I recently gave my YA manuscript to my two beta readers for comment. This is the second time they have read my manuscript, but the first time they have seen it since I made a huge calculated change, a change they were unaware I was making. I switched my story from past tense to present. Yep, I kept my third-person multiple points of view but re-wrote my story, for the most part, in present tense.
I did this for a number of reasons. I didn’t want my story to sound like a history lesson, a re-telling of events. That didn’t sit well with me, especially considering its contemporary setting and the age of its targeted audience. I wanted it to read as a story happening NOW, to enhance the feel of the immediate. I wanted to up the pacing, increase the sense of anticipation and escalation. I wanted to imply that my characters’ fates and my story’s conclusion were not decided. That all will only happen by reading to the end. This is how I see this story in my head, playing out like a movie, evolving, unravelling. I’m experiencing it as I write. Present tense felt like the best way to convey this sensation.
And one more thing: many of my favorite YA books are written in present tense. I love the way they read.
Anyway, back to my beta readers…
My greatest fear was that writing in present tense might disrupt the flow of narrative for readers. Not so with Beta A, as I shall call him. He “didn’t even notice” (the best comment he could have given me, I might add).
On the other hand, Beta B did notice. And didn’t like. Flow interrupted big time for him. I learned that he prefers stories written in past tense and had difficulty getting his head around my present tense narrative.
Regardless, both beta readers gave me constructive feedback on many other aspects of my manuscript. And I will keep my story tense as is. For I don’t believe it is simply a case of “this is the right way to do things, and this is wrong”. Everything is a matter of opinion and taste, and we are all entitled to our own, including choice of tense. Until next time…
Would love your views on writing in present tense, or past. Has anyone disagreed with you over your choice?