Third Person? First Person? Crazy Person?

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When I started writing my first novel, I wrote in third person. I’d never really written fiction before, so I assumed that third person was the way to go–most books I read were in third person. It seemed to work out fine. I wasn’t quite sure about the rules for how to show thoughts in the third person, but I knew I’d figure it out.

In 2009 (one year into the long process of that book), I went to my first writing conference, and someone asked me if I’d thought about writing my book in first person.

Why not? I tried it. I changed every Alexis to I, every her to me, every them to us. It took FOREVER.

And, to my total surprise, the tone of the story changed. (This is probably a big DUH to everyone else, but it was a fresh insight to me.) It was easier to access Alexis’s emotions, and to make her seem real. The language became less formal. “Alexis was disoriented” changed into “I couldn’t figure out where I was.”

I wrote one chapter in first person, and sent both versions to some reader/writer friends, and almost every single person thought that the first person version was more effective.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after the first book, but with the second book, the exact same thing happened. Third person (to prove I could do it), a trial chapter in first person, comparison of both by friends, change to first person, language tightening, story getting better…

Lisa is grateful that everything she writes doesn’t have to be in third person.

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Reading My Manuscript Aloud

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I’ve been done with my first manuscript for a while, but recently went through some serious revisions after feedback from an editor. I had some recent full requests, and I needed to get it sent in! So, for my last step, I followed advice I’d been hearing, and read my manuscript out loud.

First of all, let me say it took a LONG TIME. I seriously underestimated the amount of time it would take. I thought a few hours one afternoon would do it. When I’d only gotten through 40 pages in 2 hours, I realized that audio books have lots of CDs for a reason. It took me a week or so, given that I only have snatches of time here and there.

I had a problem, though.  I almost never write at home. Too many distractions, especially child related. So I did a lot of the reading at Starbucks, inside a turtleneck, or with my back to everyone, or near someone with headphones on. I’m sure people wondered if I was totally crazy.

Here’s the most amazing thing. I’d thought my book was, finally, as good as I could possibly make it. But I made SO many changes when I read it to myself, almost all of it word choice. If I substituted a different word when I read aloud, I reread and usually changed it. I had changes on every page. I also had fun with the dialogue; since I know my characters so well, it was cool to act out their voices.

I also noticed a few tiny plot holes as I went, mostly sequential problems. I’d moved around a few chapters, but I still had a few inconsistencies.

I’m sure I’ll read my current WIP out loud, perhaps earlier this time, to get the dialogue as natural as possible.

Guess the experts know what they’re doing!