Guest Post–The Amazing Ilima Todd!

First Person Present Tense in YA Fiction

Writing a story from a first-person point of view has been popular in young adult fiction for a while, and understandably so. When you can experience what the character does without any degree of separation, there is an immediate connect to what happens to him/her, making it easier to feel invested in the story. The emotion factor jumps up a level, and the stakes feel that much stronger.

One of the big challenges in writing first person is the blinder the narrator must wear. Every description is filtered through one set of eyes or ears, and you can’t jump heads. It can be a fun problem to have, though. The narrator confides things in the reader he/she wouldn’t with other characters. It also makes the voice fun to play with, and you really get to know the character you’re writing.

Also with first person, info dumps become painfully obvious, and it’s easy to end up ‘telling’ too much or overdoing internal monologues. When a person walks into a room, they don’t usually start describing the finish on the table or the whirring sound of a ceiling fan, so having your character do it can feel jarring if not done naturally. Despite the challenges, I love to read and write in first person for that accessibility factor.

I’ve also noticed a recent trend toward present tense in YA fiction. Why present tense? Again, it brings immediacy to the story. You experience events as the character does, and the tension level rises. It can be quite stressful for the reader, but exciting too. In stories with high stakes, you might not even know if that character will make it, a powerful tool to maintain urgency and a need to know what happens next, keeping those pages turning well into the night.

I wrote three books before I tried first person present with my fourth novel and haven’t looked back. In fact, I’ve thought of story ideas I know won’t work with FPPT and pushed them to the side, not wanting to give up my favorite POV.

How about you? Do you like to write/read in first person present tense? What is your favorite point of view to write in?


are just a few examples of first person present in popular YA fiction, pulled right off my bookshelf. As you can see, it works for a variety of genres:


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Matched by Ally Condie

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The Forest of Hands and Feet by Carrie Ryan

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and dives for octopus with her dad every time she visits—otherwise she’s diving into books in the Rocky Mountains where she lives with her husband and four children. She graduated from BYU with a degree in physics and eats copious amounts of raw fish and avocados without regret. But mostly she loves being a wife and mama and wouldn’t trade that job for anything in the world. Her first book, REMAKE, will be published this summer!

Leave a comment

Filed under Point of View, Voice, writing process

So Lately

I have been overwhelmed and panicked about things I must do.

In a bad way.


(Too big. Too much.)



I want to be with my girls.

And my friends–more than I am now which is almost never.

I want to write.

I want to fulfill my callings.

And I want to make sure the conference is a success (


What I don’t want to do is wake up feeling like I’m gonna puke because I’m stressed.

I won’t want to cry because extra work is piled on me.

Dream about it.

Worry over it.

Wonder how to get it done.


I know why  some people just want to hide.


Talking to a publisher today (maybe).

To ease my burden.


But there is this–I’ve made some people angry.


Remember how I said  Treat Writing Like a Job?

Being your own boss means knowing when to say no.

Even when it isn’t popular.


I’m going back to sleep.




Filed under CLW, Family, Life

The Tale of a Purse – by Debbie Nance

I bought a purse yesterday.

This was a big thing for me to do.

I will list my reasons:

                1. I like my old stuff, which shouldn’t be allowed to wear out.

                2. It is hard to find new likeable stuff.

                3. I hate spending the going price of a purse.

                4. Purses now days are enormous.

Probably no less than four years ago, I desperately needed a new purse. The reason being my old one was falling apart and I had put off buying a new purse for several years. My daughter was having a shoe and purse party so, of course, I attended. I found the cutest pair of black boots imaginable AND (the best part) they had a matching purse AND (the next best part) they weren’t very expensive.

The only thing was that the purse was HUGE. It was so cute, though, it didn’t matter.

Now, if you know me well, you know I have a sort of planner that has everything in it, which goes inside my purse. Besides that, I have the assorted necessaries like car keys, cell phone, an extra pen, and a couple of tissues—since I can cry at the drop of a hat or the mention of a Hallmark Card commercial. I also have a safety pin, Ibuprofen, cough drops, eye-glass cleaner cloths, a sewing kit, dental floss, hand sanitizer, pictures of my grandkids, etc., but all those fit in one pocket.

I loved my new purse and how fashionable I looked with it when I wore my boots. However, the purse was big! Big enough I could put a book or two inside and/or regular size folders. But then the drawbacks, it was heavy! And so big I couldn’t find anything in it. I would have my arm in up to my elbow unable to find my ringing cell phone. A pathetic sight, I’m sure.

So though I loved the purse, I thought as soon as it began to wear out I would purchase one about half the size. Two years or so went by, and, unfortunately one of the little-feety-thingys meant to protect the bottom of the purse from resting flat on the ground, came off. Ah well, I thought, the time has come, I will begin to look for an inexpensive smaller purse.

Surprise, my mother found out and bought me a purse for my birthday, but it was the same size! (Although, thankfully, it did have fewer pockets.) The new purse was cute and it sort of matched my boots and I found a pair of regular shoes that did go with it so I decided I would love it.

More years went by and this second purse began to fall apart. I began to look for a replacement. I wanted a smaller one that was reasonably priced.

Two weeks ago, I went to an unfamiliar grocery store and there was a rack of purses. I checked the prices and found one that sort of matched my old ones. But it was a grocery store and I was in a hurry, so I passed.

However, I kept thinking about that purse. Finally, when my purse handle was falling apart, I switched back to my older gigantic one, but right off I lost my cell phone inside.

So yesterday, I made the trip back to the grocery store and bought a new purse.

What does this have to do with writing?

Maybe nothing.

