Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#21

JeneClyde Wrote: I been writing for about 20 years, but only really started in present in the last 3 because I was struggling so hard with tense and wording. The thing is I think a lot of people don't recognize a lot of tips out there are from a Neurotyoical perspective and doesn't engage in the way someone who is Neurodiverse might think or write. My writing got a lot better when I just wrote like someone with ADHD then following certain rules.

Huh, it is about the same time for me as well. I believe I was writing for about 17 or 18 years. It was the past 3 as well, since I started writing in present. And you are right, while advice can work, when it comes to those with ADHD, another approach has to be taken. This can be difficult to sort out if you don’t understand what the person is dealing with. I have seen advice fall flat, since it is being based on what most do, not what might possibly appeal to a certain individual. This line is one of the reasons why I had to learn on my own, I could not find any advice I can possibly use. I can only imagine it has been a lot worse for you. 

Anyway, I am glad you found what works for you. It isn’t easy, but the difficulty is part of the journey. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#22

Edge Wrote:
JeneClyde Wrote: I been writing for about 20 years, but only really started in present in the last 3 because I was struggling so hard with tense and wording. The thing is I think a lot of people don't recognize a lot of tips out there are from a Neurotyoical perspective and doesn't engage in the way someone who is Neurodiverse might think or write. My writing got a lot better when I just wrote like someone with ADHD then following certain rules.

Huh, it is about the same time for me as well. I believe I was writing for about 17 or 18 years. It was the past 3 as well, since I started writing in present. And you are right, while advice can work, when it comes to those with ADHD, another approach has to be taken. This can be difficult to sort out if you don’t understand what the person is dealing with. I have seen advice fall flat, since it is being based on what most do, not what might possibly appeal to a certain individual. This line is one of the reasons why I had to learn on my own, I could not find any advice I can possibly use. I can only imagine it has been a lot worse for you. 

Anyway, I am glad you found what works for you. It isn’t easy, but the difficulty is part of the journey.



I have been working on collecting Neurodivergent Writing Advice in order to help others with ADHD to be able to write because of the lack of advice. But I also had to learn along the way myself. And I continue to do so, learn new things. I hoping that will show in my work. 

I just wanted to give a different take on Present Tense and why for some it goes beyond preference.

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#23

JeneClyde Wrote: I have been working on collecting Neurodivergent Writing Advice in order to help others with ADHD to be able to write because of the lack of advice. But I also had to learn along the way myself. And I continue to do so, learn new things. I hoping that will show in my work. 

I just wanted to give a different take on Present Tense and why for some it goes beyond preference.

Yeah, I understand where you are coming from. Typically, present isn’t preferred since most works are written in past. It is a level of comfort zone. When one sees and does something, without exposure to another. It tends to strengthen a certain way of thinking, forcing it more into an opinionated sense on why one should not do this or that. I do hope you are able to help those with ADHD, even if it is something small. Eventually it can go a long way.

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#24
I have ADHD as well and tend to write more smoothly in third past, though I enjoy writing short stories in present. I tend to write an incredibly close third, though; the kind where the character is almost indistinguishable from the narrator with intrusive thoughts included, because the way I write is to hyper-focus and *become* the character. 

I’m also a longtime writer—23 years. Far too many advice columns treating writing advice as rules and anything different that’s good as the exception to the rule. It tries to fit art into little boxes. I’ve yet to meet a ND person who fits well in a box, so I love that you want to help people with ADHD write. All of our brains (writers and readers) are different, so why should we write our stories all the same?

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#25

OwlishIntergalactic Wrote: I have ADHD as well and tend to write more smoothly in third past, though I enjoy writing short stories in present. I tend to write an incredibly close third, though; the kind where the character is almost indistinguishable from the narrator with intrusive thoughts included, because the way I write is to hyper-focus and *become* the character. 

I’m also a longtime writer—23 years. Far too many advice columns treating writing advice as rules and anything different that’s good as the exception to the rule. It tries to fit art into little boxes. I’ve yet to meet a ND person who fits well in a box, so I love that you want to help people with ADHD write. All of our brains (writers and readers) are different, so why should we write our stories all the same?



Thank you for the support. I was starting to get worried for a while that I was going to be burned at the stake with pitchforks, for trying my best to "change the rules". So to speak. Because you're very right, these tips became advice became rules that you must follow and there is a lot of gatekeeping and I think a lot of shame in the writing community that isn't talked about often. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#26

JeneClyde Wrote:
OwlishIntergalactic Wrote: I have ADHD as well and tend to write more smoothly in third past, though I enjoy writing short stories in present. I tend to write an incredibly close third, though; the kind where the character is almost indistinguishable from the narrator with intrusive thoughts included, because the way I write is to hyper-focus and *become* the character. 

I’m also a longtime writer—23 years. Far too many advice columns treating writing advice as rules and anything different that’s good as the exception to the rule. It tries to fit art into little boxes. I’ve yet to meet a ND person who fits well in a box, so I love that you want to help people with ADHD write. All of our brains (writers and readers) are different, so why should we write our stories all the same?



