I am awful at tenses!

I’m not sure why or what it is but I am awful at sticking to tenses when writing.

Past Present and Future Signpost

I think I have mentioned this before but I would like to hear from you guys in the comments, please tell me I am not alone!

The issue:
When I am writing I try to write in past tense but then I slip into present tense without realising and I’m not quite sure why.

I was reading back through the early pages of a story and realised I had done it multiple times, slipping from “I walked over to the window and looked down at the street” to “I walk over to the window and look down at the street.”

It’s infuriating just because I have to spend most of my time on a read-through correcting these simple mistakes.

Anyone else struggle with this or just me? Let me know in the comments below.


10 thoughts on “I am awful at tenses!

  1. I despise present tense. It makes me feel like the author is trying to rush me. It pisses me off. A lot of teen or young adult (the genre, not necessarily the age of) authors use that tense and I find it unreadable. That’s one reason I hate e-readers. You can’t always tell what a book is like by the first few pages because some authors like to change POV’s and tenses after a few pages. In the bookstore, you can leaf through the book and get a better sense of how the author writes. I’ve had over 50 years to find out what I like and don’t like. Present tense is at the top of my “I despise” list. Not long ago I even wrote a short story in present tense for a goof. A VERY short story. Never again. Just not my thing.

  2. Oh, and I NEVER have those troubles you do. I’m a big stickler for past tense, third-person writing. In fact, I’ve wrote extensively about it on my web site and have done seminars about it. However, back when I first started writing, over 20 years ago, I DID have those same issues until I found my voice and my comfort zone. It’s a natural progression. Don’t worry, you’ll find yours. Just keep in mind the way I feel because I’m not the only one. Yet there are others that are just the opposite and love present tense as well as others that don’t care either way. The thing is not to mix them up. I think the vast majority of people prefer past tense. Just sample books at the store and see what I mean.

  3. Very tricky sometimes, but in my case I worry about them when I’m doing the 2nd draft. My first draft is always about getting the story down, then I start nit-picking the thing for other issues. So no, you are not alone.

  4. I do it as well, I have taken to writing a page/chapter (depends what I’m doing) and then re-reading before I go any further to be sure I haven’t done this.
    I know why it happens too, it’s because I can visualise so exactly, especially if I am recalling something which actually happened as a base for what I’m writing; doing that also leads me to often over-write and put in more detail than is necessary.
    I also have to watch that I don’t offer inadvertent ‘stage direction’ when writing prose.

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