An Amateur Writer's Frustration

I’m back to working on my novel this month and I am frustrated more than anything else. While I find some of the inconsistencies in my writing amusing, I am troubled by the basics that I should have thought through before I began. For me, it is the basic of tense.

My novel is in the present tense. I don’t know that I chose it deliberately. It is just what felt right to me at the time. Back when I was a member of a writer’s group, someone pointed out that my story's tense was problematic. I ignored him, choosing to focus on getting my story written down instead of dealing with something as "insignificant" and "easily fixable" as tense. But now, I fear that may have been a bad decision.

I spent most of the night reading a variety of opinions on the drawbacks of using the present tense. There are instances of manuscripts being rejected for using present tense and of readers being turned off by a story in present tense. If not done expertly and with purpose, it can make a story read more like a screenplay than a novel. I think that is the problem with my story. I am writing a novel.

So I tried to rewrite the first few paragraph in past tense tonight, but it just didn’t work. Maybe it is the mark of an amateur writer but I can’t seem to set as vivid of a scene in past than present tense. I don’t mind using “he said” and “she said” in dialogue but I like the active presence of a scene described with the present tense.

I am frustrated but again, I value more expanding subplots and filling in holes than resolving problems with tense. I'll just leave it for the springtime or whenever I've finally reached 100,000 words. At that point, I'll be kicking myself yet again for not minding the basics.

1 comment:

Heather said...

So when do I get to read some of it? :)

Hope you've weathered the storm OK.