First Person vs. Third Person

     Writing in first person vs. third person: it’s just one of the ten million decisions you have to make when putting together a story, but it’s an important one! Try to imagine Sherlock Holmes being written in the third person omniscient point of view, where we can see everything both Sherlock Holmes and Watson are thinking. Different, right? The point of view can make a huge difference in your story, whether it’s first vs. third person or which character you choose to make the narrator, but what’s the difference between first and third person point of view? 

First Person 

     First person is the point of view in which you wrote all those sentences in kindergarten: I sat down. I ate lunch. I went to sleep. I also see it a lot in YA fiction. Basically, first person point of view is told through the eyes of the narrator. It uses pronouns like ‘I’ and sometimes, the narrator even talks to the reader themselves. Examples of books written in first person are ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ and for younger readers, ‘Percy Jackson.’ All of these books are written through the eyes of a particular character, whether it be Katniss, Watson, or Percy. 

     Because you’re experiencing the story through a character’s eyes, one advantage of writing the story in first person is getting your reader to feel like they’re experiencing the story firsthand. For example, when reading the Hunger Games, I wasn’t watching Katniss fight for her life, I felt like I was the one whose adrenaline was pumping. That’s not to say that you can’t do this with third person, but first person, at least to me, is easier to establish that connection to. 

      Another advantage of first person is being able to relay your character’s thoughts to your reader. Because the reader is in the character’s head, it’s easier to tell them what the character is thinking. 

     Something I see a lot in YA is the first person point of view bring paired with present tense. I find this to bring a feeling of immediacy in a story so that not only are you experiencing what is happening for yourself, but it feels like it’s happening to you now. I’m not sure if that description made any sense, but first person is a popular choice, especially in YA.

     Now, the drawbacks of first person. The biggest one has to be staying in your point-of-view character’s mind. You can’t have the reader in Tom’s head for half the novel listening to how ‘I walked the cat and then began preparing for the picnic’ and then suddenly jump to Sarah’s head to let the reader know how she’s nervous about meeting Tom. If you want to do first person with this, you have to show us through Tom that Sarah is nervous. This also means that we can’t know about an event that happens a hundred miles away that’s going to end up affecting Tom unless Tom already knows about it too.

     The hardest thing I find about writing in first person is the limitation of sticking to only one character’s head. Personally, if I’m writing in first person, it’s difficult to flesh out my non-point of view characters because especially when they’re major characters that doesn’t have much direct interaction with my point of view character (say they had a fight and aren’t talking), it’s next to impossible to describe what’s happening to them. 

     A solution to this is to have multiple point of view characters. In this case, every chapter or section, the reader is introduced to a different character’s point of view. Examples of this are the Heroes of Olympus series (one of three characters becoming the point of view every chapter) and Code Name Verity (half of the book written in each character’s point of view). If you go this route, it’s important to not have too many characters and that each of your point of view characters have a distinct voice. As a reader, there’s nothing more confusing than looking up at the middle of the chapter wondering who’s point of view it is!

Third Person

     Third person point of view, put simply, is when an unnamed narrator relays what is going on from an outside viewpoint. It uses words like, ‘she,’ ‘he,’ and ‘they.’ Books that are written in third person include ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

      There are two types of third person point of view: third person limited and third person omniscient. Let’s take a look at both. 

      Third person limited is when an outside narrator is describing what’s happening but their view is only limited to a certain character’s thoughts and actions. For example, in third person limited the narrator would say things like ‘Tom thought that there must’ve been a mistake’ or ‘Tom walked down the street’ but because it’s third person limited, the narrator can’t suddenly switch to Sarah and tell us what Sarah is thinking. It’s actually somewhat similar to first person in terms of scope, as are the pros and cons. Though third person limited is, well, limited, you can always have multiple point of view characters. And unlike first person, because the character’s name is constantly being used, it’s much harder to forget who’s point of view it is. 

     The second type of third person is third person omniscient. In this point of view, the outside narrator can see what everyone is thinking and doing. We can learn Sarah’s thoughts and skip to know what Tom is thinking and then see that event occurring a hundred miles away. This point of view is useful in letting the reader know what all of the characters are thinking, but a pitfall is spreading the narration too thin and ‘telling’ the reader what each of the characters are thinking instead of ‘showing.’ It might also be more difficult for the reader to get that connection with the characters that they can get through first person or third person limited. 

So which one do I use? 

     Ultimately, whether you choose to write in first person, third person limited, or third person omniscient depends on your writing style and story, but it might help you out to try out different points of view to find out what works best. 

     What point of view do you write in? Any tips for writing in any of the different points of views? Leave your comments down below!

On Choosing A Daily Writing Quota

     One of the things a lot of us do to keep our selves accountable to writing is to set a daily writing quota. Whether it’s to make sure you’re on track for Nanowrimo  (National Novel Writing Month) or just to to ensure you’re actually writing everyday, having a daily writing quota is a great way to make sure you write. 

