Monday, June 1, 2009
Present Tense Vs. Past Tense
More and more, novels are written in present tense. Still, I've read several articles in writers' magazines (like Writer's Digest) which say some editors frown upon this practice. They even went so far as to say present tense writing may cause the manuscript to get tossed in a bin. I'm talking about narration here--not dialogue. Here's an example: Past tense: Rebecca put down her cup and looked out the window. Present tense: Rebecca puts down her cup and looks out the window. I write in past tense but have read many novels recently that are written in present tense. It always gives me a start and sounds like poor grammar (unless it's dialogue like I mentioned). What do you think? What is your preference? Labels: English, grammar, writing
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I don't like present tense at all. It just doesn't flow! I'm the past, I've bought books without realizing they were in present tense, then didn't read them because it "just isn't right"!ReplyDelete
Beth, I think it sounds strange and it's unnatural to read. I have trouble finishing a novel if they're written that way and I doubt I could ever write that way.ReplyDelete
Oh shoot! That should have read "in the past", not I'm the past!!ReplyDelete
I won't read a book in present tense. Makes me nervous. :)ReplyDelete
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same and still retain the ability to function...One should, for example, see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise." ---F. Scott FitzgeraldReplyDelete
I agree completely. It is unnatural to read and would be very difficult to write. As my husband just said, we don't say, "I write a book." We'd say, "I wrote a book."ReplyDelete
My worst nightmare would be for an editor to accept my ms and then insist upon present tense. Gritting teeth right now. I've read some books from wildly successful authors who used to write in past tense and have now started writing in present tense. I hope this isn't a trend.
Joe, deep quote. Thanks.
I hope I'm not too late to comment. I recently read one of Patricia Cornwall's novels written in present tense. I loved it! I found the voice active and immediate. Maybe the tense depends on the experience of the writer. Maybe it's just personal preference. Until I read your blog, I'd considered present tense but now I believe I'll stick to past tense. Thanks for the heads-upReplyDelete
Mary, thanks for commenting. I, too, have noticed several best-selling authors using present tense recently. Some work but most don't in my opinion. If I stop mid-sentence like stubbing my toe, it's not working for me. I think it would be very difficult to write using present tense, and I'd have my former English teacher sitting on my shoulder throughout the entire process.ReplyDelete
I agree. I don't believe I have the experience to write in present tense. I think I would find the experience exhausting.ReplyDelete