Writing a novel in past or present tense makes some people crazy. It seems when you stray from the standard mainstream way of novel writing, it causes an unsettling raucous among the people.
Is there a wrong tense to write a novel?
I have written everything from newspaper articles, term papers, thesis, and detailed reports to crime fiction. It’s important to grammatically write a report correctly. Nevertheless, what about writing fiction with fantasy, mystery, or even romance elements? Is it important to make sure that ALL your sentences pass the fussy editor’s test?
I read a novel not too long ago and I noticed that all the sentences were beautifully edited and each sentence was about the same length throughout the entire book. The structure was tight and pretty. What struck me was that even though the story was strong and engaging, the perfectly edited sentences actually made the story boring. It took something away from it.
Let me be clear, no matter what you are writing it should be edited with proper punctuation, grammar, tenses and without passive sentences (unless in certain instances it’s a part of the dialogue or in a report). But that doesn’t mean boring and tedious!
What about once word sentences? Isn’t that technically incorrect?
I’m sure there are editing mistakes in this post (passive sentences, split infinitives, etc.), but does it take away from the readability of the subject?
Now let me tell you an interesting story …
A few years ago as I began gathering all of my thoughts, research and outline for my first novel Compulsion, I was going to write a screenplay. What I realized halfway through the outline process was that it should be a novel. It flowed more like a novel and I became very excited because I had always wanted to write a book.
Now, you have to realize that scripts are written in present tense. It takes viewers into the moment of what’s going on right now. Of course, there are some exceptions to movies with flashbacks and narrations, but for the most part the actual script is written in the present tense.
I struggled with writing Compulsion in the present tense or the standard third person narrative for quite some time. I felt that it puts the readers into the here and now, and adds more excitement to the story. I asked friends, writers, avid readers, publishers and editors for their opinion on the subject. Oh my! I opened a big can of worms with that question. It divided everyone about 50/50 on the subject.
Wow, I never realized it was such a hot topic!
I made an executive decision to write Compulsion in the present tense. I know that some of you shudder at the thought. In fact, I’ve had a couple of people tell me that it’s wrong (they were angry) and that they couldn’t possibly read a novel in the present tense because it’s too distracting. On the other hand, I’ve had many avid readers tell me that it put them straight into the action with the serial killer and Emily Stone and they loved it.
However, I chose to write Dead Game and Dark Mind in the third person narrative. It was decision I made based on the flow of the stories and the main character. Another series could be a different story.
I run all my stories through the Big Three: third person narrative, first person narrative, and present tense. I strongly suggest for all writers take about ten pages from their manuscript and rewrite with each of these tenses and study each one. You might be surprised what jumps out at you!
So the big question…
Is there a wrong tense to write a novel?
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When Serial Killers Terrorize a California Beach Community, One Woman Stands in Their Way
“Jennifer Chase chose to write this story in the present tense which is a difficult task. She pulls it off, mostly due to the character of Emily Stone and the intense terror of the story. You can’t put it down as Emily moves closer to resolving the case at great personal risk.” ~ Mike McNeff, crime fiction author
“If you enjoy crime thrillers, Chase’s forensics and criminology background is definitely evident. The main character Emily Stone, acting as a mystery writer, dedicates her life to tracking serial killers of children and then anonymously sends the information to police, assuring and arrest and conviction. There’s plenty of drama, action, intrigue, and even romance.” ~ Mystery Lover
“Jennifer Chase has written a thriller that goes on stimulating the reader long after he or she is through with the book. This is heart pounding suspense as well. The prose throughout is by a bestselling author and in this case, the bestselling Author is without a doubt, Author Jennifer Chase. She delivers monumentally.” ~ Glen Cantrell, author and avid reader