May. 21st, 2014

jennygordon: (Blue Butterfly)
Yesterday, I spent a fun few hours with FallingBook. In my eagerness to begin, I leapfrogged the 'planning' part (just for the day), and decided to have a play with the first chapter, which belongs to M in the present time. In the 2010 MS (the most recent version of the book), she's written in first person, past tense, but I've more-or-less completely decided that I want to switch her to third person, past tense. Same with F (whose story is also in the present time). Twenty-years-ago M will remain in first person, for the power and immediacy of that voice. It'll take too long to explain why, but this feels right for the balance of the story.

Well, okay, I'll explain a bit.

*Look away now if this sort of thing bores the pants off you!*

See, the book I'm currently reading (which is a wonderful romp) is written in first person, past tense. But it would lose nothing at all if it were simply switched to third person, without altering anything else. See, the first person voice isn't distinctive enough to make any difference to the telling. It's simply 'I said,' instead of 'she said.' To me, that's a waste of a first person voice, which should be distinctive in its language choice and vehicles of expression. You should be very much inside that character's head and persona. The 2010 MS suffers from more or less the same thing, with the exception that I was mindful of the language choices I made for each first person voice.

So why not work harder on my first person voices? Well, using third person provides a nice distance from the characters which suits the story for the two threads told in the present, contrasting nicely with the immediacy of twenty-years-ago M's first person. And also, switching to third person gives me freedom for narrative flourishes I wouldn't be able to indulge in were I to stick to first person.

Ask me again next week, and I'll probably have changed my mind again!

*Okay, boring technical part over.*

So anyway, there I was, happily transposing from the old MS into a shiny new document, and you know what struck me?

Man, I used to be wordy. Stupidly wordy. Honestly, I went on ... and on ... and on. So much so that I've reduced the chunk I worked on by almost half without breaking sweat.

It just goes to show how far I've come in the four years since that MS was completed. A lot of that progress, I put down to the fact that I have spent those 4 years writing Young Adult fiction. By their nature, YA novels tend to be considerably shorter than adult ones. You need to be concise and economical with your wordage. It's been a valuable lesson for me.

Plus, it's heartening to revisit something I wrote as relatively recently as 4 years ago, and see the undoubted progress my writing has made since then. Hopefully it'll aid in finding my way with this new version of FallingBook.


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January 2016


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