"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Madness...

Means a week of kids home ahead.
Means we're heading to Six Flags on Wednesday!
Means I'm really cranking on a new WIP. It's all I think about. I'm obsessed.

Here's what I'm playing with on the WIP:
1) Present tense. I know. I mentioned this one before. But just to advance defend myself, if my posts keep slipping in and out of past tense, you'll know why.
2) Reduced tags. Actually, on draft 1, I'm going to no tags. I want all dialog to be clear by voice and identifying actions since so much stuff is going on also.
3) Female protagonist. Why has everything else been guy main characters so far?
4) Minimal outlining for first draft. I want to see where it carries me.
5) Write fast. Just for fun. It is only the first draft, and there's joy in revisions.

I'd love some thoughts on the difference between writing in past and present tense. I'm finding it's not just changing the verb tenses. The words seem to flow differently. I'm finding less dialog and more narrative (which may not be a good thing, but I can always work on it during revision).
Your thoughts?

And on the whole "Time is life's most valuable resource" topic. I have successfully managed to vacuum the floor while doing just about anything else. There's a new addition to our household. We haven't named him yet, but currently he's the most popular guy around.
Meet Roomba!


His favorite food is dust bunnies, and he loves hard to get to places like under the bed and dressers.
And yes, I recommend one!

21 comments:

Christine M said...

I haven't tried writing in present tense - though I did have a story once that kept slipping into it. So I don't have much for you there.

And I'm totally jealous of the Roomba.

As far as writing fast and furious and revising later. That's just what I'm doing now.

In fact - I may even do that for the next idea too - before I set too into revisions for this one.

Sheryl said...

you have a ROOMBA! I'm jealous...

Your WIP sounds very intriguing. I'm doing somewhat the opposite my first novel was first person, present tense. Now I'm switching to first person past tense. There is a difference to the way the words flow. I'm not yet exactly happy with it. I'll let you know how it progresses.

beth said...

Ah! You have a Roomba! Let us know how well it works...I am thinking of asking for one for Christmas :)

I really don't know that much about present tense, other than a member of my crit group is writing in it, and it's driving us all (including her) a bit mad. Things like "he said" can't really be "said" because it should actually be "says." If, in your research, you come up with some other books written entirely in present tense, I'd love it if you shared so I could pass it along...we're all scratching our heads for good examples.

I do know that I read a mystery once where all the "bad guy" narrations (just, I think, 3 chapters out of 20 some) were in present tense while the rest of the story, from the POV of the cop, was in past. That was pretty good; really differentiated between the two characters. I think it was "Whiskey Sour" by JA Konrath, but I'm not sure. However, I can't think of any that were entirely done in present.

Sheri said...

Funny! here you're posting about using a light outline and I just posted about needing to write a good and solid one! So, I think I am at a loss there.

Although your question was about past tense vs. present... I think present tense is harder to write in. But I think that is mainly because most of what we read is in past, so our ears are naturally attuned to it. I think if you try to immerse yourself in reading other literature written in present and block everything else out, you will exercise your present tense ear.

To me, the thing to keep in mind about present tense is, I think... that means whatever your character is experiencing, we are too. The character cannot have information the reader doesn't and neither can the reader. We both have to be "on the same page," so to speak, because it is happening NOW, so therefore there can't be any future knowledge for the reader of your MC.

But I can be wrong in my assumption, having never written in present tense...

I think though it can be a very "tense" tense to write in - as in creating suspense and tension lends itself well to present tense...

Jill Douglass said...

A roomba has been on my wishlist for a while... let me know how yours performs!

My guess is that you've have a male protagonist because your oldest child is a boy.

Steve wrote a short story for Anna, and, of course, the protagonist was a girl.

PJ Hoover said...

I'm glad you're on the fast track, too, Chris! We can swap when we're done :) And taking a break before revisions is so nice when possible! But I think I'd have to do at least one revision first.
And Roomba is like my new best friend!

Sheryl, I'm so glad to hear you say you see a difference in how the words flow, too. That's the biggest thing I've noticed. It's way more than just switching walks to walked. Please do let me know!

Beth, Roomba would be a great Christmas present.
I have three really good examples of present tense books which work:
The Libba Bray books (A Great and Terrible Beauty).
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
The Adoration of Jenna Fox.
I loved all these books. They totally worked for me!

I know, Sheri! I laughed about your post, and you notice I couldn't bring myself to say you should outline completely first since I'm doing just the opposite!
I agree with the "tense" tense thing. Even writing it, it seems to grab me so much more.

