Writing in the present tense

I’ve not updated for a little while because I’ve been focusing all my creative efforts on my current work in progress. I’m also caught in the middle of a debate with myself about my internet persona. On the web I basically go by the name ‘pigfender’ and avoid having any real personal information or pictures up there (the self portrait that forms part of the logo for the site being the exception).

But then again, the whole point of a blog – of a writer trying to cultivate an internet presence – is to connect with people. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so weird about it. Anyway, for the moment at least I think I’m going to stick with limited info, for the sole reason that *not revealing* is a reversable decision, and sticking my mug out there isn’t.

Anyway, in the interest of sharing *something*… I’m currently working on a novel. It’s a legal comedy centered around a lawyer called Dave, a homeless guy called Roy and a dog called Dog. It’s a bit of a departure for me because I’m writing it not only in the first person, but also because I’m writing it in the present tense.

For example:

Chapter One

In which the smoke clears on David’s car crash, and sex is mentioned for the only time in the book

It’s a horrible feeling: a kind of urgent emptiness combined with a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. That, plus alternate flashes of embarrassment and depression that ride over me like waves of nausea. I’m sitting on a small wall by the side of what until a few moments ago had been a quiet road in South East London. Now, of course, the cars have started to build up. The traffic is slowing to a near standstill with drivers struggling to get round the accident that I caused. It’s a miserable end to a miserable day.

The rain has cleared up, but the seat of my trousers is damp anyway from the wet bricks. Blue beacons silently light the evening gloom as the police cars and ambulances block the view of the crash to the outside world. For the moment at least this includes me, as well as Roy, the homeless guy sitting next to me whose dog I’d been swerving to avoid when I careered off the road.

Correction: when I careered off the road in my wife’s car. She’s not going to let me forget that little detail…


David Hewson wrote the following about writing fiction in the present tense:

“Few books use the present tense throughout. It’s not as odd as the future tense for a narrative, but it’s not far off.” (David Hewson, “Writing: A User Manual”)

I don’t disagree with David (What would be the point? The book can’t exactly argue back); the technique definitely has it’s drawbacks. The one I’m most alert to is pacing. I don’t want to show every little detail that occurs (that would be dull), nor do I want to maintain a breakneck pace (it’s not an episode of “24”).  The extra effort is worth it, though. It gives the events an immediacy as they unfold and I think strengthens the connection with the lead character.

Anyway, I’m currently ploughing through chapter 13 so I’ve got a lot of re-writing to do on the second draft if I change my mind at some point. :)

One thought on “Writing in the present tense

  1. Sis

    Sounds really intriguing! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?! Writing in the present tense is weird deffo – been doing it in the blog – it does strangely make u want to include everything! Xxx

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