Things Are Getting Tense

Verb tense that is.

*insert rim shot here*

Of all the books I’ve written, there’s one thing that’s remained the same: the tense. I’ve used past tense for all of them, no matter whether writing in first- or third-person narration.

There’s something about past tense that feels more natural to me to tell a story. After all, it’s how we usually recount our day (today I had coffee, I got the kids ready for school, and I worked on Halloween costumes).

It’s especially good if you’re the kind of writer that breaks the fourth wall. Past tense worked best for my Urban Fantasy, because my narrator likes to throw in asides, as if she’s retelling the story for the reader.

But for this new YA I’m working on, I’ve decided to try something different: present tense.

There’s something more immediate about writing in present tense. More urgent. It’s good for action-filled stories (like The Hunger Games). It’s the tense we use for synopses, and recounting exciting movies (“…and then Wonder Woman drops her cloak and climbs out of the trench and crosses No-Man’s Land!”)

Present tense can also add a sense of suspense. In a story told in first-person past tense almost always ends with the MC surviving (after all, they wouldn’t be able to tell the the story, if they didn’t). But with present tense, there’s no guarantees, especially if there are multiple narrators.

Of course, it’s not been easy sailing. At least once a chapter I realize I’ve slipped into the more familiar past tense and have to go back and correct my mistakes (I’m sure I’ll find even more when I actually come back and edit thoroughly).

Even with that, though, I’m loving the change.

So what do you think? What’s your favorite tense to write in? What about read? Does the style of narration (first- vs third-person) affect your opinion? Let me know in the comments.

Struggling

Let’s face it, this whole year (well, at least from March onwards) has been been a struggle.

Writing in the first half of the pandemic was basically impossible for me. My brain was stressed past the max, and absolutely refused to string words together in any meaningful way.

Eventually the stress went down (not coincidentally along with the local caseload), and writing resumed. I finished revising my Adult Urban Fantasy and started querying it.

But ever since school re-started, it’s been a real struggle to get words down.

I’m used to writing in silence, but these days that’s hard to come by. While my eleven-year-old spends most of her day up in her room, working on her own, my nine-year-olds are a different story.

The twins share a video feed and it’s constantly running in the background so I can keep half an ear out and listen to instructions for when they’ve stopped paying attention (much easier than sending emails to the teacher to clarify like I did the first few days). Add the times I’m needed to play tech support and help them with spelling, and I’m not getting much uninterrupted time at all.

But it’s more than just the distractions.

It’s also trying to squeeze in time to do regular chores (not to mention the extra deeper-clean ones I’ve been trying to tick off my list), including making hot meals ready for the minute class ends, so we can eat in the limited time they get for break (don’t get me wrong, I’m loving not having to pack lunches, but there’s definitely more of a time crunch on this new method).

Speaking of which: *leaves to go heat up leftovers for lunch*

*Returns an hour later*

Where was I? Right, having trouble getting writing done.

On top of all of that, there’s the stress of trying to make my kids happy in this dumpster fire of a year. There’s so much we have to say no to (Thanksgiving with their grandparents, in-person school, Trick-or-Treating, among the latest) that I’m doing my best to say yes to everything that we *can* do.

Which means if someone requests a special meal, or baked treat, I’ll do my best to get it done, even if it means sacrificing multiple hours of what should be writing time.

And yet somehow I can’t seem forgive myself for not getting enough writing done. I feel like a failure because the words aren’t coming.

I’m not giving up. But I’ll probably have to start trying to write in the mornings again, before my kids get up (even if that eats into my only peaceful alone time). Because it’s really hard to string together words when half my brain is listening to a grade four math lesson.

What about you? Are you having trouble writing or breezing along as usual? Let me know in the comments.

Halloween 2020

As with everything else this year, Halloween is going to look a little different. Our city cancelled Trick or Treating over a month ago, we’re not doing our usual party (sob!), and since our kids are in remote school, they don’t even get to dress up for class.

However, we’re not letting it dampen our spirits. Right now our plan is to wander our neighbourhood in costume before coming home for a candy scavenger hunt inside the house.

Depending on the situation in our city (and the weather), we may also hang candy from our tree (which is right beside the street) with a sign that says “Trick or Tree!”

