From the seasoned one…

Past tense versus Present tense writing:

Ask any English scholar and they will tell you that the only good book is one written in past tense and that writing in present tense limits you as a writer.  Any time I’ve asked how it limits you, I’ve never been given a straight answer that doesn’t sound like someone desperately searching for a reason to stick with their opinion.  I’ve come to believe that’s something they’ve read out of a text book and have taken it as gospel.  One that shouldn’t be challenged.

I started reading as a child, was constantly in the library as a teenager and have read hundreds of books.  I only switched to a Kindle recently because I have no more room left to store any more books.  The thing is, when I read a book, I never pay attention to tense. A story runs through my head like a movie as I read it and that is how I write, in present tense.

Once again, I am not an English major and so have never felt constricted by those rules. These days there are more and more people writing in present tense, bucking convention. (For example, Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games, EL James of 50 Shades)  Every story I post to fanfiction.net, I get some reviewer that tells me how I should be writing in past tense.  I thank them for their reviews, then politely ignore them.

But there is one rule that I do honor and that is, pick a tense and stick with it.  This is another common problem with fanfiction, stories that are a mix of present and past tense. As you write, you need to pay attention to the tense.

Here’s an example of mixing up the tense:

She walked into the room and sits down on the couch, waiting for her friend to arrive.

Do you see where I messed with the tense?  I started out in past and moved to present.

Here’s the correct version in past tense:

She walked into the room, sat down on the couch, and waited for her friend to arrive.

The correct version in present tense:

She walks into the room and sits down on the couch, waiting for her friend to arrive.

Can you see the differences?  I’m not going to tell you which tense you should write in, but once you pick one, stick with it.

Until next time…

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