So how do you choose a quota?

     This depends on each person and how much time you have as well as your writing goals. If this is for Nanowrimo, where you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days, to stay on track, your quota would be 1,667 words a day. For a lot of us thoug, that’s a lot of time each day that we might not have (if you need help finding time to write, check out my post on that here). 500 a day might be plenty. Or maybe you write crazy-fast and 2,000 words a day is easy. There’s really no one ‘right’ quota…the important thing is to find one that works for you!

     I recommend finding a quota that’s a little bit of a stretch but a number that’s definitely achievable. If you pick a number that’s easy to hit, there’s a big possibility that you can do more, so why not challenge yourself? If you pick a number too high, you might struggle to hit it which can lead to being discouraged. 

     Regardless of whatever number you pick, the important thing is that you write. Miss a day? Don’t hit your quota? You don’t need to feel bad about it-just get back up and write the next day! I’ve had the situation where I’ve missed a few days and felt pretty bad for missing them so I didn’t write the next day and so on…don’t let that happen to you!

     How to use your daily quota? I use it as a ‘minimum’ guideline: I can write more if I want to, but I need to write at least that much. Some people stop when they hit their number even if it’s in the middle of a sentence, so it’s easier to start off again the next day. Again, do whatever works for you. 

     Your quota can also fluctuate depending on how busy you are. I let myself write a lot less the week before finals because I’m pretty dead and exhausted every day, and I’m okay with that. I even give myself a day off if I need it. They’re at thing about having a quota is that you know if it’s working for you, and if it’s not, you can always adjust it. 

Why have a writing quota? 

     I think having a daily quota helps to make sure that you do write daily, since for me at least, the hardest part of writing is to actually write. Other than that, it’s also a great feeling to hit your quota and realize that you created something today, and even more importantly, you honored a commitment to yourself.

Are there other types of quotas other than word count?

     Although I see word count as the most common type of writing quota, it’s definitely not the only one. Here are a few more:

  • Writing for a set amount of time

          Personally, I don’t like this one since I’ve found myself spending the entire time thinking about a scene or completely distracted and not having written anything at the end of the session, but if you have more discipline than I do, go ahead and try it!

  • Writing a certain scene/chapter

          I sometimes use this one and it’s especially great when you get really into a scene/chapter. The only thing I’d advise is having some sort of plan or outline of what’s going to happen in your scene. Also, it might be good to note that some of your scenes are going to naturally be longer than others, so you might be writing more on certain days. 

     The important thing isn’t what type of system you use or what your daily word count is…it’s to write! 

What type of writing quota system do you use? What’s your daily word count? Leave your comments down below.

Writing By Hand vs. Typing

Should I type or handwrite my draft? 

It’s that age old question: to type or handwrite? I’ve done both and they each have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at why you might want to try both: 

Writing By Hand

     Ah…Back in the good old days before computers and smartphones were invented (or, you know, if you happen to be a wizard that goes to Hogwarts), people wrote things out by hand. For most of us blessed with the use of computers, it’s a lot faster to type that to handwrite things, so why would you choose to write out your draft? 

     This blog post was drafted by hand and I’m writing out my current work-in-progress novel as well. What’s so great about writing by hand? For one, excuses for not writing like “I don’t have time to wait for my computer to turn on” or “I’m out of battery” don’t work anymore. It takes what, one second for you to click your pen? Your notebook doesn’t need battery to work, and neither will it crash right before you click save. Less excuses for not writing is always better, right? Which leads me to my next point…

     No distractions. Maybe this only happens to me, but when I’m typing a paper or doing research online and an email pops up, I answer it because if I don’t, I’m going to forget. Somehow, I end up migrating from my email to reading blog posts to YouTube, and by the time I realize it, I’ve been ‘working’ for an hour with ten words written. If you’re writing by hand though, you can lock yourself in a distraction free room (or just turn off your phone or something) so you know you’re actually writing for that hour. Sure, you could just turn off your wifi, but for those of us that have a little more trouble with self control, this is a great way to increase your productivity. 

    Handwriting also reduces the chances of you deleting something that you might end up wanting to use later. I’ve deleted paragraphs that I later on realized work perfectly, but since I deleted them, had to write it all over again. If you’re handwriting though, you can just cross it out or start another page and your words are still there, just in case. 

      There’s also the bonus of being able to carry your notebook so you can work anywhere, so you can put all those spare minutes during your day to use. I usually keep a very small notebook and pen in my bag so I can write whenever I have a spare moment. I actually got through a couple of chapters just from waiting in line at Disneyland, which might be a little harder to do with a laptop. A phone would work too, but I type in my phone with one finger (this post took forever to type) so I scribble. 

