One of the most difficult decisions as a writer is deciding how to tell your story. Who’s eyes is the story being told through? I have gone back and forth with this numerous times over various stories and the perfect choice is never easy and, at times, your first choice may not be the best one. So how do you decide?
This was the question I asked myself when I began the daunting task of writing my first novel manuscript. Almost immediately I thought “First person, yes!” with competing view points from different characters to take readers on ride of guessing whom was the unreliable narrator. I spent close to year mapping out and writing that first draft, finishing with a champagne toast to myself for accomplishing the daunting task of “actually finishing it”. After a month or so, I sat down to edit with notes from trusted friends and came to the decision that it was all wrong. It never should have been in the first person. It felt like a crushing blow to my fragile little writer’s sense of self. It took me quite some time to face that manuscript again.
This was a major lesson for me and overcoming it was a necessary obstacle to knowing if I could cut it as a writer. Very simply, things are never perfect in your first go-round. Intellectually I knew this, but finally experiencing it after investing so much time in a project was something very different. And let me tell you, it was a hard, but necessary, truth to come to terms with. It also wasn’t the last time I encountered it. I’ve now written several stories that once I got halfway through, or even to the end, I realized “nope, this isn’t right”. That’s ok! It’s a good thing! It means you are understanding your characters and being true to your story.
I am still working on re-writing that novel manuscript in a third person narrative and the results are far better than I could have imagined. I’ve been able to broaden my characters and add a level of depth that I hadn’t been able to do before in the first person, knowing the whole time that I felt like I had one hand tied behind my back while trying to make the manuscript work. I wasn’t being true to myself on that first draft.
Writing is definitely hard, despite how romanticized the art, but like most things in life, if you are true to yourself and your work, it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it for ourselves by trying to force it. The key takeaway I want to impart is that if you feel like your chosen narrative isn’t working, or you are running into challenges conveying an idea, take a small scene and write it from a different angle or narrative. What does this do for your story? What new possibilities or paths does it open? Can you develop a stronger connection with your characters from this perspective?
Don’t let yourself feel trapped in something just because you’ve already put words to the page. For all you know, those words or sentences could have no place in this story but could be the seedlings for an entirely different project.
Have you run into this yourself? What did you learn from those roadblocks? How did you overcome them?
I hope this has helped you and keep at it, you can do this! Happy writing!