Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Benefits of Drafting in First Person

Playing around with Wordle and the first chapter of my revised manuscript of EVANGELINE. Looks like I need to do a search for "just" and see where I can use something else. Of course Evie is the most common word in the chapter now that I've switched it to third person, but I wonder if there's a way to reduce the number of times I use it. The whole manuscript would probably benefit from a chapter by chapter word cloud before I start querying again. See, Wordle isn't just for stalling. ;)

However, I did notice something quite interesting during this revision (yes, NaNoWriMo had become NaNoRevisMo around these parts, lol). Most of the prose and exposition sounds more natural being delivered by an invisible narrator than the main character-- to me, that is. Whether or not that's the truth is yet to be seen, but it's not the first time I've re-written a manuscript in a different tense.

I'm actually thinking that despite which perspective I wind up using, writing the first draft in first person was very helpful to me in getting deeper into the mc's head. When I draft in third person, I often feel there's something missing, or that I'm watching the main character from outside, rather than in their heads.

I actually began the novel before Evangeline in rotating first person with four female main charaters. Over the course of writing the novel, I decided to switch it to third, but by then I had already been privy to my character's secrets and desires, inside their head rather than a simpel on-looker. Finishing their stories in third made perfect sense at that point, and kept my novel from being unfavorably compared to an urban fantasy "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants". (Which also had four first person female povs, and even went to one of the exact same places as one of the Traveling Pants girls, as I found out too late. Grr...) And I know I was able to get a better feel for each character by starting off in first person, as if they were telling me their story in private.

My current WiP, Mara's Story, is the first novel where I didn't have to struggle to get into the main character's pov. So it will likely stay in first person, which I think is the only way to tell that particular story. Since it is a mystery, I like the limited point of view, and I enjoy the intimacy and tension that I used to show the main character's inner-struggles. I can't imagine this story NOT being told by Mara.

As for EVANGELINE, this month marks one year since I began it during NaNo 2008. I couldn't resist dusting it off and trying to breathe some new life into it once this year's NaNo story fizzled out before it got started. I'm also shamelessly soliciting for betas-- either to just read and give me your thoughts, or for a full-on critique-- after I get it cleaned up in the next week or so.

Anyone learning any other tips for writing first drafts? Especially those of you still cruising along on your NaNo without looking back. Any fun new tools for stalling-- er, I mean drafting that I don't know about?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on free mind map software!


Abby Annis said...

I overuse "just" too. I just really like it. It just makes me so happy. Just. ;)

Is it still NaNo? I was pretty sure that was over. Hmm. Maybe that's just me.

Can't wait to read the new version of Evangeline, but I will patiently wait my turn. I'm sure it rocks!! :) Have fun revising!

Tere Kirkland said...

Well, gee, if you're so gung-ho to read it, have at it, lol!

I expect a full dissertation on the first chapter in my inbox by 6pm. And I'm not going to send you the new version until 5:30pm. ;)

What is it about "just" that's just so handy? It's just a great word. And one I've heard has no place in a manuscript worth the paper it's printed on. So I'm going to have to have to do something about those "justs".

Abby Annis said...

Sheesh. Somebody's cranky... ;)

I'll wait, but I'll give you a shout out on my blog tomorrow and maybe send some new critter friends your way. :)

People just (there's that word again) don't understand what they're missing out on.

Icy Roses said...

I love Wordle! It's so cool, like a work of art. POV is a struggle for me, and I think that writing in one tense and switching later is a great thing. For one, you know how each tense feels, and you also get lots of different perspectives on your characters. Although, it is a bit annoying when you've drafted a lot in one POV before deciding to change. Just think: it's not a waste. It's all going to good use, whether on the page or in your head.

Shannon Messenger said...

I did wordles chapter by chapter and for the whole draft and for key sequences--partially because I was stalling, but also because I learned A LOT. Sadly I realized I still need a lot of work. But at least I know what to work on. Good luck with NaNoRevisMo, and be careful--Ninjadillo may hunt you down now. :)

ElanaJ said...

Wow, I love the idea of using wordle to see which words you overuse. I'm so gonna do that. And yeah, not because I'm stalling or anything...

