Writing is a deliberate act

A writer has a lot to think about when writing a novel. The first thing to consider is how the reader will react to what we write. And the first thing to decide is whether or not what we write will find a reader. A writer without readers is like a horse without limbs…great body but no legs. If a writer has just one reader, all that changes and gives that writer’s work a purpose.

When we think about the reader’s reaction, we have many things to consider. One of the first is to decide whether a reader can follow what we have written or is even remotely interested. It is a writer’s job to show the reader why he or she should be interested. Often, we think we are clear because we know what is happening and we leave important details out. This is unfortunate because a reader cannot read our minds. On the other hand, we are also trying to make sure we do not tell the reader how to think. This is stepping into their space.

Then there are technical details that help us to seamlessly say what we want to impart, taking our reader with us as the story unfolds.

There are techniques to achieve this. One is to ensure there is a ‘hook’ at the end of every chapter so the reader wants to find out what happens. Another is to have just a few characters on whom we shine the spotlight. As readers, we want our good characters to overcome challenges and be our heroes and we want the nasty characters to get what they deserve. But how about the anti-hero? The one who is not very nice at the start but we see glimpses of goodness in him? This is a much more complex character to write about because we do want to keep the reader believing in him. So this character has got to have enough redeeming features that keep the reader wanting to know more and even hoping for the best possible outcome. We do that by shining a light on the good things he does, as well as the bad.

Now to the technical side of writing - the part that has us mulling over how we will write. One area that seems to cause considerable difficulty is choosing which tense to use.

This link gives an excellent summary of the pros and cons of tenses: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-pros-and-cons-of-writing-a-novel-in-present-tense

Lately, there seems to be a fashion to write in present tense and to consider past tense, old fashioned. Present tense is compelling because as we write we sense the energy that this tense gives the writing. We like the sense of immediacy and the way it puts the writer, right in the middle of the action as he or she writes. However, think about the reader. Imagine reading all that intensity for page after page without a rest. Good writing allows the reader time to pause and to consider what he or she has read. The writing flows.  While we can achieve flow in present tense, it is harder to achieve than in past tense.

There is an additional thought for consideration. The moment something is reported, it moves from the present to the past.

I recommend writers have a play with tenses, then settle on the one that fits the story best.

All writing should be a deliberate act…after the initial epiphany, which supplies the inspiration for the story in the first place.

After that comes the hard work to make it believable, understandable and enjoyable.

creative writing
past tense