So, everyone needs friends but it is especially important for writers and artists. Every once in a while we need a ninja kick to the brain and our friends are the best people to do this. Let me explain…
I was having a hard time with past vs. present tense with my trilogy-now-a-series. The reason for this being that it is written in present tense currently, but that makes some scenes particularly harsh. It makes the first scene of the first book incredibly harsh. I don’t want to put people off, but that really is where everything changes and the story begins. Also, now that it is a series and not a trilogy, I was missing my circular story telling (which is why the original was written in a combination of past and present.) Now, when I get truly frustrated, I have a few groups that I go to in order to stop being a nutcase.
I sent out questions to various writers and got a split. Some liked it better in past, some in present. I went to my writing group and they said that I should try it in past as that is more common and see what I think. They also suggested that I ask agents directly. I did. I love spec fic agents because their response was essentially that I should do whatever I want so long as it tells the story properly. As you can see, I was not getting definitive answers. So, then I do what I always do: I bothered my friends who are (mostly) not writers and are sometimes not even readers, but can get inside my head the best.
A few gave me their straight opinions and I love them for it, because they know I need data to make my decisions. One even asked around and gave me answers for other people too. They totally get my analytical, nerd self.
One, who is my sister by all but blood, asked me what the point was of the books. What was I trying to get across? What did I want people to get out of it? Why did I choose present tense? Why would I want to soften the edge of anything I write? She read the first paragraph of the first scene and understood that it was probably a bit intense for some people so she suggested that I write a prologue in past tense and the rest in present, which gives me back my circle and allows me to drop people into the head of a character without dropping them straight into the story. (This is what I’m leaning towards, though with the modification of using a different character’s perspective in each book, which would set the tone of each rather spectacularly, I think.)
One, an actor friend of mine who I’ve known for some 13+ years now, sent me an immediate text response because he knows how I get with my writing and I’d intrigued him. He started asking questions like is it from a character’s perspective or a general perspective? Is the character speaking from the grave? Are they alive? How much of a time frame does the book cover? What do I want the readers to know? How much do I want revealed? Do I want them to know that someone is about to die or do I want it to be a surprise? He completely nailed all of my questions for this. We’ve always been good at talking this stuff through because he gets how my brain works as an artistic person.
Another, who I’ve known since 3rd grade, said that she normally skips prologues but if I write now like I did back then, she’d read it and be interested in the prologue idea.
And the person who gave me the best ninja kick? Not a writer really. He works in production for film and movies. He wouldn’t consider himself particularly creative or artistic, but there is a side to him that sees things creatively. He sent me a series of one line texts that really was exactly what I needed. Here is part of what he said:
To be completely honest
Screw polling people
Writing, as with art, should be what you feel. Not what people like.
Do it how you feel it should be done, and people will relate to it.
I think that every writer should have friends like mine. Friends who give opinions. Friends who collect data. Friends who question. Friends who make suggestions. Friends who sit inside their head and give them the proper amount of ninja kicks to make them analyze, make a decision, and have the confidence to go with the decision.
So, my friends, I thank God for you all. You know which ones you are. The ones who may not always understand why something like past or present is so incredibly important to me but don’t think me nuts for obsessing over a tense. Or for rewriting the same books in so may different ways that there have been 36 previous drafts. Who accept all my ridiculousness with interest, open minds, and speedy replies. These are the friends who give me the ninja kicks that keep me going and are part of my family of choice.