Thank you for the support. I was starting to get worried for a while that I was going to be burned at the stake with pitchforks, for trying my best to "change the rules". So to speak. Because you're very right, these tips became advice became rules that you must follow and there is a lot of gatekeeping and I think a lot of shame in the writing community that isn't talked about often.

Personally I had no idea that something like tense could effect the reading or writing experience of neurodiverse people. I don't think I've ever thought about accessability in writing beyond keeping bigotry out of my writing. It's very cool of you and the others in this thread speaking about your experiences in this regard. It's definitely something that we need to keep in mind in the community.

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#27

JeneClyde Wrote: Thank you for the support. I was starting to get worried for a while that I was going to be burned at the stake with pitchforks, for trying my best to "change the rules". So to speak. Because you're very right, these tips became advice became rules that you must follow and there is a lot of gatekeeping and I think a lot of shame in the writing community that isn't talked about often.



If you haven't already, you might want to look into literary fiction. Genre fiction has a strong incentive to fit in with what came before, while the lit fic sphere tends to reward experimentation, rules-breaking, and outright contrarianism. ("tends" being the operative word)

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#28
I do not read* or edit present tense. It gives me a headache and always** feels wrong. It doesn't deliver anything better in prose. 

Present tense is frequently used in real life to relate personal anecdotes ("So I'm at the party, and this guy comes up to me . . ."), because the teller is reliving it. It's natural. The listener gets no immediacy and it's effectively the same as past tense. The longer the story, or the less recent it is, the more the audience tends to prefer past tense. If you study stand up comedy (a truly valuable skill for both writing and public speaking, because it means you learn how to keep your audience interested), then you also learn when to switch between present and past in order to get the right reaction from your audience.

Ninja Wife is even more annoyed by present tense.***

Also, since there is speculation in this thread about neurodiverse writers, I have ADD and am autistic. Obviously the boxes do not preclude me. 

* Except for The Jacky Faber Series. Excellent story in spite of the tense issue.
** I think Jacky Faber works because it's written in Cockney, so its "wrongness" feels like part of the accent in my brain. This is especially true in the audio, narrated by the late, great Katherine Kellgren, who also sang all the many songs in the books, including as a drunken Scotsman. A true one-woman cast.
*** But she enjoyed Jacky Faber too. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#29

NovelNinja Wrote: Present tense is frequently used in real life to relate personal anecdotes ("So I'm at the party, and this guy comes up to me . . ."), because the teller is reliving it. It's natural. The listener gets no immediacy and it's effectively the same as past tense. The longer the story, or the less recent it is, the more the audience tends to prefer past tense. If you study stand up comedy (a truly valuable skill for both writing and public speaking, because it means you learn how to keep your audience interested), then you also learn when to switch between present and past in order to get the right reaction from your audience.



I think though this is an issue of how people utilize Present Tense. Talking about being a Neurodivergent writer, present tense allows me to also experiment and also allow the readers to experience sensory overload in the moment. How static clings to the skin. How the fluorescent lights whine. I think that a lot of people who write tend to miss the tactile sensations that you can convey in the present tense. 

For example that mention of "I'm at this party and it's lame." - at least the way I would approach it is "This party - is lame." I think the issue is people try to Narrate more then they try to Convey.

"I'm at this party, it's lame, walking over to Sarah who is getting a drink," 
Narrate 

versus

"This party is  - lame. Hiding in the corner of the room, trying to escape the throbbing, pulsing pop music I see Sarah across the room. Should I talk to her?" 

I have seen a lot of people who do a lot of - 

- I did this
- I talk to this 

And I agree even I cannot get into a Present Tense like that. To me Present Tense is meant to convey. And there is a lot more you can do with it. I find it easier to convey sensory overload and sensory overwhelm, things like mental health, anxiety, and CPTSD in that moment. Then again I also have a lot of characters with a lot o different types of mental health to deal with. I think it's just something important to consider for representation.

Just some thoughts on this. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#32

JeneClyde. Wrote: I think though this is an issue of how people utilize Present Tense. Talking about being a Neurodivergent writer, present tense allows me to also experiment and also allow the readers to experience sensory overload in the moment. How static clings to the skin. How the fluorescent lights whine. I think that a lot of people who write tend to miss the tactile sensations that you can convey in the present tense. 

For example that mention of "I'm at this party and it's lame." - at least the way I would approach it is "This party - is lame." I think the issue is people try to Narrate more then they try to Convey.

"I'm at this party, it's lame, walking over to Sarah who is getting a drink," 
Narrate 

versus

"This party is  - lame. Hiding in the corner of the room, trying to escape the throbbing, pulsing pop music I see Sarah across the room. Should I talk to her?" 