     Now for the cons. This first one can actually be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it. Eventually, you’re going to have to type your work, whether you’re submitting it to be published or just showing it to people for feedback, so handwriting just means more work. Yes and no. Yes, you’ll have to transcribe everything you write later on,but I find that a good way to revise your writing. That’s why I draft my posts on paper and then type. But if you’re going to just type exactly what you write the first time, it might not be worth the effort.

      I don’t know about you, but I have atrocious handwriting. Atrocious as in my history professor asked me to read aloud my essay answer for a final exam because he couldn’t read it. It starts out pretty legible but the further into the draft I go, it becomes messier and messier. By the end of the chapter, it looks more like a scribbly line than a word. If that’s the case with you, you might want to type it, if only so you can read what you wrote later on. 

      I also write pretty fast (albeit very messily) so this one isn’t really a problem for me, but if you type a lot faster than you write, it might just be more effective to type so you can keep up with your thoughts.

Typing

     Now onto typing. I’d say that the pros are pretty well-known: You can read what you write, you don’t have to transcribe it, you can edit easily, it’s faster, the list goes on and on. As for the cons, as I listed above, it’s harder to write in lines had such, your computer might crash (if you do choose to type, back up your work!), you might run out of battery, and you might get distracted. 

       Even so, the first full-length novel I ever completed was typed, so it definitely works. The one thing I love most about typing is spellcheck. I swear you wouldn’t be able to read half of this post if it weren’t for that nifty little tool. And hey, if you have more self control than I do, typing might be the best choice for you. 

      Personally, I handwrite when I draft and then type when I revise and rewrite. Do whatever works for you, but you might want to try handwriting if you always type and vice versa. 

       Do you type or handwrite? Comment your thoughts down below.

Finding Time to Write

I want to write a book but I just don’t have the time! 

Writers are lucky, they have all day to write! 

I’m busy with work/school/binge-watching Netflix- I don’t have time to write! 

Do any of those sound like you? 

     I used to think that too, that I was just too busy to write. I wanted to write a book and I wanted to blog, but there were too many things that I had to do. Guess what? I never wrote anything. I’d dream of writing, finally being able to type ‘The End’ at the end of a draft or clicking ‘post’ before an article I wrote was published for the world to see, but none of those things ever happened. Today, I have typed ‘The End,’ I’ve drafted a full-length novel, and I published this article, my first post. 

      I promise that I didn’t drop out of school or lock myself in my room everyday and not talk to anyone so I could write. If anything, I’m busier than ever with coursework and making time to do everything I want to fit in. 

     So what changed? 

     Looking back, it’s simple. I didn’t magically create more time for myself to write. Instead, I changed my mentality. Instead of thinking that I don’t have the time to write, I realized that writers are people who write. Not people that think about writing or dream about writing or talk about writing- To be a writer, you need to write. 

But I’m busy!

    I know you’re busy. We’re all busy, but the bottom line is that if you ever want to finish that novel that’s been collecting dust for the last six months or see your poem published by a magazine, you have to write. Everyone is busy, but if you really want to do something, you’ll make time for it. If you really want to binge-watch Orange is the New Black, you’ll read through your textbook five minutes before class (not recommended) to make it happen. Similarly, if you want to write, you need to make time for it. How? 

     Prioritize your writing

     I know that on some days (alright, most days), it feels like there’s so much to do, we can’t even get to all the things we need to finish, let alone find time for writing. Most of us end up trying to finish the work we need to have done by tomorrow, telling ourselves that once we’re done, then we’ll write-

     Stop.

     By then, it’ll probably be 1 a.m. and you’ll be crawling into bed saying ‘I’ll write tomorrow’ or you’ll be sleep-writing gibberish. Don’t do that. There’s a better way to make sure you write: by prioritizing your writing. 

     Who are you more afraid of disappointing, your boss or yourself? Probably your boss. If you don’t do something you told yourself you would do, no problem, but if you don’t finish that job your boss gave you, you’re in trouble. That’s why you make yourself finish that project or paper that’s due the next day even if it means not going out but you can let yourself slide for not writing. 

     Instead, prioritize your writing. Whenever you get out of class or work, write. Don’t tell yourself ‘I need to start on the reading first’ or ‘after I finish looking through this report,’ just write. Write until you hit your daily quota and don’t let yourself stop. 

     This might set you back an hour before you start on your ‘real work.’ Chances are, now you’re thinking, “Now I’ll never finish everything that I have to do!” Wrong. You’re not willing to disappoint your boss or professors, remember? You know you’ll get your work done because you’ll be answering to someone else. You know you’ll finish it. It might mean an hour less of watching cat videos on YouTube, but you’ll get it done.

      And best of all?

      You’ll have written something.

 
     How do you find time to write? Comment your strategies and tips below.