much trouble.

She better be worth it!

Has anyone else had a manuscript decide to change tense on them mid-first draft?

35 comments:

Sarah said...

I wrote Sanctum *entirely* in third person past tense. And then, when I was finished, I read through it and decided it felt distant somehow, and then I rewrote it in first person. As soon as I did, I knew it was the right thing to do, because the character's voice was right there. I hope your WIP settles down soon!

Em-Musing said...

Thankfully, no. But I had a friend who couldn't decide and she made me read every version. The story was so good, both would have worked. At least you weren't at the end of your manuscript before you switched. I'm sure the best voice will win out.

Laura Pauling said...

Yes, I've rewritten an entire manuscript from third to first but it made it so much better so it was worth it! Sounds awesome!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not changed point of view yet and I'm sure I mix up the tense on a regular basis.

Old Kitty said...

Not so much change tenses but mc's! LOL!! So I'd start with one I think is my mc and mid-way decide a minor character is far more interesting to write about! LOL!

Katie!! Of course SHE'S WORTH IT!! Yay!! Take care
x

Katya Starkey said...

Why yes! I just started a new novel yesterday and it's first person present tense. However, I've just gotten to a scene where my MC is remembering something that happened to her in the past, so I'm writing the entire scene in past tense. Like a flashback. I've never actually written a flashback before. This should be fun!

Christine Danek said...

Oh yeah. Darn manuscripts have changed from first person past to first person present. They can be indecisive.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't because I've only used 3rd person so far. I really like it. Sounds like your manuscript is moving though. That's awesome.

KatieO said...

I hate it when manuscripts don't behave!

Suzi said...

Yes, once. And it sucks because months later you're still finding those wrong tenses.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My first novel was in third person and everything else has been in first. I've thought of writing my new wip in third, because it's horror so it seemed easier to create mood that way, but in the end I wrote it in first. I recently did an assignment that I wrote in third and it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I was the character.

I've switched tenses. Does that count?

jaybird said...

Hate it when that happens! I have waffled back and forth, between third and first person before. Never fun. But sometimes, it just makes all the difference in the world.

Liz Parker said...

I completely understand! I'm in the middle of a rewrite of my WIP right now, and it's shifted from first person present to first person past!

DL Hammons said...

I've always written in 3rd person (except a few of my short stories) because anything else in mystery/suspense is too limiting. Sometimes I'll decide to change who's POV I'm telling the scene from, but that the extent of it.

Our most difficult children are the ones that surprise us the most! :)

Katy Anders said...

Everything I read from the experts says that readers like third person/past tense the best.

But I do not.

My writing pops a lot more when I play with that stuff.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I change back and forth depending on the story I'm writing, but I love, love, love that your character is telling you how she wants the story to be told. Sure, it's a pain for us, but it makes the story more authentic.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I haven't but I've been considering changing a story from 1st to 3rd.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I'm sure it will be worth the effort!

Usually, my characters start to speak to me in a certin tense before I get to them to the page - when I'm playing out scenes in my head, you know, just to clarify that statement. ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

I changed over 120,000 words of WM from 3rd Past Limited to 1st Past. It was SO much work, but well worth it in the end. I learned a lot by doing it, and the story improved.

D.G. Hudson said...

No, didn't change the tense, but on the third revision, I changed the order of the chapters and that meant a total rearrangement of the content in those chapters.

It works much better, but it was a trying exercise. . . you have my sympathy.

BTW, I'm glad to see I'm finally showing up in your comments count. . . your blog makes me laugh in the morning when I'm skimming my Google reader.

Connie Keller said...

I'd say "I'm sorry" and I am. But the change sounds like the right thing to do. I just wished she'd decided earlier.

And people don't understand that manuscripts and characters have minds of their own. But they sure do. And they're often as stubborn and difficult as any two year old.

Meredith said...

Haha, sounds like a very demanding MS! I'm sure she'll be worth it in the end. :)

Louise Bates said...

I've never had to switches tenses, but I had an entire MS written before realizing it needed to be changed from first-person to third. And add in another character's POV for certain critical scenes. Sigh.

It was totally worth it to make the story stronger, though - I'm sure your changes will do the same.

unikorna said...

Hello lovely Katie, I wanted to let you know I nominated you for a Creative Blogger award :), that;s because I really like your blog.

Carrie-Anne said...

A couple of times recently when I was writing with my past tense characters, I accidentally slipped into present tense. It was pretty embarrassing when I realized my error and had to go back to correct it. It's never happened the other way around, a present tense book slipping into past tense.

My Russian novels and my contemporary historical family saga are in present tense, and my Atlantic City historicals, Shoah books, and hiatused soft sci-fi books are in past tense. I couldn't imagine an established character in any other tense than the one I created him or her in.

And 99.9% of everything I've ever written has been in third-person omniscient, though once in a very great while, I may lean more towards a limited third-person. Writing in first-person just seems so counter-intuitive to the types of sweeping sagas I write, with lots of characters and storylines. I'm also sick to death of how faddish first-person has become, in particular first-person present-tense. My eyes are starting to glaze over every time I encounter that particular device, and it actually makes me NOT want to pick up such a book. I obviously have no problem with third-person present tense, but first-person present tense, bar certain types of memoirs, just seems a really weird way to narrate a book.

LD Masterson said...

POV can want to wander sometimes but I always feel more comfortable in past tense.

JEM said...

That is EXACTLY what I'm going through on my current WIP. What I think I'm writing and what comes out on the page when I sit down are two totally different things. Sigh, glad I'm not the only one reworking 20K words :).

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I never had the manuscript tell me to change.

But I had an agent suggest I change a manuscript from first person past tense to third person past tense on a Revise & Resubmit. She eventually passed on the revision, but I loved my new POV and I've stayed in third person for every manuscript since then.

I only ever tried present tense once. I got two chapters into the manuscript, hated it, trunked it, and never returned to the story.

Maria said...

That decision on the first pages of tone and POV has always gotten me bogged down. I let all that go for my current manuscript. I have two MCs--one in first person past, one in 3rd person past, and I occasionally lapse into present tense. I sure hope as I revise, the manuscript tells me what to do about it.

Elana Johnson said...

Um, yes. It's terrible. I feel your pain, but know that you can do it, and you will be happy later!

Cherie Reich said...

I wish mine had told me what it wanted mid-draft. Instead, I find out after the first draft is completely finished.

Nickie said...

Yep -- my current WIP just asked me to change it from third person past to first person past. I was happy to oblige :)

On a side note, I think it's funny that you mix up Omnipotent and Omniscient. The two words I mix up the most are (unfortunately) emboss and embalm (!!!!) I know they don't even come close to meaning the same thing, but they occupy the same area in my brain. Ahh!

http://nickieanderson.blogspot.com/

Nicole Mc said...

Yes! It has happened to me many times. In fact, until I NAIL DOWN a tense in a ms, I can't even read a book with a different one or it'll change on me again.

kimmullican said...

Been there, done that and have the T-Shirt! I changed a completed novel to first person. I was glad I did it...because it made the reader feel more connected (said the 6 betas.)

But OMG the work involved nearly drove me bat$hit crazy!

First person is tough not to make the whole novel read, "I,I,I,me, mine, my, I, I, I." It's a lot of work.

Good luck!

Elle Strauss said...

I just revised my ms from third person to first, but stayed in past. Sometimes, it's just what you got to do to tell the best story. Bit of a pita, though.

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