I have seen a lot of people who do a lot of - 

- I did this
- I talk to this 

And I agree even I cannot get into a Present Tense like that. To me Present Tense is meant to convey. And there is a lot more you can do with it. I find it easier to convey sensory overload and sensory overwhelm, things like mental health, anxiety, and CPTSD in that moment. Then again I also have a lot of characters with a lot o different types of mental health to deal with. I think it's just something important to consider for representation.

Just some thoughts on this.

Well, one, if this is all about being neurodivergent, then you have to explain why you get people like me.


Second, you don't define what you mean by narration versus conveyance. Your examples mainly read like bad writing versus better writing.

Ultimately, this is all a matter of personal taste. It's just a different way of writing. If it were automatically superior, then we'd all be writing in present tense. Instead, we've been writing in past tense for at least 4,700 years. Present tense is simply a narrative choice that is currently in vogue with a minority of authors and readers. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#33

NovelNinja Wrote:
JeneClyde. Wrote: I think though this is an issue of how people utilize Present Tense. Talking about being a Neurodivergent writer, present tense allows me to also experiment and also allow the readers to experience sensory overload in the moment. How static clings to the skin. How the fluorescent lights whine. I think that a lot of people who write tend to miss the tactile sensations that you can convey in the present tense. 

For example that mention of "I'm at this party and it's lame." - at least the way I would approach it is "This party - is lame." I think the issue is people try to Narrate more then they try to Convey.

"I'm at this party, it's lame, walking over to Sarah who is getting a drink," 
Narrate 

versus

"This party is  - lame. Hiding in the corner of the room, trying to escape the throbbing, pulsing pop music I see Sarah across the room. Should I talk to her?" 

I have seen a lot of people who do a lot of - 

- I did this
- I talk to this 

And I agree even I cannot get into a Present Tense like that. To me Present Tense is meant to convey. And there is a lot more you can do with it. I find it easier to convey sensory overload and sensory overwhelm, things like mental health, anxiety, and CPTSD in that moment. Then again I also have a lot of characters with a lot o different types of mental health to deal with. I think it's just something important to consider for representation.

Just some thoughts on this.

Well, one, if this is all about being neurodivergent, then you have to explain why you get people like me.


Second, you don't define what you mean by narration versus conveyance. Your examples mainly read like bad writing versus better writing.

Ultimately, this is all a matter of personal taste. It's just a different way of writing. If it were automatically superior, then we'd all be writing in present tense. Instead, we've been writing in past tense for at least 4,700 years. Present tense is simply a narrative choice that is currently in vogue with a minority of authors and readers.



To your first point, my writing style has been cultivated from the experience of many ND people. I am in a lot of social circles around ND folk, and I write in a way that is engaging to folk who have ADHD. You may not have the same experience as them, but I write in the way that the hundreds of people that struggle with a similar thing to me has said. But I recognize that it is a spectrum.

There is no such thing as better writing. Or even good and bad writing. Narration directs the scene, whereas Convey uses Emotion to direct the scene. That is what I mean, my first example, I have seen books written like that. Where they direct the scene, Shelly walks over to her neighbors houses, why is she thinking so much about this girl? - That is an Action, that is Narration, that Directs the Scene.

Convey uses Emotions; Why is she thinking about this girl so much? Why is she heading to her house? Is she in love? 

We still know in either example she's going to a girls' house. One just doesn't directly state so. Narration drives the scene through a characters actions. Convey drives the scene through a characters emotions. 

I think that Present Tense is better at Conveying Emotion in the Moment. I didn't say that it was a better way to write. I just think that it - for me and for some folk who have ADHD - it takes away that feeling like "I'm reading a book" 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#34
Thank you for defining your terms. That is very important for any kind of discussion. I still don't see how this is more than a personal preference, much less something so specific to neurodivergent readers. (Especially since that is such a broad term as to have no effective meaning.)

Why do you believe there's no such thing as good or bad writing? If that's the case, why did you bother explaining a better way to use present tense? 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#35

NovelNinja Wrote: Thank you for defining your terms. That is very important for any kind of discussion. I still don't see how this is more than a personal preference, much less something so specific to neurodivergent readers. (Especially since that is such a broad term as to have no effective meaning.)

Why do you believe there's no such thing as good or bad writing? If that's the case, why did you bother explaining a better way to use present tense?



Because the majority of Neurodivergent readers I have spoken to, prefer present tense - it engages them more. As someone who is an advocate, who works in the community, who is actively involved with several ND communities. A good majority of them prefer present. Again this isn't every person with ADHD, but it is a good enough of us who do experience this that it needs to be something we talk about. You're the one of the one hundred who doesn't experience this, it also doesn't mean the experience of the other hand do not matter.

And when I say a better way to use present tense isn't about the writing. It's the difference between wanting use acrylic as watercolor and then saying that acrylic doesn't do X well. 

Re: Opinions on Present Tense

#36
All I will say is, I've been harassed about various things over the years, but few have made my blood boil more than the people who go to my present-tense books and make rude comments about how they're definitely never reading this thing because it has garbage writing in the wrong tense. Thank you so much for enlightening me on your opinions, commenters.