1. Thatoneguy465

    Thatoneguy465 New Member

    May 10, 2017
    Likes Received:

    Past or present tense?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Thatoneguy465, May 10, 2017.

    This is my fourth novel I'm writing (not published only two of the three written so far I've finished so I'm still new to all of this.) but I have always wrote my novels or short stories in the present tense despite the fact I have only read about four to six novels in the present tense.

    So the question is when it comes to writing a novel which should someone go with if they do want to be published one day? Past tense feels off to me when I write but present tense comes natrual, but I am aware that most readers find the present tense taxing and annyoing.

    Also if you give the pros and cons of both tenses I will not read that part as I already know the pros and cons of both, but if you want to do it anyway go for it as I'm sure there might be some people who would like to know.

  2. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Jun 5, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I'm not sure if the above is true or not, but assuming it is? I'd say the number one thing you don't want to do when trying to get published is write in a way that you know turns readers off. An agent or publisher isn't going to care a whit about what comes naturally to you or not. They care about selling books first and foremost, and if present tense is as unappealing as you believe it to be, your manuscript will likely be dead on arrival.
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Go with past if anything I have been told, is worth.
    Present tense is rather unpopular to many here
    as I have found out.
  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Aug 12, 2015
    Likes Received:
    London, UK
    Some agents, publishers, and readers won't read present tense. I've only seen one (informal) poll on it, which came out at 22%.

    I've never seen anybody say they won't read something in past tense.

    So from a logical, numbers perspective? Go with past.

    But that's assuming you can produce novels in past. You say you find it difficult to write in past, and you have 0% chance of selling a novel that you don't finish, or that you don't like enough to work on until it's as good as you can get it.
  5. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Jul 15, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    I too favour past. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed the odd bit of present but I find it to be a more taxing read. If you truly believe one comes more naturally than the other, and your writing in the present is of a decent standard you might get away with it. A lot of younger readers aren't put off by Present, whereas a lot of old fogies like myself are. Reading habits get engrained and publishers know that. In terms of betting odds, I'd agree that Past is a safer bet.

    But... regardless of odds and such. If you don't actually enjoy writing in Past you might be better keeping on doing what you are doing. There's not the same impetus to write when it's the equivalent of doing a chore. I'd put personal enjoyment over any other consideration.
    jannert likes this.
  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
    Likes Received:
    I, too, favour the past tense for my own writing, but for reading I really don't care. I just finished beta-reading a historical novel that was written in present tense (by somebody who is nearly as old as I am.) Once I got adjusted to it, it was fine. As to what publishers 'want,' that's a minefield I don't plan to enter. I assume what they want is a well-written, engaging story that's easy to follow and doesn't feel awkward or contrived. But I might be wrong, there.

    BTW, present tense can't be a complete turn-off for publishers, because Hilary Mantel's award-winning, best-selling historical novel, Wolf Hall, is written in present tense. (I'm not a fan of it, but not because of the tense.)
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
    Likes Received:
    What genre are you writing? If it's YA I wouldn't worry at all about present tense, but other genres can be more restrictive.

    In terms of what feels natural - give yourself a chance to get used to past tense, if it's what you think you should use. I wrote my first two novels in present tense, switched to past for the next couple, went back to write a third book in the first series in present tense, and found I'd lost my "knack" for it. But it came back after a chapter or two.
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Rhode Island
    Yeah, this. People have issues with present but nobody has issues with past.
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    East devon/somerset border
    Write in future tense ... people will think its very tommorow
  10. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Apr 22, 2017
    Likes Received:
    For me, it doesn't matter. After the first few pages I no longer notice if it's the past or present, because my brain gets used to it. So, as a reader, I prefer the author to write in the style that makes him deliver the best book. =)

    Maybe you could try to write a page in both tenses and share with people here..

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice