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Changing Tense (1 Viewer)

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Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
Has anyone done it?

I feel an overwhelming need, or possibly desire, to change the tense of my novel from past to present. Am I crazy?

This is the passage I was writing that made me think about it.


A blinding flash! I could almost feel my retinas melting as a wall of intense heat seared my skin, cooking my flesh and bringing my blood and internal organs to a rolling boil. What should have been instantaneous was happening in agonising slow motion.


A blinding flash! I can almost feel my retinas melting as a wall of intense heat sears my skin, cooking my flesh and bringing my blood and internal organs to a rolling boil. What should be instantaneous is happening in agonising slow motion.

My draft is currently 94k words but I have the feeling that it may be worth it.


Staff member
It's been trendy to write in present tense, especially since it worked in The Hunger Games. However, everything I've read on the subject still suggests that a substantial segment of readers don't care for present tense. That includes me. It's always seemed forced to me, and I just don't read it. If it's presented here for critique, I'll read enough to critique, because that's one important reason we're here, but I won't read it for pleasure. So bear in mind that you may be slicing off a portion of your potential audience. Another risk if you've already written 94K in past tense is, simply, you might miss some tense changes in revision, which would be bad.

It's also possible you might present select passages in present tense, if you justify why to the reader. I've seen that done, for example, as a memory the narrator is reliving in detail in their mind, and I've seen it done in relating a dream.

To me, I don't get a stronger feel from your present tense rendering above than from the past tense. I think you're considering an awful lot of work for no guaranteed improvement.

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
@vranger, you speak sense.

I did used to avoid books that were written in present tense but then I got into a series that does it (24 so far, book 25 came out today) and it seemed to change my mind and it probably influenced my post above.

I wrote my 1st draft in past tense in order to not be influenced but have found myself pulled in the other direction.

Yes, I am aware of the risks and will take them into consideration if/when I make a decision.

I think you're considering an awful lot of work for no guaranteed improvement.
This is something I excel at! 😂


Senior Member
I think the problem with first person present tense is there's more disbelief to be suspended. The reader is expected to believe that the story is happening in real time, when it is clearly not. Past tense works so well that it becomes subconscious and we gloss over it, because we know the story is taking place in the past.

Omniscient third person present doesn't bother me because we don't have to believe anything any character says.


Senior Member
Leave the draft behind.

Begin a new novel as an evolution of the old novel, like a second project. Consult only loosely. 'Creatives' - like us- we do this all the time. I know about it because I am especially creative, gift from god, I dunno.

Otherwise, it'll be 3 months changing words around like uploading every ....fffffff....compact disc in AD 2003 - for no good reason at all in hindsight, was boring.


Personally I'm a HUGE fan of present tense writing. I feel like it gives a piece more immediacy and a certain level of intimacy as well. I prefer first person present to third present, but not by a huge margin.

That said, I've switched the tense of short stories partway through (not just from past to present but the other way around, too) and every single time I do it, I'm guaranteed to miss at least one verb. And usually it's more like half a dozen. That's just short stories, and usually only a couple thousand words in. I think I'd be terrified to attempt it 94K words through a novel. Not saying you shouldn't do it. Just saying I hope you're a better editor than I am.


Senior Member
In my incompetent opinion, present tense is very hard to make work and has very limited uses. Its benefit is it makes the story feel more immediate. As long as it's well written, the protagonist's thoughts and feelings will come across as more genuine. So it can work when it's the type of story that focuses a lot on what's going on in the protagonist's head. It also makes the actions seem more spontaneous and unexpected than planned.

Maybe I've been skeptical about it simply because I've seen so little of it. Come to think of it, among my all-time favorite books is a novel series that has been written in the present tense.The way that particular writer writes, it's awesome.

With my current almost-completed fanfic novel, I decided to take a leap of faith, so to speak, and do something I had never done before – writing in present tense. It worked better than I dared to hope. For this particular project, that is. I'm not sure I will ever do it again.

To cut the long story short, why don't you try and see how you like the result? If it's awful lot of work to change everything into present tense, do it with a chapter or two first. Take it as an experiment. At any rate, you sound like it won't leave you in peace until you try.

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
Despite the date, I started this thread in June.

I am changing tense but I'm doing it mainly as rewrites which will minimise the risk. I have to say that it's a much easier way to write and it's a good way to immerse myself in the story I'm telling.

As for books written in present tense, the most recent ones I've read (RR Haywood's The Undead, Code and Extracted series, Dean Koontz's Nameless series and Heather Morris's Tattooist of Auschwitz/Cilka's Journey) have all been written in present tense.
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