Characters, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

My decision to quit writing

Last week, I had lunch with two other writers and came home totally depressed. I don’t blame them. They didn’t do or say anything directly to bottom me out. As I listened to them speak, I realized I felt disconnected from their world. That night I told my husband I’d decided to quit writing. He told me to sleep on it.

For four days I didn’t write a word, not even a blog post. Instead, I read. And I played a lot of games on Facebook. At first, that felt weird. I was anxious. By the end of the second day, I relaxed. It felt right not to be writing. I could just walk away. Let it go.

On the third day, I realized I’d returned to the way I’d told stories for most of my life— in my head. I continued with the story I’d been trying to force into a novel for months. It flowed without effort. I enjoyed it. But not until late on the fourth day did I actually “hear” the story, and when I did, I knew why I’d quit working on the version for publication.

Let’s back up a bit.

I’d been writing that novel in my head for months before I sat down to begin entering it into a Word file, so I wrote the first few chapters quickly. I opened with a short chapter in third person past tense  and then moved to first person present tense (FPPT) for the next chapters because that was the way I “heard” the main character’s voice. I would use three short third-past chapters spaced throughout the book, but the bulk would be in first-present.

Then I read that most current novels for the adult market are written in third-past, and a first person novel is hard to write well, and present tense is tiring or boring or some other negative for the reader. I questioned my wisdom. I revised. I changed all the chapters to the “best” person and tense. I pushed on.

I wrote a couple of chapters more, and then got distracted by other projects. I wrote another chapter of the novel, and then I worked on something more pressing. I wrote a paragraph or two for the novel, and then I got this great idea and worked it into a short story. I wrote a few words on the novel, and then … and then … and then I gave up on it.

I stopped writing the novel. I stopped writing. Period.

Why? Well, it seems if you stop listening to your character’s voice, eventually that character stops speaking to you. She says, “You don’t like the way I’m telling this story? Fine. Tell it without me.”

Silly me.

Do over. Stop being a sheep. Revise the revision. Start listening again. Write.

48 thoughts on “My decision to quit writing”

  1. What wisdom in your post Linda. THAT is IT. It has been my own problem as well, following all this bollocks about how we’re meant to write a novel, and how to tell it. Who cares, I’m going to tell it the way Julian tells it to me, however that is. You keep going. You write the story the way you want to write it. The minute we stop thinking, we write…


  2. You had me worried this morning when this post dropped into my inbox, Linda. I’m glad to hear it worked out.
    I like what you’ve done with the place. I guess I haven’t been here for a while. The blog looks great!



  3. I’ve also heard that present tense and first person are difficult to write well, but I don’t see it as a negative “don’t do it,” so much as a challenge, and a warning to take the utmost care.

    If first person present tense is how you “hear” the story in your head, then maybe that’s how that novel is supposed to be told.
    And if it is supposed to be told that way, the writing will show it.

    For me, writing first person or present tense would be “just to see if I can;” the only times I’ve used either one by accident was in a handful of notes in a story that was mostly third-past.

    By the way, I’ve never seen you around until WordPress suggested this post showed up in the list of “Related Links” on one of my blogs (which I still haven’t made up my mind about adding links to, since it’s my “job search/public resume” blog).
    And in spite of never reading your blog before, the title kind of freaked me out. ^^;
    I’ll believe I’ll be following your updates.


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, SQP. Sorry if my post title freaked you out, but I’m glad it brought you here. 🙂

      A challenge, yes. I’ve written short fiction in first present, but never a novel. It is how I hear it, so I have to try. It’s the doing it well that’s the challenge.


  4. I believe the rules of writing are like the rules of etiquette. If you use your soup spoon to eat steak, it’s only a problem if you made a mess because you didn’t know it wasn’t for that. Understand the rules so you can break them on dramatic and creative purpose. Use a fish knife to spread butter; go on, I dare you!


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