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Avoid getting influenced by the tense of the book you're reading.


Hi fellow scribes!

I've run in to an extremely annoying problem. I've been influenced by the books I'm currently reading enough that I can no longer write in past tense.

You see the thing is that I've been reading a book written in present tense and also listening to an audiobook in present tense for the last couple of weeks. At the same time I've had a break from writing, due to the unreasonable demand by the teacher in one course to hand in multiple essays each weak with over 40 pages of literature assigned for each as well as a bunch of other assignments at the same time.

Anyhow, today I was trying to get back into writing on my WIP and I was tapping away as usual when I realized that the last couple of paragraphs were written in present tense. I, of course, went back and deleted the paragraphs, thinking I could rewrite them in past, but no such luck.

Instead, any time I begin to write with any type of flow, my mind shifts tense mid-paragraph and then continue on in present tense and if I do manage to write an entire paragraph in past tense, it comes of clunky and badly formed. It's not because of the break, I've had longer before and have written with far more fluidity when I got back.

It's getting to the point where I'm considering dropping two books I rather enjoy mid story just to be able to continue writing.

So, has this happened to anyone else and in that case how did you combat it? How do I rewire my brain back to past tense and how do I avoid this happening again?

I'm desperate for tips here, it's really getting on my nerves!
Hmm. Well, I was plagued by this problem through the beginning of the year, but it started because I'd been writing in present tense. (I tried it for a little while, it wasn't to my liking.) For months I would switch back and forth between tenses at random throughout everything I wrote.

After writing 80K words on a manuscript in past I think I've broken that habit.


Myth Weaver
Screenwriting is all present tense... and yes, there was a major transition phase in there after all my writing was present tense for a few years. It was frustrating and amusing at the same time. I can certainly see where reading it could fudge with your brain. Whether you have to stop reading present in order to write past... I think once back in the swing of past tense it wouldn't be an issue, but that could be a personal thing. For me, once a problem is recognized, my brain is pretty good at straightening out... it's just recognizing the issue that's the trick, LOL.


Damn, I really hope this problem won't plague me for months. It's driven me far enough towards insanity as it stands now.

I'm usually good at reprogramming my brain but right now it just refuses to remember how to form a flowing prose in past. I can write normal past tense just fine, but not prose.
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Twinss Risen

My suggestion would be to take a break from reading the books in present tense, and search for the ones that are written in past tense. :p
The best thing I can think of... Truth be told, I haven't had this problem myself before. I had actually tried once to write in present tense (as an experiment) and I must confess it was quite difficult.

But, if what got you out of your... tense, was reading books in present tense, then simply do the opposite, to return to your original state. :)


I don't really see this as a bad thing necessarily, but yeah it does also have an annoying aspect. At least you recognize the influence here, which is a good thing. This means that you're in tune with your voice enough to distinguish it when something else comes in. It's okay to play around with other styles I mean, why not? It's fun and maybe something good will click in your head.

So keep reading, for enjoyment. If it's getting annoying then maybe read something else like non-fiction or craft books. That way your brain is still engaged in the reading process but not picking up any mimics. Just a few thoughts. :)


Felis amatus
So just get it written in present tense, then when you're done go back and change it to past tense. That's a relatively simply fix.


Article Team
This happens to me, but over the years, I've learned to switch gears for the most part. I just go back and read the last chapter i wrote in past, and that's usually good enough to reset my brain.

As for past tense feeling clunky, for me, often it's an illusion. Everything feels slow and clunky after I've been reading present tense. I just ignore it and write in past tense regardless of how it feels. More often than not, when I come back, the prose is neither better or worse than what I normally write.

For me, it's get the story down. it doesn't matter if it's past or present because it's all needs to placed on the chopping block to be evaluated. I can fix any of the issues then.


Just powering through seems to be working, at least to some extent. I've not been getting much time for writing lately but when I have I've tried to ignore the problem. Still my brain seems geared towards present but at least past does not feel as clunky anymore.

At least I'm doing a lot of writing, just not when it comes to fiction. But I guess it's something.