1. BK Bell

    BK Bell New Member

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    Style Is Present Tense okay for adult literature?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BK Bell, Dec 9, 2019.

    Hello all! I was wondering, does it matter what tense you write in for adult literature? When I started my novel years ago (and as a teenager) I started in the present tense. It just seemed more natural for the characters and the sense of urgency for the story. It's also what I write in when I write short stories. I'm not sure exactly why I started this way, unless it's what I read at the time. I know YA is more often present tense, but my story has definitely shifted into an adult series. I've read a few adult books written in the present tense, but I was wondering, is it in bad taste? Will it turn potential publishers or agents off?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    There are no rules about what tense is permitted in different genres.

    Present tense is hard to pull off, IMO. It's appropriate sometimes and not others - it all depends on your story. I personally generally write in past tense, but it depends very much on what you are writing. You can make it work in any genre. It's not my style, but if it's yours, go for it.

    I don't know how present tense would work in a novel - I don't think I'd care to read an entire book written in present tense.

    I'd also add that I'm of the opinion that present tense really only works in first person.
     
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  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I've seen present tense work in any point of view. I don't see that as a problem. And I think present tense is very popular at the moment with short works. I think I usually or most of the time do write is present tense. Most of the writing I've been selling is in present tense, though, these are shorter things. I don't see this carrying over to the novel world. I made a deliberate decision to write my novel in past tense. This is a hard enough business. And we, as writers, have to make choices. I didn't want my novel to be an even harder sell. And present tense is going to be a harder sell for adult fiction.
     
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  4. BK Bell

    BK Bell New Member

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    Oof, I didn't know it was a harder sell when I wrote it. I wasn't honestly thinking about that haha. I already have a draft (100,000 words.....yikes) and I've been rewriting it again. I think I subconsciously chose it because it reminds me of a movie and that's how I see my novel and it's written in Deep POV? So maybe I won't have to change it. Once I have the next draft finished I'll think more about it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
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  5. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like the idea that it wasn't a deliberate choice, that it just felt natural to you. That gives me hope that it might really work well. It's not a tense I would EVER choose for myself, as I'm old-fashioned and prefer past tense for storytelling. But it's a new world....
     
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  6. BK Bell

    BK Bell New Member

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    Thank you haha, I hope my unconscious decision works. I won an award with a short story I wrote in the present tense so I'm hoping it just works for me haha. Then again, that's short form. I did a bit of research after writing this and it's said that present tense works with unreliable narrators, action that happens quickly in a short time frame, and with deep POV and I have all three of those things. I'm not trained in writing (although I hope to get an MFA one day), so I'm still learning all these terms and what works. I kind of just go off of instinct from reading so much and analyzing it myself. I'm either an idiot or I'm onto something haha ;)
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Developing a unique 'writer's voice' is quite important, I reckon. So choose the voice and the POV you're most comfortable with. You can always change it later on, if you find it's not working, or that readers aren't reacting the way you hoped they would.
     
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  8. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    I'd say go with whatever tense you feel works best. Unless there is a super pressing commercial reason, I usually default to "don't sell out until you actually have the money in your hand" -- being true to your piece is more important, I think.
     
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  9. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    Well, a few thoughts:
    1) You mentioned how you like using it for short fiction and that you like how it gives the sense of urgency. Whew! Nail on the head. There you go. that is really where present tense shines. It is easier to pull off in shorter formats and it is used to give a greater sense of immediacy to the work. You already know why one might choose it.
    2) The idea that it is more useful for YA than adult literature is odd. I have no idea how you came up with that. Perhaps it relates to some specific works you have read or perhaps some idiot told you that it was a YA thing. So, I'll set this straight. Whether you use present or past tense has nothing to do with genre. It has to do with: see item 1 above.
    3) The final question relates to what turns agents and publisher off. Now you're onto something. Believe it or not, you can find publishers, agents and award committees that will openly show bias both for and against present tense. This happens all the time, and is one excellent proof showing how immature the gatekeepers truly are.

    I recall the first writer's group I joined. We met at a tavern, where the noise was horrible, and after reading my piece, the head of the group said, "This is past tense. Any serious writing has to be in present tense." Being relatively ignorant, I went home and rewrite half a chapter in present tense, but then decided to go to my shelf and pluck some books off it to check. The first ten books I yanked off the shelf were past tense.

    Then there are the idiots who believe that serious LITERARY work has to be present tense. To begin with, literary is a figment of everyone's imagination, and to end with, there is no such requirement, even should the genre actually exist. I can't even imagine why it would make it more highbrow. It's just a different way of working, usually for the items listed, once again, in item 1 above.

    The bottom line is this: Know why you choose a tense. If you find that the tense fits what you are trying to do, use it. OR: Know the agent of publisher you hope to please and write to their agenda (done that, bought the t-shirt, and making no judgments about it, one way or the other.)
     
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  10. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    cool discussion. I suggest present tense, if you like it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2019
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  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I would say most literary stuff is past tense. And literary is quite real. Just because you don't understand it or don't like it, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. That's like saying fantasy isn't a real category of writing. Not only is literary writing real, but it's what I'm doing with my life. To disregard literary work and say it's not real feels like you're bashing an industry I have worked very hard to get into. Literary is not a genre. It's the opposite of genre. It's a real way to write and tell stories. I don't know why you stuck this in here, but please watch what you say, especially if it's something you don't understand that can come off insulting to those working in the field or is just plain wrong.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
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  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    :stop:
    we aren't going to have an argument about the definition of literary fiction on this thread - just stop before you start the pair of you. If you must, take it to the debate room, but we aren't doing it here
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    On point and with my mod hat off - ive written three novels (not yet published) in first present as opposed to about 11 in first past or third omni past... there's no reason not to do it if you want, although it will turn some readers off
     
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  14. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I have seen an interesting use of present tense in adult literature, though it was limited to a single chapter dealing with a Marine in intense combat. The rest of the novel was past tense, just that one chapter. It really captured the urgency, time-stands-still nature of combat and was very powerful.

    I think, however, if the whole book were done in present, I would find it tedious.
     
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  15. BK Bell

    BK Bell New Member

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    Thank you all for your feedback!
     
  16. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like present tense tends towards extremes. If you do it right, it's extra good. If you don't (most people don't), it's insufferable. It seems to highlight the author's flaws. So make sure your mechanics aren't weak.
     
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  17. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I think present tense is uninteresting as opposed to third person past tense omnipresent but if there's ever been a time where present tense will sell it'll be now. Everything in the market is present tense these days. Especially novels.
     

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