Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tense Change Challenge

Here's something new!

My inspiration:  I'm currently changing the tense of a manuscript--for the third time.  (Not in rapid succession, mind you.)  This story started in third person past, moved to first person present, and is now well on its way to being first person third.

Verbs don't scare me, though.  It may be tedious, but it's not difficult.  The most infuriating part is missing things that you SWEAR you should've seen the first time.

Like this little gem, which I seriously just arbitrarily found:

Her cheeks flushed the way they do whenever Dad praised her.

(Ugh, right?)

The other consideration, though, is this:  Which tense tells my story best?  Which one lends itself to the voice, the mood, the feel of my story?

So here's the challenge:

I will take THE FIRST 10 ENTRIES and do the following:

I will take your excerpt and change it to the tense of your choice.  This will be particularly useful if you're considering changing tense, but aren't sure if you want to.

Do this:

*Tell me the TITLE and the GENRE of your novel.
*Write a brief lead-in to your scene, so we feel grounded.
*Choose a 250-word excerpt and send it AS IS.
*Tell me which tense you'd like me to change it to.

I will:

*Change the tense.
*Post BOTH VERSIONS in one post on the blog.

Then we can have open discussions and critique about which tense works better -- and why.

Sound good?


Please send your submission to me at facelesswords(at)  THIS IS NOT THE NORMAL ADDRESS FOR CONTESTS/CRITIQUES!  This is only because of the broken bot situation.

You may begin sending your entries at noon EDT today.  Entries that arrive with a time stamp prior to noon EDT will be deleted.  As soon as I've received 10 entries, I will update this blog post.

Capiche?  Please ask your questions below!


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one going through this. I started with present, third. Got at lot of grief over it, so changed it to past, third (missed the second line in the MS..."this is" ha!). Even though I'm still finding things like "may", I think it flows better. Now I'm wondering, if first person, past would be a better fit. Mostly because it's YA.

    1. BTW, this is why your blog is awesome!

    2. Aww, thank you, Diana! :)

      It can be really frustrating. My advice would be for you to rewrite just the first chapter in first person, and see how you like it. That is what I will be doing when I dig into revision on my recently completed WIP -- I am rewriting the first chapter in first person past (it's in first present right now), and making sure I love it before I continue.

      Things were surely easier in the olden days when EVERYTHING was written in third person past!

  2. As I've mentioned a number of times in critiques here, I rather wish the current fad for present tense would go away! Although of course there are exceptions and a few talented writers manage to use present tense quite well, in general I feel it tends to sound unnatural and almost stilted -- it just doesn't flow as well. On top of that, I often see inconsistencies in tense when young writers are trying to use present tense but keep slipping and reverting to past tense here and there. So I think it would be best if it went back to being something that's only occasionally used for effect in avant-garde short fiction, the way it used to be.

    But as far as POV, I've never understood the prejudice against first person, so I'm glad most agents and editors seem to be fine with it today. At the time of my first attempts at querying years ago, I had a manuscript that was in first person and received several replies telling me they couldn't work with first person . . . Needless to say, I ended up rewriting that book in third! However, I've found that you can write third person with such a close focus that there's very little difference in the 'feel' of the story, so you really don't have to lose any sense of intimacy by making that change if you feel that's the way to go for a particular story.