Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual links of interest to emerging writers. This week I think my favourite is Moonrat’s disquisition on present tense. I don’t know what happened a couple of years ago but these days it seems fashionable for beginners, especially in the YA and literary genres (oh, yes, litfic is a genre), to write their first novel in present tense. They are setting themselves up for a very hard time. Present tense is devilishly difficult. Present tense does not make the text more immediate–just the opposite, in fact. Present tense is the language of dreams and jokes, not realistic fiction. So do yourself a favour, use simple perfect instead.
Yes, I used present tense in one of Slow River‘s narrative strands. I did it to a purpose. (Which I think worked pretty well–hey, I never promised you modesty.) Yes, Hilary Mantel used present tense for Wolf Hall but, again, she used it to a purpose, and she’s, y’know, Hilary Mantel.
If you don’t understand tense, here’s a handy page that will lay it all out for you. Go learn something.