If you’re still trying to figure out a costume, here are some pandemic-friendly suggestions I came up with, whether you need a costume for your child for in-person school, or one for yourself for a distanced Halloween celebration. Here are 10+ costumes that cover your face (for optimal protection, add a second layer of fabric over the mouth and nose, or wear a cloth or disposable mask under a helmet.).

Spiderman/SpiderGwen/Miles Morales/Any Spider-person from Into the SpiderVerse (except Peni Parker, although you could go as her robot, I guess)

Rorshach from Watchmen

Deadpool

Iron Man and/or Rescue

The Winter Soldier (from Marvel comics & movies)

Lego Ninjago Characters (including Master Wu, if you hide a mask under his beard)

The Mandalorian/a Mandalorian/Boba Fett (Star Wars universe)

Star Wars baddies (Darth Vader/Kylo Ren/Captain Phasma)

Shadowweaver from She-Ra (new or old)

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come from A Christmas Carol (this photo from Muppet’s Christmas Carol)

Astronaut

Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes

Have suggestions to add to the list? Put them in the comments.

Whatever you choose to do this Halloween, I hope you do it safely and have boatloads of fun!

Feeling Thankful

As you may or may not know, this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. So, in the spirit of that, and because this year’s been such a dumpster fire, I thought I’d make a list of things I’m thankful for (in no particular order).

(Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out bullet points on this new awful system, so apologies for the messy layout.)

This year I am thankful:

-for my family’s health

-for my husband (and his support, even though we don’t always agree on things)

-for my kids (I’m thankful they’re old enough to understand what’s going on, young enough I can still help with schoolwork, that they play well with each other, and have each other to socialize with, and that they’re just coping so well with all the awfulness going on)

-that my husband’s job allows him to work from home

-that we can remote school our kids

-for my kids’ teachers

-to be querying again (well, not that I *have* to, but that I finished another project and am able to)

-for the internet (seriously, can you imagine what this pandemic would’ve been like 30 years ago? No Zoom, no Netflix, no easy goods ordering & delivery)

-for reconnecting with my friends (the one good thing to come out of this pandemic has been establishing virtual girls’ nights every other Friday with my best friends of 30-odd years)

-for managing to sneak in a vacation in January before the pandemic shut everything down

-for chocolate (seriously, I don’t think I’d have got through the past few months without it)

And for a bunch of other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Hope you have an excellent (and safe) Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, and just a safe and happy weekend if you don’t.

October Update

Ok, so apparently WordPress updated their system, and I’m having trouble figuring out the new features, so hopefully this post ends up legible (and if anyone knows how to do bullet points in the new system, please let me know in the comments!)

Anyway.

Remote school has officially started for my kids, so that’s where most of my time has been going lately. There’s been a bit of a learning curve for all of us, but I’m starting to figure out when I can try and write.

The best and biggest news is that I actually started on my WiP! (*Insert Muppet flail here*)

It’s definitely going slower than usual (partly because I’m getting constantly interrupted with requests for help from my kids). But this is the new normal, and I just have to adjust to it.

The other weird thing is that this is the first WiP I’ve worked on where I didn’t know going in what my first scene was going to be. So far I’ve written two or three different intro scenes, and none of them are grabbing me. I have a rough idea of what I want in the first scene (establish the MC’s character, her wants, and intro the magical/mysterious feature – so people know it’s a fantasy novel going in).

This is throwing me off more than it should, but I can’t help it. Normally when I write, the first scene is already in my head. And in all the books I’ve written, I don’t think I’ve ever changed that first scene (beyond minor tweaks). Now I’m all over the place.

I’m probably going to write even more versions of an intro scene before I decide on something. Either that or skip it completely and move on to a future scene (although that way can result in lots of rewrites if I miss something essential.)

Anyway. That’s most of my update. Life these days is essentially figuring a way to work around my kids’ school schedules, and trying to stay safe from the ever-rising Covid cases in our city.

I haven’t been reading much this month, either, although I will say, there’s been a marked increase in the quality of the books I’ve been reading.

September Reading Stats

-YA Fantasy (3)

-YA Contemporary (1)

-YA Historical Mystery (1)

-Adult Urban Fantasy (2)

September Total: 7

Year-To-Date: 123 (+11 Re-Reads)