PDA

View Full Version : Past vs. Present Tense



Gumdrop
08-04-2015, 04:18 AM
Do agents typically dislike/reject novels written in the present tense?

mayqueen
08-04-2015, 04:35 AM
The tense, like the narrative perspective, etc, should fit the story. I've read many recently published novels written in the present tense. I don't know your genre, but The Miniaturist, for example.

Make sure you're reading widely in your genre and keeping up with recently published works. That will tell you who likes what kinds of styles.

Gumdrop
08-04-2015, 04:55 AM
I am referring to young adult and science fiction. I started querying and have gotten rejections so I was wondering if the tense of the manuscript has something to do with it.

Lauram6123
08-04-2015, 05:53 AM
I am referring to young adult and science fiction. I started querying and have gotten rejections so I was wondering if the tense of the manuscript has something to do with it.

Even though it's not my genre, I've read that first-person present tense is very popular right now in YA. If I had to guess, I don't think the tense of your story is causing the rejections. It could be any number of things from your query letter, to the readability of your sample pages, to particular agent preferences. When you have 50 posts, you can post your query letter in Query Letter Hell, and the experts there can help you spot potential problems.

mayqueen
08-04-2015, 05:58 AM
If I had to guess, I don't think the tense of your story is causing the rejections. It could be any number of things from your query letter, to the readability of your sample pages, to particular agent preferences. When you have 50 posts, you can post your query letter in Query Letter Hell, and the experts there can help you spot potential problems.
This. I would be very surprised if the tense is the issue in and of itself. It could be that the tense isn't working, which would be a bigger issue with the prose of the entire manuscript. It could also be your query letter. It could be that the story starts in the wrong place. It could be that the agent just read fifty scifi queries in a row and isn't into scifi right now. It could be anything! SYW and finding good beta-readers is your best bet to figure out what.

Aggy B.
08-04-2015, 06:04 AM
I am referring to young adult and science fiction. I started querying and have gotten rejections so I was wondering if the tense of the manuscript has something to do with it.

My agent is repping books I've written in past tense and present tense. It really shouldn't matter as long as it is well written and fits the needs of the particular story.

Present tense (and 1st person) can be more difficult to "get right", but the tense by itself shouldn't be resulting in rejections.

Usher
08-04-2015, 06:50 AM
I have had rejections entirely on the tense (agent would look again at my novel if I changed it). But others thought I'd done it really well. Most had another objection that couldn't be changed. It is also now much more popular in YA than it was when I first queried mine.

blacbird
08-04-2015, 07:15 AM
i might have missed somebody, but I've never seen an agent express a preference for past or present tense narrative.

caw

Gumdrop
08-04-2015, 07:37 AM
Thank you for the comforting responses. I have had my materials read by a beta, but I suppose they still need work.

Fuchsia Groan
08-04-2015, 09:01 AM
I have known a lot of adult readers with a blanket aversion to present tense, and I imagine some agents share it. But I doubt they are agents who currently rep a lot of YA, because present tense is so common in that category right now. I use first-person present tense, and it hasn't been a problem. I've also used past tense, and that hasn't been an issue for anyone, either.

But of course, as with any format, you have to make it work for your story. That's where SYW may be helpful.

Usher
08-04-2015, 02:12 PM
One of mine was from a successful representative of YA/MG authors. She sent me a rejection which is something she doesn't normally do with her reasons in it and I followed that up with a phonecall. It was simply she didn't like present tense.

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2015, 05:55 PM
I've known both agents and editor to reject novels based on tense, and for person. Whether it's first person, second person, or present tense, some agents and editors are extremely cautious about taking them on from a new writer. But all this really means is that you have to write it better, you have to tell a better story, and fill it with better characters, than you might have to do in third limited.

But none of this matters in any way. The only way you're going to get anywhere is to write the novel you want to write, the way you want to write it. If you make decisions about writing based on marketability, you'll most likely stay unpublished.

Usher
08-04-2015, 07:01 PM
But none of this matters in any way. The only way you're going to get anywhere is to write the novel you want to write, the way you want to write it. If you make decisions about writing based on marketability, you'll most likely stay unpublished.

And if you make decisions about writing that are not based on marketability and produce a work that is good but out of fashion or not yet in fashion then you'll also most likely stay unpublished. It doesn't hurt to be aware of what agents and publishers are looking for or not looking for.

Thedrellum
08-04-2015, 08:12 PM
And if you make decisions about writing that are not based on marketability and produce a work that is good but out of fashion or not yet in fashion then you'll also most likely stay unpublished. It doesn't hurt to be aware of what agents and publishers are looking for or not looking for.

But unless you write a novel in, say, a month, and your agent sells it in, say, a month, you'll probably still be out of fashion. Publishing moves slowly, but it still moves AND it moves in the future--if the book sells now, it won't be out for a year or more and by then the dominant fashion will have most likely changed.

I agree with James here simply because if I'm going to be spending a lot of time writing a book for no payoff--because it ends up being out of fashion, whether I'm trying to hit the moving targets and publishers or not--I'd prefer to spend that time writing a book I want to write.

mayqueen
08-04-2015, 08:53 PM
I see where Usher is coming from, though, and I agree. Trends are trends, and do move quickly (though this is publishing and nothing moves quickly), but there are styles that come in and out of fashion on longer cycles. While obviously writing to the trends is a bad idea, it isn't a bad idea to keep an eye toward marketability.

Scythe-Of-Winter
08-24-2015, 03:04 PM
From what I've seen, while most agents like both, if they have beef with either tense it's present tense...

Corinne Duyvis
08-26-2015, 12:40 AM
I'm sure some will reject based purely on tense, but they'll be a small, small minority. Most agents/editors won't care one bit what tense it's written in as long as it's done well. And if the tense is an objection for them but everything else is spot-on, they'll probably ask for an R&R.

In other words, if you're getting vague rejections, tense is not the first place I'd look. Especially in MG/YA, where present tense is extremely common (says the girl with a present tense novel coming out next year).

monkey44
08-27-2015, 08:32 PM
I agree totally with above statement: Write your story the way you want to write it, otherwise, you'll forever second guess yourself.

You might just launch a new style ... the first one of anything is always the first one. We all either follow or take a new path.

Look at Cormac McCArthy in 'No Country for Old Men' ... complete unique style, but successful author nonetheless. And you don't have to be famous to bring something new to the table. Have confidence in yourself.

Scythe-Of-Winter
08-28-2015, 05:21 AM
I agree totally with above statement: Write your story the way you want to write it, otherwise, you'll forever second guess yourself.

You might just launch a new style ... the first one of anything is always the first one. We all either follow or take a new path.

Look at Cormac McCArthy in 'No Country for Old Men' ... complete unique style, but successful author nonetheless. And you don't have to be famous to bring something new to the table. Have confidence in yourself.

Except McCarthy already had numerous novels under his belt, including a major film adaptation with Matt Damon. His path was already paved.

And honestly, I can't see how saying that you should forego commas, quotations marks and semicolons can be anything but a bad idea, especially for a new writer.