I am going to go out on a limb here. This is strictly my personal opinion but it may be of some use to some other writer(s).
The three areas where most Indie writers blow it as far as presenting polished prose that doesn’t reek of AMATEUR, in my not so humble opinion are:
1. Point of View – For some reason first person rules in Indie. Worse yet, the trend of writing in first person present tense. Yeah, it’s trendy, everyone is doing it but unless you are an old master, it stinks of novice writer. Now some might say, “what’s wrong with first person? A lot of great novels are written in first person.” And I’d say there is nothing wrong with it as long as it is appropriate for the story. Some styles and genres, particularly detecitve novels SCREAM to be written in first person. And that’s great. But then I would refer you to the old expression ‘ONE TRICK PONY.’ A writer has to be versatile. If the vast majority of INDIE is written in first person (and I’m not sure it is … I’m just stating what I have seen which is an overwhelming preference for that POV) then I’d suggest that a good writer should try to write in third person at least some of the time.
2. Exposition – Getting that oh so important back story into the narrative without info dumping and other haphazard, clunky methods. This is exceptionally complicated if a writer conforms to the ‘Media Res’ concept and / or if he insists on opening with an Inciting Incident. I’m not a big fan of either style of writing for the simple fact that a. it’s again super trendy and b. my stories just tend to want to be told in a straight line.
3. Present vs. Past – This is the one I have struggled with most in my writing. How does one describe / contrast the action of the moment with the constant in the scene.
Example: The Mount Everest stood tall in the distance. Doesn’t putting that sentence into the past imply that Mount Everest is no longer standing? Was there a terrorist attack? Did I not get the memo? (not a great example but you get my point)
In my novel LOBO I jumped back and forth a bit too much for my l liking. I described a lot of scenes that were traditional, customary celebrations in Mexico and those I described in present tense. Then when the action and narrative started, I’d switch to the past.
This isn’t WRONG per se but there is a better way to do it. The trick I have determined after thinking about it for over two years and trying to figure out how to handle this is to NOT contrast the present. Think about it as if the action happened in the past and the mountains WERE a background to the action in that moment. In other words, you have to totally change your perspective, change it up and stick to the past tense almost exclusively. If you cannot make that sentence work in the past tense, it probably shouldn’t be there and you have to find another way to get that info into the story without emphasizing the ‘CONSTANT’ element of whatever you are describing.
Sounds complicated. And again, it is the author’s choice. Many good novels jump back and forth. Monterrey is a 3 hour drive from the border of Texas with at Nuevo Laredo and it always will be. But if you want your story and your sentences to jibe, to agree and to be consistent, you’d do well to try to keep it all in one verb tense.
It was a three hour drive to Nuevo Laredo. Juan bought a family size bottle of Carta Blanca which he balanced on the seat of the old pick-up. Whenever he hit a long stretch of highway and could see there were no cars coming in the opposite lane, he took a chug from the bottle.
Now isn’t that a lot better than a paragraph or sentence that might start;
It is a three hour drive to Nuevo Laredo. Juan bought a family size bottle of Carta Blanca which he balanced on the seat of the old pick-up. ???
In closing, let me mention again that this is a personal preference and opinion so take it or leave it. My goal is to overcome these weaknesses in my own writing. So far I have leant a bit too heavily on first person. My memoir and my short story collection were both 100% First person. My novel LOBO was a mix of third person narrative with first person interview sections and my latest WIP is first person. The novel I have planned for later in 2016 HAS TO be 100% third person and 100% past tense and I absolutely HAVE TO get the back-story in there in as elegant and subtle manner as possible. That’s my goal.
Speaking of my novel LOBO (which despite its obvious flaws is still my favorite of my fiction so far) I just got a new review.
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