First, just let me say that I do not hate the present tense. In fact, I have a present tense story being published in an anthology later this year. The problem with present tense is that it’s great when it’s great, and when it’s not….*shudder* it’s horrible!
Present tense novels are an editor’s nightmare because no matter how much you think you understand present tense, you don’t. You really don’t. Every single present tense novel I’ve ever edited has had hundreds of mistakes in the tense. If you’re an unpublished, unknown writer, having hundreds of errors makes it a pretty short trip to the rejection pile. And that’s if the agent/editor likes present tense.
There are many agents and editors who have a written or unwritten policy to never or rarely accept fiction in the present tense (this seems especially common in adult science fiction and fantasy). Aside from maybe second person, it’s one of the most widely hated narrative styles. This doesn’t mean that present tense fiction is never published. It is. Though in adult fiction it is greatly outnumbered by stories in past tense.
If you want to take a risk and go with present tense, it is not a guaranteed failure. But is writing a present tense novel a good way to launch a writing career? Probably not. Does it lower your odds of publication? Almost definitely.
However, for young adult and middle grade readers, present tense is far more common and acceptable. It’s possible that writing in present tense may even be advantageous in these genres (for stats on present vs. past tense in middle grade, click here).
Still going with present tense? I cannot stress enough the importance of getting it in the hands of a competent editor before self publishing or submitting to agents/editors. You’ve gotta get rid of the errors in tense!
Present tense is one of my specialties, so if you’d like my help, check out my novel editing services.
Did you like this article? If so, please share it!