Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting some perspective

I like writing in the present tense. It gives a story a cinematic feel and it also helps me capture a moment in a way that shows, rather than tells. So I wrote most of my 87,000-word memoir in present tense. It worked, it flowed, but something was missing and I didn’t know what.

Thanks to some feedback at the Zurich Writers Workshop a couple of weeks ago, I now know exactly what was missing: the memoir needs more perspective. To achieve this, I am now going back and rewriting the chapters in the past tense in order to create more narrative distance and add a bit more reflection and cultural insight to the work.

It’s amazing that this little nugget of advice can make such a difference.

Any bits of advice you’ve learned at a class or workshop that you found immediately helpful?


  1. No, but thanks for yours. (What a lot of work to change it all!) I have never been comfortable with present tense writing, so now I feel vindicated.

  2. Editing...story of my life :-)

  3. Start with action-- such good advice. All of my favorite memoirs have started in a "moment" of some kind, and I was hooked.

  4. That's great advice too. Most good books seem to start in the middle of a moment.

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