Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rambling: Writing and flow

So my NaNoWriMo novel is just past sixteen thousand words, and I'm learning more things.

One thing I've learned is that getting "flow" in writing is a very delicate process, and any way that I can indulge my preferences is worth trying.

Specifically - and this is vaguely embarrassing - most of my fiction writing has not been fiction writing, but online roleplaying. Most of my writing of dialog and movements and descriptions and situations and actions and emotions has been in software that's called a MUSH - a MultiUser Shared Hallucination. And when you write in a MUSH, you write in the present tense.

I don't like reading in the present tense in fiction one bit. It annoys me intensely. As a child, it completely ruined the Babar books for me.

But I've found that writing in the past tense feels unnatural. When I was roleplaying, I spent hundreds of hours crawling into the mind of my characters, seeing their world, and describing their words and actions while typing madly in the present tense.

It appears that whether I like it or not, those things - truly being inside the character and situation, and writing about it in the present tense - are glued together, perhaps irrevocably, in my mind.  When I started my novel, I found myself correcting the tense over and over and over, disrupting my writing every time. So I gave up, and gave myself permission to write in the present tense, and pages of much, much better writing came out of me. The story progressed without pushing, the character showed herself and revealed wonderful irrationality, the space that she was in came alive. It was an entirely different experience.

So it appears that for the foreseeable future, I'm stuck writing in the present tense, and correcting Every. Single. Sentence. afterward. But if I get that flow, I'll take it.

Photo: By Nick McPhee. Wikimedia Commons

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