Susan R. Mills said...

I've been doing the wordle thing for every chapter. It's so interesting. I could possilby up for the beta reading thing in a couple of weeks. I'm knee deep in them right now, but I should finish up with a couple of them by then. I'll email you.

Tere Kirkland said...

Looks like I'm in good company, ladies!

I just came home from chorus rehearsal-- The Messiah, in exactly ONE month!-- with enough energy to wordle all forty odd chapters of my mss.

Abby, again, awesome. Always.

Icy, it's been interesting reworking the whole thing from scratch. I do several passes, a quick dirty pronoun change, and then one more just to clean up awkward phrasing. It was enlightening to see the project in a different way, in more of a storytelling manner. And it's been three months since the last major revisions, so I'm actually pleased I had a completed story to work with, instead of tense chages... and THEN an ending looming over my head. ;)

Wendy Sparrow said...

I totally want to wordle my manuscript bit by bit also.

I might be up for a beta in December. I'm beta-ing for someone right now and I'm trying to finish my NaNo WIP. If you just want your first chapter or twenty pages or something beta-ed, I can do that now. What kind of feedback are you looking for?

Tere Kirkland said...

Shannon, Ninjadillo scares me! Thank god you didn't get him on me to finish up my NaNo*cough* I need a lot of work, too. But NaNoRevisMo I can handle.
Too many people have told me not to give up on the story. I JUST have to figure out the right way to write it. And I'm learning a lot as I go.

Elana, the great thing about Wordle is that it's EDUCATIONAL. ;) JUST keep telling yourself that.

Susan, please don't kill yourself, lol. I put out some feelers in other places, but I'm really looking for an "innocent eye" sort of thing. Someone who is JUST (okay, last one, I swear) familiar with a query of the story, and preferably hasn't read the first person versions posted here on my blog.

Unless of course, you're dying to read it, in which case I wouldn't want to deny you the pleasure. ;)

Tere Kirkland said...

Wendy, I'd really love to let you have a go at my first twenty pages if you have the time. That would be EXTREMELY helpful. I'm at the stage where my first ten pages is working pretty well, but after that I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

I'm sure it's partly a craft issue, but I want to make sure that the main character doesn't seem too "distant" now that she's not the narrator.

Anissa said...

Found my way over from Abby's. Love the design of your blog. It sounds like we have similar writing and reading tastes. If you're still in need of fresh eyes, I'd be happy to help out. I'm still NaNoRevisMo-ing myself, but should be able to handle a few chapters. Those openings are so important. Let me know, and nice to cyber-meet you. :)

Wendy Sparrow said...

Send me the first fifty pages or three chapters whichever is longer (since that's the most I've ever seen go along with a query--if it's not a full manuscript.) I'll probably not do a grammar-level critique (other than typos) but I will comment in the manuscript what works and what doesn't. (I tend to do stream-of-consciousness commenting--which generally ends up being very entertaining and odd.) bug at sparrow dot us

Tere Kirkland said...

Anissa, Wendy, thanks, so much! I'll get in touch via email and send the first three chapters over tonight after I get out of work.

You two rule!

Wendy, actually that sounds a lot like the way I crit, so that's excellent. Feel free to be brutal.

Thanks again, y'all, and Abby for sending Anissa my way!

Anissa said...

I guess it would help if I gave you my email.
anissaaz at gmail dot com

Glad to help. :)

Karen Denise said...

People always say don't read/edit your work while writing that first draft, but I can't help it. So I say what ever works is all good!

And Anissa! That's my sister's name! It's always cool to find someone else with it and it's spelled the same too! So now I have to go check out your blog and make sure you're not my sister...she doesn't blog.

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, thanks, y'all! And if you don't feel like leaving an email here, feel free to click over to my profile and email me.

Anissa, thanks, again. I will get those pages to you when I get home from work this evening. Last night things just got busy around the house. My husband and I were making some pho for dinner and time got away from me.

Thanks so much, y'all!

Anissa said...

No worries. Pho sounds fabulous. Yum.

jessjordan said...

Third person is tough for me to get into. It's even tougher for me to write. Every time I do, it falls flat. What a great idea--drafting in first. You're a genius. :)