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  1. Treez77
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    Treez77 New Member

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    Bad Habit

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Treez77, Mar 15, 2010.

    I have a really bad habit of changing my tenses in my writings. Anyone got any pro tips on how to stop this?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My guess is that you are alternating, in your head, between identifying with the character in the situation and with an observer POV. Just as in the writing itself, you need to lock your thinking into the POV you are using for your story.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it should come with more practice, but if you really can't stop yourself, type up a sign in large pt red/bold that says 'PAST' or 'PRESENT' and tape it to your monitor, where you can't avoid seeing it as you type...
     
  4. Matthew Bionic
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    Matthew Bionic Member

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    I've just written down the bare bones of a short story in present tense, but I want the final thing to be in past tense. So I expect to make that exact mistake myself!

    I do sometimes slip tenses without thinking, but editing should iron out any problems.
     
  5. nettkkr
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    nettkkr Member

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    Here's a question. Is it proper for the following, if you want to use past tense:

    James busted through the door thinking of his bike that's 400 miles away.
     
  6. Matthew Bionic
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    Matthew Bionic Member

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    Basically, no. "That was 400 miles away."

    And James should be more careful with his bike.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL
    It's a good hook, even if your tenses are shaky. What the hell has happened to his bike? Does he get it back?
     
  8. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Busted means broken.

    Burst (irregular verb) would be better.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    On this side of the Atlantic, "busted" means "having a bust" ("a large-busted woman"). The past tense of the slang verb "bust" is "bust" ("The radio is bust. Fred bust it"), but that's very much kid's slang and would only work if your narrator is a kid. As Zaffy says, "burst" would be better. Or "crashed" or "smashed" or almost anything really.

    You can try to stop it, and Cog has given you an idea for that. My only worry is that doing so might stop your creative flow. If you find that it does, go ahead and write with the tenses all over the place, then go back, decide which tense to work in, and go through the whole thing correcting the tenses. The processes use different parts of the brain, and it's not unknown for them to interfere with each other. As long you end up with the tenses properly under control, get there whicever way works.
     
  10. BBWalter
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    BBWalter Member

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    I agree. I tend to slip tenses as well. (One of many bad habits. :)) I've never tried to force the tense into the correct one. During editing, I simply go back through, decide on the tense I want, and then fix it. Editing takes a little longer, but I don't hamstring myself during the writing process. :p

    Best of luck and break a pen!
    B
     
  11. turq8
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    turq8 New Member

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    I have this problem too, and I didn't even know I did it until my English teacher pointed it out to me. Now I have to add it to my ever-expanding list of habits to break. Right under "Stop biting nails." The ironic part? I'm the class grammar freak.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something that might be worth remembering is that when you change the tense of the writing, you are actually shifting the POV. If you find yourself shifting tense a lot, it could be worth standing back and looking at it from that perspective. Are you shifting POV because you don't really have control of it -- you haven't really worked out where the narrator is in time -- or are you doing it because a shift of POV is actually called for?

    One of the pieces I had to study at uni was a passage from The Great Gatsby that shifted from past to present as the action became more important: that is what happened then, but this is happening now. It was an effective device for making the key events more immediate. The trouble is, until you have the reputation of a Fitzgerald, editors (if not readers) probably won't bother doing such a close reading and will assume it to be a blunder. If you are shifting tense to shift POV, it might be worth looking at other ways of getting the effect. Of course, if you are shifting tense because you don't have a grip on the POV -- well, you know what to work on, don't you?
     
  13. lowdown
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    lowdown New Member

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    I wouldn't call this a mistake. When you're first writing your draft, you're trying to get the ideas down, not polish it up. When you first write your story, the most important thing is getting the story and ideas down. Clean it up later. That's what rewriting and editing are for.
     
  14. lowdown
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    lowdown New Member

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    ...Unless it's a quote. :)
     

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