Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post by Christine Hughes


I am thrilled to have author Christine Hughes as my guest today. For all you readers and aspiring writers out there....you're in for a treat!
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So……Tense

Hello everyone! Thank you for having me on the blog today. I’m wrapping up my blog tour and am very excited to meet everyone on here. When I was first given this blog as a tour stop, I emailed Stacey and asked if there was anything she’d like to see. Apparently, Stacey took a quick stop over at my very neglected blog and saw a post I wrote about editing TORN, my YA being released by Black Opal Books in June. In that post I discussed the terms of my contract. Basically – “we love it BUT could you revise it into past tense?” That was the only real condition. They loved it, wanted to represent it but present tense wasn’t doing it for them. What was I gonna say? No? Hardly. I was being given the opportunity to have my book published, by a real publisher and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let a little thing like tense get in the way of my dreams!

Now, I must admit, for a split second a “what the hell?” voice popped into my head. Again with the whole I-wrote-it-so-I-know-best mantra that all of us have dealt with. But my commonsense quickly overshadowed the nay saying devil on my shoulder and I realized a few things: 1. They weren’t asking me to change the premise of the story. 2. They weren’t asking me to change the plot. And 3. They weren’t asking me to compromise my characters. So, obviously, changing the tense was a no-brainer for me. After all, they liked it but they just wanted to story to have happened before – not to be happening right now. Follow?

As a former English teacher, I know all about tense and keeping it consistent. So as I revised TORN into past tense a funny little thing dawned on me – I was line editing as I went. Ooh that sneaky editor! Not only was I revising the thing but also I had to do it line by line, which opened up my eyes to other inconsistent issues within the manuscript. Now, I thought that I had checked that manuscript cold. I thought I had fixed anything and everything wrong with it. Wrong. Line editing yourself is way harder than line editing someone else. I found that I would almost gloss over key points because I knew what I was trying to say. But just because I know what’s happening doesn’t mean the reader will know. Just because I know Sebastian’s physical characteristics doesn’t mean I’ve described him well for the reader. But I digress…this is about tense.

Here is a snippet of TORN in present tense, before revisions so bear with me:

“Run, Samantha. Don’t look back. Just run.

     With the focus of a predator, I run. Like my life depends on it and I know one day it will. Through the damp woods, hurdling over logs, through branches that tear at my skin, I run. My breath mingles with the crisp fall air though I feel no chill. I feel nothing but the pure and relentless adrenaline that pumps through my veins. With the sun rising and casting its beams in broken shafts through the trees, I run. With one single thought: I have to get there.”

Now here is the revised portion of that story:

“Run, Samantha. Don’t look back. Just run.

I repeated this mantra over and over again as I sprinted through the trees. Focused, like my life depended on it and knowing that one day it would, I ran. Through the damp woods, past branches that tore at my skin, and hurdling over logs, I ran. My breath mingled with the crisp fall air but I didn’t feel the cold. I felt nothing but the pure and relentless adrenaline that pumped through my veins. As the sun rose and cast its broken beams through the trees, I ran. With only a single thought: I have to get there.”

Now, I can see the difference. The flow is much better and with the story in past tense, I get a much better feel for what’s happening in the story. Tense can be a tricky friend. We, as writers, have in our heads what’s happening and when it’s happening. Unfortunately, especially in YA novels, past tense is what sells. This is obviously not a hard and fast rule but in general, past tense is where it’s at. But regardless of what you’re writing, the time frame you place your story (past, present or future), please comb through and keep your manuscript consistent. And for goodness sake, if you’re offered a contract and you’re asked to revise the MS first – just do it. Sure it may be time consuming - it took 2 weeks to change the tense in TORN – but trust your editors. I’m through first round edits right now and I can’t ell you how much better TORN has become. You’re just gonna have to read it for yourself!

TORN

When Samantha's father dies and she finds out he was an angel because of what he was protecting, she must join the fight between two groups of fallen angels, the Faithful and the Exiled, in a race to save humanity. In spite of the unforgivable betrayal of her best friend, the newly acknowledged love for her guardian angel, the face to face confrontation of the dark angel who killed her father and the growing need to allow darkness to take over her being, Samantha has been charged making the choice between fighting alongside the Faithful or succumbing to the darkness of the Exiled.

Author Bio:

A former Army brat, Christine Hughes moved quite often. She spent much of her time losing herself in books and creating stories about many of the people she'd met. Falling in love with literature was easy for her and she majored in English while attending college in New Jersey.
Not sure where her love of reading and writing fit, she became a middle school English teacher. After nine years of teaching others to appreciate literature, she decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. Now at home focusing on making writing her new career, she spends her time creating characters and plot points instead of grading papers.
Music has become an integral part of her writing process and without the proper play list, Hughes finds the words don't flow. At least a few times a week she can be found at the local Barnes & Noble with her Mac and headphones working on her next novel. Her YA novel Torn will be released by Black Opal Books in June 2012.

3 Interesting Facts:

1.    I attended 13 different schools, including college, due to my family’s military relocations.
2.    I met my husband when I was 14.
3.    My favorite book of all time is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
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I hope you all enjoyed Christine as much as I did! Be sure to visit Christine's website, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook too!

10 comments:

Empi said...

I prefer the past tense. It just flows better. In fact there are occasions when I've read in past tense even though the story is written in the present tense - don't ask. Great post, Christine!

Debbie Christiana said...

Nice post Christine. The second snippet in past tense does work better. I usually write in past tense, I don't know why. The only time I wrote in first person was for a short story.

Good luck,

Debbie

Christine Hughes said...

I don't know why I wrote it in present tense to begin with. It works so much better in the past! Ah well...Live and learn!

Anonymous said...

It's especially hard to write past tense when you're reading present tense, which is why I have a rule to never read William Gibson if I'm writing :)

-c.a.poe

L. R. Wright said...

Great post Christine! And you're right, I love the excerpt in past tense.

Firetulip said...

Loved your post, Christine. I found it strange that "Hunger Games" is written in present tense. I having hard time getting into story, but I'm thinking it must be YA thing. But I read a few YA novels and never in present tense. I'm seeing more and more of YA novels in present tense and I'm thinking it's due to the success of "The Hunger Games".

Christine Hughes said...

That's funny because Lauri told me that YA sells better in past tense, that's why she had me change it! I guess it's a bandwagon-y thing now!

Monicas Mom Musings said...

I'm always trying to be mindful of this sort of stuff in my writing. I think I need to hire a proof reader for my blog though, lol. I know I miss stuff.

Hardly Awkward said...

That was pretty interesting! How cool is it that tense changed the paragraph so much?!

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Good post, full of interesting points. I think it's far harder to make a present tense narrative flow and feel authentic - though that doesn't mean it can never be done. Good luck with the book!

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