In the last couple weeks I've changed my first middle grade novel from third person to first person. Here are the reasons why?
1. The main character was calling for it.
2. The story was calling for it.
3. I've spend the last *6 years* writing this story the wrong way and didn't know it until now.
Should I have several other novels written by now? Probably. But during that time (my post-college 20s) I was soaking up anything and everything I could find about writing, including books, books, books. In life you never stop learning, but I believe this stage, the early years, is most critical for writers. I call it "The Sponge Years."
The Sponge Years (chronologically deciphered--I like both of those words, so I used them):
1. A green writer sets out to read and take in knowledge and craft and strategies anyone who might know what they're talking about has to offer.
(Let me intervene and say that this writer I speak of, whoever it may be, should receive a gold star, the tiny kind from elementary school, for being a knowledge seeker and wanting to learn. Not everyone wants to learn, but those who do gain more knowledge than others, which in turn makes you smarter, which in another turn causes you to know more random stuff like the difference between a Progress and Impediment Scene or the reproductive cycle of a duckbill platypus).
2. Said writer must decipher good from bad and absorb that which benefits himself. The best place to start is overlapping information, which you hear from several different sources. Usually that kind of info has merit. Not always, but most of the time. Unfortunately, The Sponge Years, as happened to me, can leave you with the din of know-it-alls--from magazines to bookstores to websites--telling you how to write, what to write, when to write, and even where to write.
3. Throw it all out the window. Yes, chuck it like a gum wrapper when no one is looking (I would never do that, Mother Earth).
4. Sit (or stand if you're weird) and start writing. On a legal pad, in a journal, on a laptop, a desktop, a droptop, it doesn't matter. Tell a story you want to tell. Don't let anyone stand in your way and tell you it sucks (unless it really sucks, in that case don't show your work to anyone for five years, maybe ten, depending how fast you learn or how quickly you become better).
5. Read. Write. Revise. Read more. Write more. Revise more. Learn more.
6. Get involved. Web-based communities, conferences, librarians, fellow writerships (made that word up), take a class or two, attend lectures, author panels, you get the hint.
So there it is peeps, The Sponge Years. Take them or leave them. If these years are behind you, then hopefully I've at least conjured a few vivid memories, including the time you had that conversation with the "writer" who was penning a story described as The Cat in the Hat meets Catcher in the Rye.
*I wrote the first page of this novel in 2004. I've written stuff in between, started another novel, which is over halfway complete, but I've never felt as strongly about a project as this one. Up to this point I haven't gotten it right, but I'm not giving up on it. I refuse to be the writer who spends his entire life on one manuscript and never completes it, that's why I want to get this one right and move on. For good. The novel is finished, and has been for a couple years, but it's gone through several revisions and a whole lot of improvement.
By no means is changing the POV to first person a slam dunk, but if you knew the MC's story, you'd agree that it had to be done.