ness rambles, ness writes about writing

tenses: a conversation with myself

I sit at my desk, frowning at my laptop screen. (Contrary to my imagination’s offering, my laptop does not glare back at me.)

“Which tense,” I ask the room, “is best for this tale?”

No one replies. I am alone. (‘Forever and ever and ever,’ chants my Muse.) My sorrows are drowned in a gulp of cold tea.

I look at my nails (the paint is chipping yet I have vast hopes that it makes me look professional and efficient. I am delusional. It does neither.) “First-person, present tense is more intimate. You really get into the character’s head. However, it’s very constrictive. At least, it is when I do it.”

(A moment is spent in resenting writers who breeze through life with marvelous ease and appalling grace.)

“What about the third-person, past tense?” Ness lent back in her chair and sent a questioning look at her soft toys. They did not answer. Ness knew crushing disappointment.

She tapped her fingers on her desk. “It’s more freeing but it can seem … dry?”

“And yet, I like using first-person point of view,” I admitted, feeling a strange mixture of guilt and pride. “But it can occasionally seem immature and childish. And yet I’ve got to choose something or this Writing Stalemate will last forever and ever and then flop horribly and die.”

(‘Like your dreams,’ said my Muse in my head.)

“All right,” Ness says, brightening. “What about a compromise? What about third-person, present tense? The best of both worlds!”

She thinks about it for a moment, but soon enough, the glorious vision collapses in on itself and she sees a stark future, trapped in a tense she doesn’t want, with a story that tramps along like a lame dog with halitosis.

“That’s it,” you say with malice and a terrible look at all your books with all their smug, perfectly written tenses. “I’m doing second-person, present tense.”

You make a cup of tea. The tea brings clarity. You frown. You flounder. “Bother!” you exclaim. “But third-person is so … and first-person could be … and … and …”

“I should just write poems,” you say, staring at the gloomy wasteland of your decaying future.

“Please don’t,” your Muse pleads.

You don’t listen. “Or to-do lists. Or telephone books. Or obituaries – it would be impossible to choose the wrong tense with those.”

Your Muse snorts. “Actually, knowing you …”

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

ness writes about writing

Dear Character … ‘Less Personality than a Cardboard Cut-Out’

One of my characters has been giving me a little trouble. One day, once upon a time, I decided to have it out with him and wrote him a note. He responded. No, you may not doubt my sanity.

Dear Character,

You are as one-dimensional as a piece of paper and have less personality than a cardboard cut-out. You are giving me a headache.

I do not thank you for it.

Your Author.

To my Author,

Who created me?

No love.



Dear Character,

Who rebelled?


ness writes about writing

Picking Up The Threads …

I don’t much like it. And by ‘it’ I am referring to the moment when I open a story that I haven’t touched in ages with the intent to continue writing it.

In fact, there are three lines of thought that I have when I’m staring at that last written sentence:

  1. No. Just no. I can’t do this – I might disturb the genius [cough, cough] of the story. I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. In fact *closes word document* I’m going to do something else.
  2. I’m doomed. Completely. What was I thinking? What was I trying to say with that last paragraph? The heroine says … what? Goodness, I can’t even finish a paragraph. Nope. I’m not doing this. *closes word document*
  3. I could do this. I think. I’m just going to take a deep breath and plunge. Pop one word in front of the other. This is my story and if I muck it up then … then that’s fine. As long as I’m trying. As long as I’m writing. It’s going to be fine.

Just fine.

ness talks about life, ness writes about writing

e is for endurance (of the writerly sort)


endurance is …

plopping your bottom down on that seat and staying there till you’re done

ignoring your bed

also ignoring the weight of your eyelids which are. so. heavy.

(because you are going to finish this chapter)

putting one word in front of the other

forcing your brain to cooperate

turning your music up so that it does

changing the music because it doesn’t

telling yourself it isn’t the word count that matters, it’s the quality of the words

getting to the finishing line

dropping into bed

because e is also for exhausted

(and ecstatic and also exultant … because you’ve finished, you’ve reached your goal. You endured)

ness rambles

You Don’t Have to Own a Cat

I fled up the garden and into the pottery studio, sat on the lid of a portable toilet and consumed damsons. By the time I had finished praying, pondering and spitting the pips out, Act Three had been hashed out.

damsonsSometimes, sitting down and facing a piece of paper or a computer screen just isn’t the thing. Sometimes, grand ideas and plot points come whilst washing up. Sometimes they come when talking, singing.

Ideas don’t wait politely to be acknowledged. They leap out and present themselves to you and demand your attention.

Want to know something? All those ‘writers are …’ and ‘writers do …’ on Pinterest boards, in books, on blogs … you don’t have to ‘be’ them.

Sure, to be a writer, you have to write. It’s a fundamental truth. But to be a writer you don’t have to own a cat, drink tea, write into the wee hours, possess an ‘artistic temperament’, be wonderful at spelling or brand yourself as an introvert.

Honestly, you don’t.

You don’t have to hear your characters voices in your head or weep as you write. You don’t have to have read a thousand different ‘how to write books’. You don’t have to plan out your character’s back story in meticulous detail.

You have to write. That is all.

Sure, reading craft books can help you. Planning out elaborate characters may be your thing. And sure, you may have a rusty old typewriter, own a cat named Shakespeare, drink obscure teas and hold grand debates with your characters. That’s wonderful.

Just, you know, be yourself. You don’t have to change yourself into a Pinterest board. You don’t have to be a ‘Writer’ as defined by others.

Be your definition.

And write.

Excuse me, I’ve got to get rid of those pips.