Posts Tagged ‘time’

Outside Westminster station in London, UK


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I’m feeling tense. Here I am, writing my memoirs, and I keep jumping between present and past tense as I write. I know that just won’t do but I can’t decide which one feels right. I like the immediacy of the present tense, but I would have to re-write my beginning (which begins at the end, so to speak) in order to use it. (Let’s face it though, I’m going to have to re-write a LOT either way.)

If I don't decide on a tense soon my head might explode, and then there'd be brains all over my manuscript

Is anyone else having this problem?

I would really appreciate some advice from the more seasoned writers amongst us – I have no real training in writing per se so I am lost when it comes to all this. I just write on instinct, but that seems to be failing me on this one. (Actually, as I just wrote that I realised it wasn’t strictly true. I had decided to write in the past tense but, as I am writing, I keep slipping into the present-tense style that feels more natural. Does that mean that I should be writing in the present? Or is it just that I am a schizophrenic or undisciplined writer?)

Can I write in the present tense and still allude to future events or realisations? Or is that only possible if I write in past tense, and hence from a position of hindsight?

Are the rules so important in writing? Can I break them if I want to? Don’t you know I have a problem with authority? Aaaaaaaagggghhhh! I really am getting tense about my tense.

Help please!

By the by, I just read an interesting little article by Marg McAlister about cutting back the use of “I” in your first person writing (which will no doubt be a major focus of my editing process).

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