I recently came across an article offering advice about choosing past, present or future tense and first, second or third person pov. I didn’t finish reading the article after I got to a part that said first person works best in present tense.
No. It doesn’t.
In fact, many people like myself refuse to read books written in first person present tense, despite the growing number of books on the market, mostly self-published, written that way by young, mainly Romance authors.
There will be people who disagree with my opinion on this. There will be far more, especially in my age group, who agree. The point is, advice in articles about writing can conflict and all advice should be filtered through the reader’s own experience and opinions.
In my opinion, a book written in first person works best in past tense because it’s like someone telling a story, about something that happened to them. Historically, most books are written in past tense, though occasionally a short segment might be written in present tense to add immediacy to a scene. Charles Dickens often did this. I’ve yet to find a Classic written entirely in present tense, but let’s not harp on about that particular point.
The conflicting advice in articles about writing is greatly overshadowed by agreement on many points, especially about building an author platform. However, I do question some of the common advice as well. Why? because as a reader, I don’t respond to some of what writers are told to do.
For example, I’ve seen many articles encouraging writers to infiltrate social media. Readers get a lot of spammy posts on any given social network, so unless the author is very clever about it, their promotional posts are met with distrust. There are authors who participate and become more trusted, but the flyby spammers still proliferate, encouraged by publishing articles.
Another example is the use of speech tags. I’ve seen a lot of articles recently insisting that an author should never use anything but ‘said’. As a reader I strongly disagree. Speech tags are a source of expression if used well. They can set mood or just to avoid tedium, something like “he answered” or “she whispered” can break up the ‘saids’ in a flow of conversation. The trouble comes in when the writer tries to get too exotic with the tags or mistakenly uses a verb where a tag should be.
Readers have preferences and some advice could be good for one audience and bad for another, but we should always keep in mind that an article expresses one person’s opinion, including this one. I read a lot of writing articles, despite having been a published writer for nearly thirty years. now. There is always something new to learn, or even reminders of things we ought to know.
Marketing in particular is a fluid subject and updates on current trends or resources are well worth reading about from those who experiment with the latest tools available on publishing platforms.
As long as we’re aware that advice does sometime conflict and examine everything through our own literacy and reading experience, there is much good advice out there to benefit us all.
What say you? Have you come across writing advice you would question, or particularly brilliant articles that have given you those lightbulb moments?
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