Tense about Tense

I’ve written several novels in present tense. The only time I’d written in past tense was when I’d have a flashback, letting the change in tense signal to the reader that we were going back in time. It seemed to work pretty well for me. Felt natural to write that way.

Some of you may know of my historical fiction novel about the circus. The novel had several incarnations in present tense. It was making the rounds of agents. I thought, like we can all foolishly believe, it was done. Then I got some feedback from an intern at the literary agency which turned the story on its head in a fantastic way.

I don’t really know why, but when I started the rewrite this time, I changed to past tense.

It’s been a struggle. I’ll write some bits of dialogue and action and realize I’ve just written a page in present tense. I don’t think though, that that’s my main problem.

Past tense feels distant. Like maybe I’m watching what happens from across the street. Let me clarify this statement. When I’M writing in past tense, it feels distant. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, or maybe it’s just not right for me.

According to¬†http://thewritepractice.com/past-tense-vs-present-tense/ most novels are written in past tense. That doesn’t seem right to me, but maybe most adult novels are in past tense because in kids lit, present seems to rule the day.

Thus begins the rewrite of a rewrite of many others. I’ve tried searching for obvious past tense verbs like was, anything ending in ‘ed, and the could/would combo.

It does feel better. Feels more like me. And most importantly, I think the reader will like it better!

What’s your favorite tense?

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