Sunday, March 18, 2018

Past or Present Tense – The Pros and Cons


When creating any new piece of writing, selecting the tense in which to write is often something an author struggles with. Not long ago writing in the past tense was strongly favoured, and particularly with works of fiction it was very rare to find a novel written in the present tense.
In recent years however this has changed, and we have seen a shift to the present tense, with some writers believing that writing using the past tense makes the work itself seem old fashioned. 
What has made the past tense increasingly unpopular, and the present tense now the tense of choice?
It seems for most seasoned writers it is an instinctive and natural decision. However for many novice writers, this is just another choice to fret over. So it is important to understand what the advantages and disadvantages of each might be. Here we have broken these down so authors can make an informed choice when deciding which tense to write in.

Present tense creates immediacy in a way that the past tense cannot, it allows the reader to experience changes in the story and changes to its characters as they happen. This creates a bond between the reader and characters as they experience things together, simultaneously, therefore tension, suspense and drama can be more easily conveyed. Characters become more lifelike, tangible and real, and selecting the present tense when describing a character truly reflects their nature, drawing the reader closer to them.
The use of the present tense also reflects the overall theme of the book. If your book tells a story of events that happened to your main character in the past, but he or she tells them in the present tense, the effect can be very powerful. Simply by telling the events in this way, the author is hinting at a past that is very much part of the narrators present, and perhaps will always be so.

Using the present tense in your work also simplifies how we use the other tenses in the story. When writing in the past tense, it is likely that a writer will dip in and out of the other 12 tenses that we use in the English language. However using the present tense restricts our use of the others, with the majority of stories written in the present tense only using the simple present, the present progressive, and occasionally the simple past and simple future. Even then the majority of the writing is likely to be kept in the simple present. This simplicity can be used cleverly to the writers advantage, conveying clear ideas and allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story, with no confusion about when the events took place.

PRESENT TENSE - the cons
If employing the present tense in our writing we become restricted with how we can describe time. Trying to manipulate a sequence of events or change the chronological order will be difficult and potentially confusing to the reader. The point of the present tense is to tell a series of events as they unfold. If you don’t want to evoke the feeling that what you are writing is happening 'now', then the present tense is not a good choice. 
Building multi-layered characters is more of a challenge if you use the present tense. Because you can no longer influence the order of events or the duration, it is difficult to put across the characters own personal experience of time, how they understand the past, and how it has influenced them. The more context we have for a character, the more we are able to understand them, and their motivations for why they are a certain way now. Without the kind of context flashbacks into the past give the reader, there is a risk of the characters coming across as tediously uncomplicated.
Suspense is harder to convey with a story written in the present tense. The protagonists of a present tense story don’t have any idea what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, and subsequently, neither does the reader. Tension and suspense come from having that knowledge, knowing that something is about to happen, whether the protagonist is aware of it or not.
Finally, if we are not careful, use of the present tense can cause us to be sloppy. While the past tense allows us to write selectively, and only include, necessary, plot advancing details in the work. Using the present tense more naturally encourages inclusion of mundane, irrelevant details, because such events would happen in a natural sequence of time.
Before beginning any work it is worth thinking about which tense will best suit your story. Each have their own advantages which, if used cleverly, could enhance your work. Whatever you do, make sure you pick wisely as it is certainly not an easy job to go back and change when you are half way through!

I've always been compelled to write in the past tense, since many books I have read have been written as such. Nearly every book I read as a child is in the past tense and when I felt like writing a story myself then, it just seemed natural to write in the past tense. Writing in past tense just seems to come naturally to me and likely to many writers.

Since I'm writing a memoir, it only seemed natural to write in past tense since much of which is being written about was in fact in the past 🙂  One has to be careful though when including information something that is or might still be true today--that portion must be written in the present. From my story:
This was my earliest memory of learning generic and trade names of medications that contain the letters X, Y or Z somewhere in their name. Generic names with more syllables in their names than their trade name counterparts have in theirs. ...
All the facts mentioned are still true. When editing this part for who knows how many times, I noticed that I had written "contained"  instead of "contain." Things like this need to be watched out for.

I still have not been compelled to write in the present tense, as writing in the past still seems to come naturally. Things get to be habits, and this has become one for me. 

When I began writing a diary novel, I wasn't sure whether to write past or present, though writing in past just happened out of habit. It's still in the preliminary stages, so deciding whether to use present or past tense is still in the air.

Perhaps attempting to write in present tense at last once will be one way to get me out of my writing comfort zone. Everyone will always feel compelled to write in the tense that they prefer or that they do out of habit. It's all a matter of preference.