I probably won’t use this info in a novel, but I might use the concept sometime and have a character with a huge purse that she loses things in. I’ll have this blog to remind me of the details.

Some days, when you think you can’t write, remember you can. You just need to sit down with your pen or at your computer and write about something, something that happened that day or that week.

To be a writer, you MUST write. Start with something familiar then move into writing scenes that further your book.

I just wrote 700 words about buying a new purse.

You can write, too! I know you can. Go for it!

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW, Exercises, Family

Three Things Thursday

by Cheryl Van Eck


I attended a seminar by Shannon Hale a few years ago, and someone asked, “How do you balance writing full-time with having two young children?”

(As you can see, this was a long time ago, as she now has four children.)

Her response was this: “I made a list of all my priorities in order. First was God. Second was my family. And third was writing. That means writing trumps sleep, food, laundry, housecleaning, and anything else that might need to be done.”

I’ve been trying this lately. After I put my baby to bed at night, I try to get a little writing done. I haven’t made great progress on my novel, but it does help my own feelings of well-being. If writing is your calling, your passion, so to speak, then there are few things that will soothe your soul like writing. 

Do I miss out on sleep? Yes. But what I gain is more valuable than sleep.

So, tell us: What are your priorities? How high up is writing on your list?


by Brenda Bensch

I just read a short article in the new Writer’s Digest (May/June 2014) where a first time novelist, who had already published poetry and personal essays, asked her young niece to read her MG novel and see if she had any suggestions. This young lady gave her some VERY specific critiques and ideas, then suggested using some of her friends as readers, to get even more feedback from readers who didn’t already know her. The author, Kathleen M. Jacobs, said she suddenly realized the importance of going “straight to the source,” her target audience.
Who makes up your most “appropriate readership” ? No nephews or nieces the right age? What about a “project” for a local school class? An interested group of readers gathered at a library? How can you engage unbiased readers who don’t already know you and might worry about hurting your feelings? Go to The Source!


by Carol

School is out soon and I plan an experiment.

A writing experiment, of course.

I will include you all. I have three books I want to finish in short order.

I’m also starting a writing business.

I will include you on that, too.

But here are a few questions for you. I think it’s a good time to look at that Romance Novel you started in February. It’s rested for a month-ish. Pull it out. Look it over.

1. What works in the novel?

2. What are the strengths?

3. What are the weaknesses?

4. In just a page, jot down all the ideas you get as you read through the book.


By the way, I found a yummy place for us to eat next time. And I mean YUMMY! Maybe we will discuss our romances (novels or otherwise!).

PS Started THIRSTY again. Yup. It’s great.


Filed under CLW, Exercises, Revision, three thing thursday, writing process

Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Today all I’ve really talked and thought about is writing.

I went to the library and gave myself some “me” writing time. I just down at a private table, turned on Chopin {my writing jamz for this latest novel} and actually got some real work done.

Lately I’ve just been telling myself that I am a writer before any other job.
It helps me believe in myself.

I love writing. It makes me happy. Just seeing the words on the page makes me smile.

I’m so happy for all of us.
Those of us who aren’t published, who keep working for our goal! And for those who are, and who continue to make bigger and better goals.

We rock!


Filed under Kyra, writing process

Monday, Monday

No message today.

Just murmurings.



This morning I am driving two people to the dentist.

And doing housework.

Then the laundry.


School is almost over.

Will I write more when Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays aren’t dedicated to my students?

Goal–2,000-3,000 words per day until Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.


Preparing for library visits, school visits and out-of-state visits. (Plus WIFYR)

Looking to go through the house and de-clutter more.

But always in the back of my mind are two things–’Will I ever find a permanent place to live?’ and ‘I can’t wait to write.’



Leave a comment

Filed under CLW, writing process

Track Record – by Debbie Nance

Some of you know that my cancer is no longer in remission.

Ah well. I’ve come to look at it as a chronic disease like Diabetes or Crohns or any number of other diseases. I caught on to the symptoms earlier this time so hopefully the chemotherapy will work quicker. The biggest side effect this go round is fatigue.

Yesterday was supposed to be my low point for blood counts with regards to my current chemo cycle. And it felt like it. Even though I got 9 hours of sleep, not quite uninterrupted, I woke up with no energy.

Tuesday had been a good day after a good night’s rest, a solid 9 hours. (I didn’t know I could sleep that long.) And Wednesday was a good day for me with lots of energy. I wrote an article for a work-for-hire. I emailed people. I worked on some critiques for our upcoming WIFYR novel class  I did a very small amount of housework, ran an errand, and cooked dinner. Several of my grandkids visited me with their parents. I held and snuggled babies/toddlers, and admired and listened to their just-older-siblings. And I went to bed early.

But Thursday the sleep didn’t matter. So it was a day to rest.

I understand that everyone has some thing, some obstacle(s), in their life that keeps them from doing all they want. Be it a lack of time, money, sleep, energy, support, health, or the opposite an abundance of children, work, chores, distractions, duties, activities, or a combination of all of those things.

But some people seem to be successful anyway. Take for instance, the writer I know who had a bunch of little kids and used her laptop and wrote and published books amongst the chaos. Or another writer I know who, with a busy family and a disease that makes it hard to type, keeps on going no matter what.

What do you do to keep yourself going on hard days? Maybe we should compile a list and if one thing doesn’t work, move down to the next. Or print them on strips and put them in a jar and pull them out one at time in random order.

Watch TV.

Eat Chocolate.


Drink Green Smoothies.

Call or Text Friends.

Crank Up the Tunes and Dance.

Browse FB or Pinterest.

Power through.


I saw this post on FB, which might be of help:  “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% . . . and that’s pretty good” – Author Unknown.

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW