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This is the question a new writer posted on a forum recently. Here is my answer:
I write, read, research, edit, or critique every day. There is always one way or another to move my WIP (work in progress) forward. Sometimes it's by tinkering with my Scapple plotline, other times by sorting the chapters and creating a synopsis in my Scrivener project file. In between, I read authors I admire (Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje at the moment) to figure out how they create beautiful paragraphs. I also host a Writers' Group, (online at the moment), and update my two blogs, so that keeps me going every week. I have a deadline every Sunday at midnight by which time I must submit 3,000 words to my Scribophile group ready for a week of critiquing. And if I get stuck, there is always the Scribophile Forum to check. :)
I wrote my most recent book, a memoir, Atlantic Crossing in the present tense. This is not the most popular way to proceed. Most memoirs are written in the past tense. As in, "When I was a child, blah, blah, blah... and then I grew up to... blah, blah, blah."
For example, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen was written in the past tense. "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills," she begins.
But my choice of the present tense worked by immersing the reader in the story. And so, I decided to write my next book, Love and Loss, also in the present tense.
Today, browsing Amazon, I noticed several books by well known and successful authors were written in the present tense. Here they are:
Michael Ondaatje used the present tense in his memoir, Running In The Family. "What began it all was the bright bone of a dream I could hardly hold onto."
Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace is written in the present tense. "Out of the gravel, there are peonies growing."
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert begins, "I wish Giovanni would kiss me." Present tense.
Good to see.
While writing, you want to describe the setting, the characters and the action. But do you need to describe the inside of a bathroom? Probably not. Do you need to describe in detail the character brushing his teeth? Not likely. Everyone knows what the inside of a bathroom looks like and what brushing teeth is all about. But you might want to describe the character as he or she looks in the mirror. And even there, not every detail. Just enough to give the reader an idea of age, sex, level of attractiveness, and attitude of the character to themselves.
"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." - Anton Chekhov
"Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It's not just a question of how-to, you see; it's also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing." - Stephen King, On Writing
Only describe details if they're important to the story. Or in other words, your descriptions should be the length of a girl's skirt: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.
"The essential support and encouragement comes from within, arising out of the mad notion that your society needs to know what only you can tell."
Think about this, the next time you are having difficulty writing. Someone out there will benefit from reading your book.
Summer is over and many of us cruisers have returned back to Lefkas Marina for the winter. It also looks like we will be under another lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps not an ideal situation for starting a writers' group, but perhaps it's the best we can do given the circumstances.
The first meeting was held at the Porto Cafe in Lefkas Marina to introduce the members to each other and set up the format of future meetings. Since the lockdown begins in the next few days, we will have to meet virtually.
Since most of us use Facebook, I started a group called Lefkas Writers' Group for future meetings and posts.