Jill, you'll have to come over for some Roomba watching! It's quite fun!
Very interesting thought on it being since my oldest is a boy. You may be exactly right. And now that my girl is getting older, I'm writing something for her (though she can't read it until she's a teen!).

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Jim D said...

I tend to agree with the oldest child gender theory only if that oldest is an avid reader. My MC's have been primarily female because initially they were aimed at my daughter (youngest). It became habit, though I'm trying to break it thanks in part to some critique group suggestions.

Roombas are cool! Hopefully it will get along with King Tort.

Jim D

PJ Hoover said...

Another confirmation for the child gender thing! Thanks, Jim!
King Tort's just happy to have the edging done near his home. It's the Yorkie who's starting to think an alien has invaded our home!

Alison said...

The first YA I wrote is in present tense. I tried writing and later revising it in past tense and it never worked for me, so I stuck with the present tense. Several people read and/or critiqued the manuscript for me--an author, and editor, and a paid critiquer, and no one mentioned the tense at all, so I'm hoping it was unobtrusive. It does present challenges, though, and I haven't used it for any other manuscripts.

I really wanted that sense of immediacy where you know that the narrator herself is experiencing things in the story along with you and doesn't know how things will come out. I think that can still be done in past tense, but it was coming out in present tense and worked better for me that way with that particular manuscript. (I'm still expecting to be challenged on it eventually, though!)

I'm not sure about the protagonist gender thing, since I started writing before I had kids. I started a YA when I was 16 that was about a 16-year-old girl, so that makes sense, but 5 or 6 years before I ever had a child, I started a midgrade novel with a male protagonist and have no idea why. He did have a female best friend, though. Everything I'm working on now has female protagonists, but I also have a YA with a male protagonist that I started when my oldest son was 2. I've had two published children's stories, both with male protagonists, and I think those probably were because I have sons. My picture book stuff is nearly always about boys, because I never thought to write picture books before I had my sons!

I'm also jealous of the Roomba, but what I really want is a Scooba! I hate mopping much more than vacuuming, and we have a lot to mop.

Kelly said...

Jealous of ROOMBA.

Also, jealous of your rapid writing! Now that I'm back home, I need a kick in the pants :)

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Alison, I'm getting a Scooba next! I figure I'll keep Roomba upstairs and Scooba down. I'm with you on the mopping!
Was your workshop submission present tense? I can't remember, but I think it was. I know it was fantastic, so I'll take that as a present tense recommendation!

Kelly, consider this your virtual kick in the pants! We need a Far Flung Writers NaNoWriMo. Or something.

keri mikulski :) said...

You are a brave author. I stick with present and I haven't tackled past yet. I'm curious to read the comments for advice. :) Have a great week.

PJ Hoover said...

So you stick with preset, Keri. Interesting. Guess it's time to read Screwball!I've been meaning to, and now you've given me the perfect reason to move it up higher on the list! Thanks :) And you have a great week, too!

Sheri said...

My oldest is a girl (so's my youngest) but my MCs are always girls! Haha. This is fun knowledge

Sheri said...

Oh... but I must say, at every conference I attend, the editors call for boy protagonists...

Tabitha said...

Ooo, a roomba! Those are amazing things. I used to have one, then I went and got this gorgeous Turkish rug with fringe. Roomba gags on fringe... :(

I've never written in present tense, either, and I was going to suggest Jenna Fox as a great book to study. But I see you already have it...so nevermind. :)

Have fun at Six Flags!!

PJ Hoover said...

It is fun knowledge, isn't it, Sheri! I truly wonder if that's the reason I went with a boy for The Emerald Tablet.

Luckily (?) I can't have any rugs because my dog pees on them, Tabitha! We're all hardwood and tile.
Jenna Fox was great.
Thanks for the Six Flags well wishes! Hoping for a few clouds in the sky!

Thanks for visiting!

laurasmagicday said...

I wrote my latest novel in the present tense and loved the way the narrative came alive. I guess it's a good way to channel your inner child/adolescent/teen/monster/alien:) Love the Roomba.....

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Laura! So did you find you had more narrative with present tense? That's what I'm seeing. It feels right, but I plan to study it in some of the other present tense books I have.
And Roomba vacuumed the whole upstairs today. He's so sweet!

Sheri said...

So, about this roomba... does it make a lot noise? do you leave it on all day? do it at night? Do one room at a time? My interest is peeked?

PJ Hoover said...

Roomba is very quiet, Sheri. Much more so than a normal vacuum. So far, I've only used it during the day because I want to watch it. "Look - it went under the bed!"
And the version I got will do 4 normal sized rooms. Though I think if you section it off, it does a faster job.