Friday, March 16, 2018

How to Work Through Pain


I’m not talking about physical pain because with enough time, you can overcome physical pain. I’m talking about the mental pain of going out there in the world and trying to accomplish your dreams. 
The normal path isn’t to go after your dreams, it’s working for the man and being grateful you get a few weeks off for vacation. There are a select few of people in the world who want more than that and if you’re reading this article, you’re one of those people. 
Pain comes in many forms, the most notable being the pain of failure. No one wants to fail, but it’s a must on your journey. There will be more than one instance in which you’ll encounter failure. 
When you face the pain of failure, you have two options. You can let the pain deter you from going forward or you can work on taking massive action.
It’s not so much that taking massive action heals your pain, it’s that it takes your mind off the pain you’re dealing with. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to give yourself idle time because when you give yourself idle time that’s when you really think about all the pain you’re in. 
No matter how many failures you’ve experienced or how much pain you’re dealing with, never give up on your dreams. When you make the conscious decision to give up, you’re going to face more pain than you could’ve ever imagined, the pain of regret. 
When you wake up in the morning, don’t think about everything that’s gone wrong in your life.  Start the process of taking action. It’s not going to be easy, but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile. 
Put your head down and keep working. One day you’ll look back on the pain you went through and you’ll be thankful. You’ll be thankful because it will have made you into the person you are today!

I agree, in that writing about depression is a form of pain I have had to work through to get to where I have gotten so far. Some people might find it hard to write about such a subject, though there have been many who have done so. Depression memoirs have proliferated over the last two or three decades. I almost didn't think it was a good idea for me to do one, since so many existed already, and because I was heavily inspired by the one that pout the emphasis on Prozac, something I seemed to want to do. It was for that reason that I felt there already was a definitive book on the subject. I had to work through some pain to get put of that frame of mind and do what I had set out to do. And I did just that. 

Though I haven't ben there yet, I know that I can expect some rejection of my work, especially the first time I try to submit it to anyone. Nearly everyone has faced this with their initial writing, so I know to expect it myself.  I feel I'm already prepared for this.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Skills Does a Good Writer Need?


When it comes to being a successful writer, it’s about so much more than merely putting pen to paper. There are so many skills that a writer needs to employ, not only to write well, but also to cope with the stresses and pressures of the job.
Working on all your skills will keep you being the very best you can be, so let’s take a look at the strengths and skills every writer needs, and how we can work on them to become better, more productive and proficient at what we do.

Communication skills
Being able to openly express your ideas is what being a writer is all about. Of course, it is important to be able to do so on paper. However, having the ability to speak about your ideas, to summarise them succinctly and also listen to feedback from others, and ask the right questions is also so useful when it comes to realising your writing vision.

Observation and detail
Writers need to be super observant. They need to have their eyes wide open at all times and pay attention to the little details of things. Being observant is not just about looking around you, however, it’s also noticing the way people behave, interact and react to one another and the ability to understand and tune into their motivations for doing so. Being a great observer of the world will help you develop your characters and create your own fictional worlds in an authentic and exciting way.

Problem Solving
All writers come up against various problems as they work, and being a good problem solver is so important. You need to be able to analyse your ideas, as well as be impartial and notice the strengths and weaknesses in your text and come up with workable solutions to help your characters overcome obstacles and improve your writing as a whole.

Patience and calm
Writing is all about playing the long game. Not only can it take a long time to pull together a great piece of work, but waiting to hear back from publishers takes ages too. Being calm and positive about your writing, even in the face of rejection will also keep you on the right track and minimize time spent wallowing!

Writers need to be brave; they need to take risks, to step outside their comfort zone and be okay with launching themselves into the unknown. Playing it safe just doesn’t work for writers so make sure you always write with courage!

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation skills
On a more practical note, writers should always work to improve their spelling, grammar and punctuation. Doing so will enable them to craft better prose from the outset and reduce time spent editing too.

Research skills
An excellent piece of writing usually requires a lot of research. Being a good researcher takes practice. You need to know where to find information, the right questions to ask and which bits of what you have learnt to include in your story to make it more believable. Researching is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to all writers, but the more you do, the better you will become.

When it comes to being a good writer, it’s all about dedication and practice. If you want to be a professional and productive writer, it is essential that you understand what skills you need, and keep working on them to continually improve.

What skills do you think makes a good writer? Let us know!

I agree on the length of time taken to write a great piece of work, as it has been more than two years now since beginning. And I still don't know how much further I can go, but time will tell.
Spelling, grammar and punctuation are one thing I have been careful about. Too often I see people failing to insert commas where they are needed.When seeing this, I always get reminded of a meme I have seen online that says "Punctuation saves lives," illustrating the difference between saying "Let's eat Bob," and "Let's eat, Bob." I'd said in another post that I wasn't sure whether to use dashes or commas to offset info in cases such as this:
...They acted as if I’d missed the event of the year, when all I missed was one of those movies that—like The Wizard of OzIt’s a Wonderful Life and The Ten Commandments—comes on TV every single year. ...
But I still manage to find punctuation mistakes each time I look over what I have written. Everyone still does it, but it's good to know that you have made such a mistake the looking over what you have written.

