Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing Tense

I would love to hear your thoughts on tense in a novel. Recently, I've read quite a bit of criticism regarding writing in the present tense. If any of you receive a novel written in the present tense, what is your immediate reaction?

I struggle with this because I find it most natural and liberating to write in present tense. However, I don't want to discourage agents right off the bat.

Frequently I hear from writers that they've been told by others that something can't be done or agents won't like something, and while that might be the case, what I'd rather writers told other writers was whether something was working or not working. See, anything can be done if it's done well, but are people telling you agents won't like this because it's not working or are they coming from a place of fear, a place where they are regurgitating everything they've ever heard agents say to try to create the perfect formula for getting published?

Present tense is tough and while yes, it can be done, it's not often done well. I find that a present tense story, as with first person, is sometimes easier for the author to write, "liberating" as you say, but doesn't necessarily make for a good story to read. It doesn't always allow the reader to immerse herself into the story as she would like.

So I think you need to worry less about what an agent might or might not think and worry more about how this is working for the story, not for you as the writer, but for the story.