Present Tense in Fiction

Q: I’m frustrated concerning a question on tense. I completed a serial-killer novel. It was edited by a professional freelancer. My use of the present tense was okay with her.

Charlie Spicer at S&S read it along with marketing. He had much praise for the manuscript, but marketing had too many similar works in the pipeline. Not a word on tense.

A friend of mine asked to read the book. She was in publishing for 20 years, and now has her own firm: editing, illustration, etc. She says I can’t use present tense in fiction; it’s been done successfully only a few times.

Could you give me your considered opinion? Thank you. -Gordon


A:
When book doctors and acquisitions editors think in terms of marketability, we lean toward the highest percentages. Yes, you can write a novel in present tense, but only a low percentage of those manuscripts ever get published, and only a few of those become bestsellers. Don’t buck the odds or work against the system. If you want a higher chance of selling your novel, go with the numbers. Novels in past tense sell better, so seriously consider writing novels only in past tense.

Bobbie Christmas
Owner of Zebra Communications, a Literary Services Firm