NaNoCoDo #12 Begin at the Beginning

Oh no – November is fast approaching. Now is the time to think about types of writing style. First person or Third? Past tense or Present? And if Past – which one?

Simple answer – don’t get hung up on any of these details. Try telling the opening of your story out loud, as if you were telling a mate. Do you find yourself using third person? Then write in third. Do you talk in a past tense? Then write in that one.

If all else fails, just start writing. If you find you’ve changed point of view (PoV) after a couple of chapters, don’t panic. Just keep going.
You can sort it all out in an edit later – if the book’s worth polishing. I’ve advised a lot of writers to change their PoV and their stories have been much stronger after that edit!

Likewise character names. I don’t always know what my characters are called when I start a story, so I just give them a label I can change later. That’s what “Find – Replace” is for in your word processor. You could call them AAA, BBB, CCC and so on. I tend to name them according to their role in the tale – Donna was the daughter, Frank her father, Simon the son – and so on. Your characters will tell you if they want a different name, or you will come across one you think is perfect. Find – Replace. Simples!

I’ve known writers complain, “No-one reads novels written in the first person” and try to force their narrative into the third person, even if that fits like a shoe on the wrong foot.

Or “My heroine needs a really cool name” and then spend weeks trying to find the ideal name before they write a word.

My advice is always the same – just get to work writing your first draft. You can make those decisions later and edit what you’ve written.

We’re all procrastinators some of the time.

But writers write!

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3 Responses

  1. Wow there are people who truly believe nobody likes First Person? That is my favourite to both read and write in. I usually only write third person if the plot calls for it.

    I am the same with names. I come up with a generic name (Adam, David, etc) and then find a more fitting name as the character develops. I don’t personally believe the name has to describe their whole character, it just has to fit them. Like having a gangster who does Meth and calling him Giles just wouldn’t sound right, but perhaps calling him a street name would.

  2. I’m not sure how many people believe it’s a problem or whether it’s another form of procrastination. I like first person (it can be more convincing) a lot of the time, too. 🙂

  3. Someone needs to tell Jane Eyre to stop with the first person or she’ll never get any readers.

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