Hey cHEwY gum gums!

Have you ever started on a first draft, only to realise that it’s not going anywhere? The first draft is a great time to experiment, go wild and try new things. Yet being a writer is like being a train driver, you can be zooming when you’re on track, but it can be tough when you’re off the track or stuck in the mud. Yes, this is a cheap metaphor to include that photo of Nat Ammore and I on board a kids’ train at last week’s Night of the Notables haha.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks, chipping away at a first draft for my next cHEwY creation, What About Thao? This is another passion project of mine, and a love letter to all the small country towns. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a slog.

One of the major changes for me has been writing a story in the past tense. At first, I thought that it would be easy enough, just a few grammar tweaks here and there, but telling the story like it’s a flashback has stilted my own narrative style.

All of my novels have been in the present tense. I love how there’s something immediate about it, and it makes my characters feel more personal and relate to the reader. I’ve written short stories and pieces in past tense (a few of them will be in my Brain Freeze collection out in September plugplugplug) but never in a whole novel.

I thought it would make sense to use past tense (hey, that rhymes hehe). The first part of my story is about my Grade Four character moving into a small town, and the majority of my tale takes place when he hits Grade Six. So I thought instead of having flashbacks in the first few chapters, why not just write the whole thing as one whole retelling? However, by the time I reached the middle third of my draft, the whole past tense thing got clunky. I was struggling to flesh out the characters.

So I decided to go back and change the tense from the very beginning. Now I’ve shifted up another gear and things are slowly going back on track. It’s the spark that I needed to get this draft running.

This is not to say that I’ll never write a novel in past tense someday. The beauty of the first draft is that you have the room to play around with craft. Okay, so I’d better stop before this becomes a rhyming fest 🙂

Anyone else feel a little stuck on a first draft? How did you get past it?


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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