Past or Present Tense?


Image by J. Paxon Reyes via Flickr

After my morning writing session, I took a moment to wonder, would this story be stronger told in the past tense?

Of course, being the person that I am, that was probably the worst question to ask myself.

I don’t really dwell on little things like past or present tense as I’m writing a first draft. I usually just write the story as I see it or experience it, and then go back and make it stronger with each reading. But, considering how much work revising WIP1 was/is, I have to wonder, should I make the change now?

Only my alpha readers have gotten a glimpse of WIP2 in this drafting stage, so really, they would be the only ones who can realistically help me in my specific case. But, here are just a few things I’ve been considering since my morning writing session.

I started writing this story in the first person present because the MC experiences the most change and encounters a lot of newness as the world builds. I like the immediacy that present tense expresses when MC uncovers new things and needs to filter those discoveries against past context/teaching. The story has a lot of action sequences (at least, that’s the plan!), which, I thought, would be very effective¬† in the present tense because then the reader experiences whatever the MC experiences in that moment. Plus, when the idea of WIP2 first came to me in January, I hand wrote the first two chapters in a wave of inspiration, all in the present tense.

When I finally sat down to really work on WIP2 in the last few weeks of July (after months of trying to work on revising WIP1) I easily wrote and expanded on WIP2’s world, reaching sixty pages without even thinking about it.

Now, after this morning’s writing session, after two weeks of barely adding to the story and reading lots and lots of books written in the past tense, I’m questioning my previous decisions and reasons. Maybe I should revise now into the past tense. After all, the books I’ve LOVED these past two weeks were ALL written in the past tense (and were most certainly action-packed!). (Plus, I naturally write in the past tense…thanks to my alpha readers for pointing out my slips, heeehee).

Or, maybe I’m just getting in my own way, and grasping at any reason to be distracted from making more progress on WIP2.

What do you think? Should I plunge into the past tense? Forge ahead in the present? Or stop asking myself these silly questions and just write the story and worry about specifics later?