So, in the shriek heard round the world, this weekend I learned that my YA story is better served by first person present tense. The problem is, I have already written 350 pages in first person PAST tense. Can you spell f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-n-g?
I was doing a journaling exercise to try to get to the emotional core of a scene I needed to rewrite, and lo and behold, using first person present caused the whole thing to LEAP into focus, sharp and bright. I was stunned. For many reasons. Not the least of which is that I have never even considered present tense as a tool in my writerly toolbox. Just never occurred to me. Probably because I’ve heard so much about how many readers don’t like it. Ah well. For that reason alone, I wish I could ignore this revelation I’ve had. But I can’t. Because it makes the story better.
I was also stunned because usually my muse is better about parceling out the hints in a timely fashion. I would be a tad peeved at her for this late breaking development IF I wasn’t so happy that it’s cracked that story egg wide open. Scenes that I was struggling with now write themselves, issues of the heroine getting lost in the milieu have disappeared. Excess words are falling away and the story lens is somehow now permanently set on closeup. Honestly, I am like a 13 year old girl with her first crush—my WIP is all I can think about 24/7. I am well and truly obsessed, cannot stop thinking about it, and pretty much want to schedule frequent makeout sessions with it.
Yes, we writers are odd beasts.
So this is a good lesson to me. I think from now on, whenever I’m beginning a book, I will make myself write the first few scenes in all the possible tenses and POV combinations to see what shapes up.
So that was my weekend. How about yours?