I did some research on depression and antidepressants to to include in my memoir, especially on dysthymia, which many people still aren't aware of. Even many of the people who attend the mental health center with me are among  those not in the know, as most of them have either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, both of which are much more well-known. Few also seem to know about cyclothymia, considered a milder variant of bipolar disorder.  I have yet to meet anyone with that form of depression. Before my dysthymia diagnosis, I'd had little to no knowledge of that form of depression. I was certain I might have bipolar  disorder or possibly even cyclothymia, from what I'd read about that one. I knew it would be important to explain each of these for the reader who may have little to no knowledge of these terms. 

When I began the memoir, it seemed too short for a book, so I began doing more details to each subject I had chosen as the topic of each chapter. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to remember and include. Some I might not have wanted to include at first, but eventually decided t do so. I see this as being brave about doing so, and about good communication written  on the page.

Trying to get others to read my stuff is another thing I have trying to get braver about. It's been hard finding people who want to read my work. 

How do these work for you?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writer’s Anxiety Bingo

Found this on this site:

I still haven't faced or even found an editor or an agent, but I know that either of them saying noir always a possibility. I've only faced a handful of the things listed, but just reading what is on the board is enough to make me feel "Writer's Anxiety." 

Finding a title for the diary I have been working on has been hard, though I have come up with titles for each individual entry. It took me a while before I came up with a title for the memoir, but before then, I had already come up with titles for each chapter. 

I had wondered if writing a memoir was still a good idea when I first came up with the idea more than two years ago, and for a while I wondered if the genre was in fact still viable. Also, I felt I what I wanted to say was too similar to what had already been written. Now I'm waiting to see if any new books come out on the same topic. But does that mean I can't eventually publish mine? I now know that that is not true.

Deciding when to come to "the end" on my other work in progress has been a hard one. 

And this is just scratching the surface of how I get writer's anxiety. How many of these do you have?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Back to Editing

Unable to get to sleep last night, I picked up my most recent print-out of my memoir and began looking over it in bed. I had promised myself I'd get back to it soon and that was when I did it. I only got through the prologue and the first two chapters until I got too tired to do any more, but will pick up sometime today, again down as much as I can. And type what I have written in the margins of the current print--out.

It's amazing how much you can miss each time you look over what you have written. I found several errors that I had missed previously. And how much you want to add. It has been some time since I last looked it over. but many have said that waiting a while and then looking at something with fresh eyes is good to do. This is exactly what I have done. 

I still ask myself how much longer can the story go on? I've seen books of this sort in various lengths. 

And as for what else i have been working on--I'm still questioning how much longer I can make that one, or possibly write a second book for that one. I'm also still deciding if I want to put that story on Wattpad. Who knows who might see it there. Several Wattpad authors have had their on the site books published.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You'll Ever Have Time to Read

Just the other day I came across this link, via this blog.   From the link:

Why you need an "antilibrary"

That's the argument author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes in his bestseller The Black Swan. Perpetually fascinating blog Brain Pickings dug up and highlighted the section in a particularly lovely post. Taleb kicks off his musings with an anecdote about the legendary library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a jaw-dropping 30,000 volumes.
Did Eco actually read all those books? Of course not, but that wasn't the point of surrounding himself with so much potential but as-yet-unrealized knowledge. By providing a constant reminder of all the things he didn't know, Eco's library kept him intellectually hungry and perpetually curious. An ever growing collection of books you haven't yet read can do the same for you, Taleb writes:
A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations - the vast quantity of things you don't know, half know, or will one day realize you're wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself towards the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning.
"People don't walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it's the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did," Taleb claims.
Why? Perhaps because it is a well known psychological fact that is the most incompetent who are the most confident of their abilities and the most intelligent who are full of doubt. (Really, it's called the Dunning-Kruger effect). It's equally well established that the more readily admit you don't know things, the faster you learn.
So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven't read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you're way ahead of the vast majority of other people.

I just had to comment, being that this is very true of me. I have so many books on my shelves, yet I still keep borrowing ones from the library, no doubt since they are free and most of the book challenges I have joined require reading books I don't actually have at home. I rarely ever buy audiobooks, even used ones, as I rarely seem to find used ones for sale. Picture books and graphic novels are rare buys also. Actually, I don't think I have ever bought either one. For picture books, I mostly just read them either at the library or even at the store, since they are always so short anyway.

But even as I keep borrowing from the library, I keep telling myself I need to read some of the books I have at home, since they're already there. I know they won't go bad, and there is no time limit on these. But as they year began, I did get around to reading some of the ones I have at home. I hope to get some done his month as well, despite the stack of books I currently have out from the library.

But it isn't just the library where I borrow books from. The center where I work and attend has a selection of books that clients are allowed to borrow, with no time limits. I currently have two of these books out. Many of these books have been borrowed by clients who rarely show up and the books in question have been out for some time now. It's unlikely these books will ever come back. But I will make my best effort to read those I have out right now.  One good thing about being able to borrow them without a time limit.

Also, the county library has introduced Zip Books, allowing library patrons to request books not already t the library. I just tried this for the first time and received the book I requested yesterday. Books requested by Zip Books must be returned it the library within three weeks of receiving them by mail. There are several other books I now want to request this way.This is another good way to get books free.