Tense

Past versus present, that is. All three of my novels so far have been in past tense; it’s what I’m most comfortable writing and what the stories came to me in, and I never gave it any thought when I started. In starting this fourth one, the words have come to me in present tense (see the first paragraphs), which is unfamiliar for me.

I wrote a thousand words in present tense, but it was choppy, it wasn’t feeling right. I blamed the tense choice on the fact that the novel I was currently reading was in present tense, and I do sometimes find it can bleed over into my writing. I figured the story would start flowing better if I returned it to the familiar past tense. So I went back and changed all thousand words into past tense. Then tried to keep writing. But every sentence (quite literally) I would first try to write it in present tense and then catch myself. Finally after a couple hundred more words I gave in. Obviously, the story wants to be written in present tense, so I’ll just have to deal with it.

I haven’t gone back to re-change that first bit yet, but wrote the next 500 words in present tense. They flowed a lot better. The main issue seemed to be that the immediacy of present tense made my brain want to write short and choppy, and I had to force it to mellow out and expand on thoughts and offer up some description. Once that got settled, it’s been going a lot better. Current word count after a day’s writing (and fiddling): 1,761.

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