Tuesday 16 March 2010

Present Tense or Past Tense?

Alliteration aside for this: How does it make you feel to read fiction in Present tense? Is there any logical reason why I should change my women's fiction novel from Present to Past, other than, that is what's 'common'? No one has ordered me to do so, but I have been given that advice and would like a few other opinions on this. Any thoughts?


  1. First of all, I love alliteration.

    And, yes, present tense is harder to write and make it believable, but it's been done. For me, it's best done with gritty YA that often delves into past memories - like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, so the whole thing isn't read in the present tense.

    To me, it's a personal thing. If you can do it well, then great. But past over present is also one of those rules that some writers cling on to like a lifeboat, not realizing that it's okay to break the "rules" sometimes. I'd just make sure you were reading lost of present tense books to see how to do it well. Good luck.

  2. I used to dislike reading things in present tense, but now it is my favorite! There is a new trend in YA of writing in present tense, a huge new movement, really. You could be the trend-setter in women's fiction. I say unless and agent asks you to rewrite it in past tense, keep it how it is.

  3. Thanks Laura and Suzette! You know, it was what came most naturally. And I feel it works really well, because the protagonist literally discovers things as the reader does. I really enjoy using the present tense. It makes the story seem significantly more real!

  4. I much prefer past tense. I think it's because it's what I'm most used to reading. I grew up reading past tense. However, some people love present tense, and if it works for your novel, go for it.

  5. I love present tense! I haven't seen it much in adult fiction, but it's very popular in YA right now.

  6. Thanks Elana. Looks like I'm going to go with my gut. I'm sticking with present tense :) Maybe Suzette is right ... maybe I'll start a new trend ... (I say as I type grinning from ear to ear.)

  7. Present tense is like your living the life of th character, the story can become even more intense and personal then those writtern in past tense. But I enjoy both. A favorite author of mine Robin Hobb writes in both and does a darn good job of it.

  8. I think present tense only really works well in a short piece that is read in one sitting. For a novel length work I think it is awkward to maintain the presentness of the story.


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