Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revision Update: First Person POV

REVISION UPDATE
Some of you may have already heard via Twitter or Facebook. For my latest revision, my agent Kelly Sonnack had me switch my entire SHAPERS novel from third to first person. Why? She wasn't connecting to the main character, feeling quite close enough. I had a rather deep third viewpoint going on, but the narrative was getting bumbled in with my MC's thoughts/inner dialogue. Maybe I'm a first person writer in a third person disguise?

CH-CH-CHANGES…
Yes, I balked at first. Big, monstrous groan. I hate first person--or so I thought. At Kelly's request, I experimented with Chapter 1 in first person and sent it to her. Lo and behold, it sounded pretty decent. Like it was MEANT to be that way. Wow. We both agreed.

Not only that, I discovered that the story "wanted" to be in present tense.

Even though I hate present tense. Or at least I thought I did…

THE PROCESS
A lot of tedious work was involved with the POV (point of view) and verb tense changeover. All the "Morgans" had to be changed to "I" or "me." Some "she" words also had to be changed to "I"--but not all of them, since there were other female characters in the novel. Past tense verbs like "walked" had to be changed to "walk."

But I couldn't just do a simple Find/Replace All for the POV changes. No. That would've been too easy. I had to look at all the instances one by one and click Replace if it applied. Sigh. Still, it was faster than if I'd typed in the changes by hand.

In changing to first person, I realized there were places where Morgan had more to say, or where she needed to say it differently. It wasn't merely a matter of word swapping, since first person comes from a different angle, a closer scrutiny and experience. I also had to make the entire narrative in Morgan's voice and vocabulary. It was a really interesting process.

THIRD versus FIRST POV
Kelly mentioned that there are editors out there who won't even look at a manuscript unless it's written in first person. I didn't know that. Did you?

Many popular and well-known books published today are written from a first person point of view. DIVERGENT. HUNGER GAMES. TWILIGHT. SHIVER (the latter with a dual 1st person point of view, even).

So now that I've changed SHAPERS over to first person, I'm eyeing my dystopian WIP…and I think that book "wants" to be in first person too. But past tense seems to be working for that book (whew, less work). It feels a bit odd for me to think like an "I" in some places, though, since that main character is male--i.e. the romantic scenes!


YOUR TURN
Is your current novel written in first or third POV? Which do you prefer?
Do you ever write in present tense?
Have you ever written a first person POV novel in past tense?
What are other well-known MG/YA books written in first person?

36 comments:

  1. Interesting post. I can't imagine changing over from one tense to another. That's a hard job to undertake.

    I don't write MG/YA, but I am considering doing one. Thanks for the tip on first person.

    My current novel is written in third...but my first novel is written in first person - past tense. I liked writing in first person better.

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  2. Great post.

    All the stuff I've written has been in first person. My previous project was first person-present tense. This new one is past tense. I find I relate to the character, and find their voice, much quicker in first person than anything else.

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  3. I think the story has to speak for itself. SOmething you don't know until it's half written that is in the wrong voice, but once you got it, it's like you said, Wow

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  4. This is interesting, and wow, from third to first to me that's tough. I went from past to present tense, but it was still first person and that was tedious. I feel more comfortable in that POV and I tend to gravitate towards multiples.
    Good luck with the change over and your book.

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  5. My present WIP is in first person, although the one before it was in close third. Another writing friend of mine was advised to change from 3rd to 1st by her agent, and she just finished that rewrite. I think it would be hard to switch after months of viewing the MC in a different pov, but my friend felt it strengthened the novel.

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  6. Wow! It is a lot of work to change things from first to third, even more to change from past to present tense. My first novel is in 3rd past and it works that way. The second novel I wrote in 3rd and realized it has to be 1st and yes, it is past tense. I don't mind reading in present too much, but I prefer writing in past. Of course, if something read better in first, I would have to change it. Some stories dictate different things and you just have to go with it.

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  7. We have discussed this a lot in our critique group; most of us find writing in first person a bit uncomfortable. However, there is no doubt about the fact that it is easier for the reader to connnect to your MC in first person. I applaud you on transitioning from third person to first person - a lot of work!!!!!!!

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  8. Wow! That is a challenge. I'm a third person fan, but I write romance and usually that's what they call for. I might fall on my face if told to switch! But I would. ;)

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  9. I prefer third person because I always feel like first has such a narrow point of view. In fact, I'm currently in the process of changing over my first person chapters to third and it's actually better - at least according to my cp. That said, altho the outline of my shiny new toy is in third, the few pages I've written are in first person present, which I've never done before. I do however think it's ridiculous - and limiting - for an agent to refuse to look at something unless it's written in first/present and I hope it's not true.

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  10. I don't know of many YA books written in third person--it's more typical of MG and for that reason always feels young to me. I think developmentally teens like to have immersion experiences, to ride inside someone's head instead of following at a distance.

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  11. I changed my book from third to first. It definitely helped me connect to my main MC better.

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  12. Oh wow, this sounds like it was a challenge but one that's definitely going to pay off! I write in first person and am really pretty comfortable doing that, but have written in 3rd before. I agree though, it can cause a distance between the reader and the MC. Congrats on finishing!

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  13. I worry a lot about POV when I start a book, because I get really stressed that I'll change my mind halfway through. I've done it before, too... what a chore. But it's worth it if the story works better that way.

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  14. When I write in present tense I tend to slip back into past. Even writing a novel in present tense I had slip ups.

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  15. I imagine that you did balk when your agent made those suggestions. I know I need a good twenty-four hours to digest some revision ideas. But it sounds like your novel will be much improved by the changes you're making and that you've grown as a writer, too. Nice!

    I tend to write in first person. I really do prefer it.

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  16. Great post. I have a friend who changed their book from 3rd to 1st also. Seems like a challenge!

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  17. My current WIP is first person, present tense; before I started it I had always written in past tense, and often third person, so it's an interesting change.

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  18. Really? Some agents won't look at it unless it's in first person? Eek! As you know, my finished manuscript is in third person. My next novel will be in first person though. It seems to be working well so far.

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  19. I think along with doing an outline (panster/plotter debate) its important to know how connected a writer/author wants the reader to feel about their characters, for YA I think first pov it works well because maybe the target audience connects with the characters better.

    Altough I imagine sometimes how more amazing TWILIGHT would be if it was written in third, to get Edward perspective, or to get president Snow anxiety knowing that Katniss was heading for him, (HUNGER GAMES)

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  20. That's such a huge undertaking. I can't even imagine. I wasn't aware that first person was so desirable these days. Good thing my current project is first person present!

    My first book was third POV and I don't know that it ever really worked. Hard as I tried, my character couldn't make that jump into feeling human.

    Then I did a sequel which was written in first person and all of a sudden everything clicked. It was so much easier to write! All the thoughts and perceptions, prejudices and oddities just came pouring out onto the page. (And that was a male character!)

    So, I've stuck with first person. Might go back one day, but this works for now. :)

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  21. Interesting! I've heard that too, and I've thought about changing The Crystal Sword from third to first, because I stay in the main character's head the whole time anyway. I'm not sure though, and I am planning my next NaNo novel (which is a sequel to The Crystal Sword) in third person - switching multiple viewpoints.

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  22. I wrote my first book in first person then discovered I was too involved with it. When I changed it to third person it transformed from crap to fantastic. I think third person leaves room for richer writing and for playing with multiple characters. I had no cluer there are some editors who don't like it. Seems silly. It should be based on the story and not the POV. :)

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  23. OMG--I went through this same thing with my last novel (and agent)! Absolutely grueling and quite interesting at the same time!! I like writing in both first and third but haven't tried present tense yet! I have also heard some editors say they are sick to death of first and want third--so I guess it all depends, huh?

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  24. Almost every YA I pick up is in first person, and I try to read one a week. Kimberly Dertling did a good 3rd person in The Body Finder series and she's the only one I can think of that I've read lately in 3rd person.

    My current WIP is 1st person present tense. My last WIP first person from two separate characters. The one before that 1st person AND 3rd person.

    Best of luck with your revisions! :)

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  25. Wow, Carol! Glad you were able to work through all the changes. Sounds scary and exciting!

    Thank you for this post and great advice. I'll keep this in mind, considering my current WIP is third person.

    It took me a long time to get used to reading first person. Guess I should get used to writing that way, too.

    Good luck with the rest of your revisions!

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  26. Whoa, that sounds like so much work. Congrats on tackling the challenge!

    I love first person present tense and plan to write my next wip that way during NaNo.

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  27. Best of luck with your WIP! Great post!
    2 of my stories have been published in second person, present tense. I've struggled with modes of narrative and from experience it is really up to the story. Do what is best for your story.

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  28. Great post! Best of luck with all the ch-ch-changes.

    My current is in 3rd person. Very close 3rd. We'll see if that ends up working...

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  29. I only write in third person. Sticking to either present or past tense is a challenge though.

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  30. My current work in progress is first person present tense, but I admire third-person writers.

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  31. I changed my book from 3rd to 1st, and then present tense, so I totally get where you are coming from. :)

    Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth is present tense, and well done. :)

    Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse

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  32. An agent friend told me the same thing...I changed to POV on my chapter book. Good luck with your revisions. (The changes made my story better.)

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  33. I'm biased because all I write is first person POV!

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  34. I write in first person POV, but close third isn't much different. As for tense, I wrote a novel in present tense once. I assume you mean, "I run toward the ocean," instead of "I ran toward the ocean." It was interesting and fun, but I prefer past tense.

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  35. Wow, you get to switch the whole thing? Lucky :) That's good that you found a better fit though.

    I write first person past tense. That's how I connect with the book. And I think in YA it's especially important to connect emotionally, which is hard to pull of in third. I've never thought about present tense, but that's mostly because I don't feel comfortable writing that way yet.

    Good luck with the revisions!

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  36. Wow, this is so interesting. I wrote my first (middle grade) novel in close third, past tense. But my second I'm writing in first person present tense, and the voice feels incredibly alive and urgent. BTW, my critique partner also changed her entire ms from third to first person with great results -- it absolutely made the ms. zing! I hope it works out just that well for you.

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