Things can get pretty tense

I did a little online research last night, and the good folks who submit the responses over at Yahoo! Answers had some pretty valuable advice about writing. I’m kidding. Who uses that, anyway?

I was thinking about tense usage in writing. You know, past tense, present tense, I did this as compared to I am doing that. What I found, in some reliable sites and some less so, is that everyone seems to think that past tense is the best way to go unless you’re writing flash fiction of 750 words or less. The reason most often given was that this is what readers expect. 

Consider the anecdotal personal essay on a blog. The events have already happened to the writer, so we expect to read about them in the past tense. There are times when using the present tense can convey a certain urgency that the past cannot, and an entire post certainly can be written in the present, but it is less common and possibly even unnecessary.

Hindsight is 20/20

When you use the present tense, you can fall prey to two common mistakes.

First, if you are going to write in the present tense, you must commit to it.  When you jump back and forth between present and past, unless it’s done well, it will confuse the reader. Making your reader say, “Wait, whaa-?” too many times is a sure fire way to make sure they jump off your blog and onto someone else’s.

Second, and to an extent this is my personal opinion, sometimes present tense can sound gimmicky. As I mentioned before, present tense and convey urgency or some need to pull you out of the story that’s being told and into this very moment. However, when an otherwise ho-hum story is told in present tense just to give it some punch, the reader is going to see through that. Perhaps ask yourself why you’re choosing present tense. You may find if you shift the details of the story or edit a bit, you can pack a wallop without cheapening things.

There are no hard and fast rules, so far as I can tell. Sometimes it can come down to personal preference. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

This is the second year yeah write will be blogging alongside BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo for 30 days in November

nablo_13_250Let’s keep an eye on the NaBloPoMo space over at BlogHer, so when their official blogroll opens, we’ll be ready. The day BlogHer opens the blogroll, we’ll open the yeah write NaBlo grid.

Until then, we still have about 10 guest blogging spaces available for BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo at yeah write and, if you have perk packages to donate for the 30 days, you can sign up on the same Google spreadsheet. Yeah write subscriber Rarasaur is also getting her game face on by putting together her own team that will hang out with us. For more details, see Rara’s introductory post.

You’ll be blogging for 30 days in your personal blogging space and, if you choose to help us out at yeah write, guest blogging a day or two over here. What the yeah write community has offered so far to be included in weekly random drawings during November:


Wreaths Across America leadership development service project

Erica M is still collecting veterans memorial donations with her 12-year-old son Jon Alex who is a second-year cadet in his middle school leadership development corps. If you would like to donate one or two wreaths to be laid on the grave markers at Houston Memorial Cemetery during a holiday ceremony, please click here and give what you can. If you feel yeah write has ever contributed positively to your blogging or writing life, this would be a wonderful way to give back. Thanks.

Welcome to yeah write #132 weekly writing challenge

Odds, ends, reminders

  • The badge you will need to add to your planned submission is over in the sidebar
  • This immediate past Sunday is the earliest your submission can be dated
  • Your post can be no longer than 600 words
  • Personal essays or traditional blog anecdotes only
  • There are no weekly prompts; the topic is yours. Be compelling
  • The grid is open from Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. to Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
  • There is voting. Voting will take place Thursday from midnight to 10:00 p.m. US eastern
  • The challenge grid is limited to 50 bloggers
  • The winners’ post will be published by noon on Friday
  • No self-promotional posts are allowed on the yeah write grid, including those containing links to other blog events and Internet contests

Yeah write #132 is open…