Decision made! I think . . . maybe . . .

Stress. Woman stressed

So I’ve kinda, sort of, maybe, made a decision . . . I think? I’m going to continue to write my YA Science Fiction novel in 1st Person Present Tense and here’s why: (because I know you were just dying to find out 😉 )

Everything I’ve ever written including novels and short stories has been “easy”. I use quotations there, because writing isn’t easy, no matter how you slice it. I worked hard to complete my novels, polish them until they shined, develop a distinctive voice, make my characters deep, show don’t tell, etc. And none of that just flowed from the pencil (okay, fingers on keyboard) with no thought or effort. But I don’t recall struggling very much. I knew the story, so I wrote it. I received critique, and that was where I struggled the most, determining what was helpful and what was not, then I applied the critique. And so forth. I worked. It happened.

But this novel has been different. The 1st draft went pretty smoothly, but that was because I was just trying to get the story down. Revisions have left me feeling rudderless. And changing the 1st person to 3rd has been a bit of a drag. I wanted to write beautiful prose and inspire that feeling you get when reading classic novels (no, not confusion and frustration when you have no idea what they’re saying, that other one, where it sounds lyrical.) It’s not that I’m not pleased with my results in 3rd, but I’ve struggled with every word, every phrase, and still it feels disconnected from the characters. Part of me wanted to continue with 3rd because I thought it was the best way to achieve lyrical prose and not have the characters sound like tools, and because it was a challenge. I firmly believe in challenges, but this just felt unnatural.

After mulling it over for awhile, and showing a few chapters to my CP, and thinking some more, then asking everyone I could find what they thought about 1st or 3rd, I came to the decision that I felt closer to my characters in 1st, and I wanted to stay there. I could still attempt beautiful prose in 1st, and try to make the many characters each have a different voice (this may be the real tough part), and this in itself would be the challenge I needed. Besides, one of the questions I’ll ask my betas is if they think the story would be better served in 3rd. There’s always opportunity to change, and right now I feel relieved I’ve made a decisions and can get back to work!

The Trouble With My WIP . . .

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook Computer

The euphoria at having written 64k words in 33 days is past. Long past. Now I’m faced with a WIP I’m not sure what to do with. It has problems. Many problems. Maybe outlining them here will make them less daunting. Or more. Who knows, but here goes . . .

Problem #1: This is probably the second biggest problem, so definitely not listing in order, but that’s okay. Free flow thinking, right? So the problem is POV. Actually it’s more like the tense of the POV. I’ve already written the rough draft in the view point of four characters, and I have every intention of it staying that way. But it is written in 1st person present. It seems to be how I like to write these days, and I think worked very well for my last YA novel. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s right for this one. It’s been done before, but writing multi-POV in 1st person can be difficult, because you need to make each character very distinct. The reader needs to know at all times whose head they are in. It’s only a rough draft, but I’m not sure I’ve achieved that. So I started writing in a close 3rd person past tense. That way the reader is in the character’s head, but only one narrative voice is needed. But I’m still not sure. More on that later . . .

Problem #2: There are some plot motivation holes. I don’t see this as a big deal, because I know why the characters have done what they did, I just need to sell it to the reader. It’s a case of writing fast to meet that psuedo-NaNo goal, and missing important motivations and characterization. It’s just another part of revision and I’ll add it to my list.

Problem #3: Showing and not telling. My writing style tends to be “telly”, which on my last WIP wasn’t all that bad. That character was a matter-of-fact to the point kind of person, and for her in 1st POV to wax elegantly on her surroundings would have been ridiculous. But I do want this novel to have a less stark, concise feel to it. So this doesn’t come naturally to me, but I can do it. I just have to work harder at it. And it kind of ties into Problem #1, as well as the final problem at the bottom of this list.

Problem #4: Since this novel is a YA Science Fiction re-telling of The Last of the Mohicans, I wanted to incorporate some of the Mohican culture and language into the story. There aren’t actually any Native Americans, but rather aliens on another planet that humans have discovered. But I am very worried about native appropriations. Though I allowed the Mohican language to inspire the words of my alien nation in my book, and it was done from a place of respect and in an effort to honor the Mohican Nation, it may not be seen that way. I have contacted the Mohican Nation with no response, but I will try again when my novel is finished. There is a good chance if they are not in agreement with my use of their language, I may have to make some changes.

Problem #5: So this is kind of all the other little problems that every novel faces, and therefore not a real big deal. Filter words, grammar, typos, etc. They are in every rough draft and so not particularly daunting to fix. It just has to be done and will take time.

Problem #6: So this is kind of the big one. I haven’t found my voice. It kind of ties in with the tense of the story and whether I’m inside a character’s head or just hovering over it. And it has a lot to do with my natural style of writing in a more telling fashion than showing. I want this novel to have a lyrical flow, beautiful imagery, and intense emotion. So it’s going to take work. I’m not afraid of that. I love writing, and I love learning and growing as a writer, but it does bring up all those writerly doubts we constantly have hanging over our heads, no matter how many books we write. This sounds like crap. I’m a failure. I’ll never pull this off. You know, that little voice inside your head that encourages you to throw in the towel before you’ve even started.

So I’m fighting that voice, and looking for direction. All the little things will fall into place and iron themselves out with hard work and a lot of time and devotion, but the voice, tense, POV, etc. is where I am struggling. Once I get that figured out, it’s just a matter of applying the effort to the work.

So any thoughts? Do you prefer 1st or 3rd person in a multi-POV novel? Does showing instead of telling come easy to you? Or like me, do you have to fix that tendency on edits? What about voice? Does that come naturally in the rough draft, or is it something you add as you revise? Let me know in the comments!