I tend to have this problem a lot when I’m in the draft stages of my writing, and a couple of times I think it almost caused me to get held back a grade or two. Shifting is one of the worst habits writers have when in the drafting stage because it is increasingly confusing to your reader. More often than not, it is caused by the unconscious act of switching from your character speaking to you as the writer writing it.
Ultimately shifts are that moment when you change your tense, voice, mood, tone, or viewpoint while writing. To admit it now, I am a chronic tense changer. I get so thrown off by it that I will often have an entire stage of edits where I look only for moments where I start switching tenses around. So for me, I have to write down what tense I am supposed to be writing in when I’m in my planning stages of writing to have a reference later.
The major shift issue that I have seen in both my own work and in some of the titles I beta-read is the shift in Point of View where you change from first person to third person. When it comes down to it, the Point of View shift is only a mix up of pronouns that can move into shifts in tense as well. Just like I do with my tense shifts, it’s a good idea to write down the Point of View you are supposed to be writing in when you are working on planning and use that as a reference for when you are drafting later.
Shifts in style, on the other hand, can be an issue seen when you are working on later drafts largely because of outside influences. If you have an outside Editor looking at your work and they are saying that the style you write the piece in is wrong, take a look over it yourself. Sometimes we get caught up in the redraft stage and end up just changing the parts they didn’t like in the style they like to read in and not realize that we are causing a deficit to our own style of writing.
Finally, the last major shift to worry about, is the shifts in tone. If you are trying to write a scene that is meant to be serious and brooding, why in the mess are you trying to write it like it is the funniest thing ever? Your main character just watched their own sidekick get stabbed in the face, laughing shouldn’t be happening (except by the villain).
What about you? What is your re-occurring shift?
Want to keep up with new posts? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter!