Present or Past?

Past or Present I have been having a lot of trouble figuring out which tense to write the new masterpiece in, so here is a (fun) way to figure it out. Not to be taken too seriously, but hope it helps somebody. I still don’t know, so it hasn’t really done me much good!!


ALGORITHM TO help you DECIDE between present and past TENSE AND first and third PERSON FOR WRITING A NOVEL


1)  Is the main character(MC) actually present for the whole book?  (Is MC going to be in place to witness all we need to know?  Is the action we need expressly to know about going to be done when MC always present?)

YES – 8 points

NO – 0 points


2) Do you want to show other peoples thoughts and opinions, give their inner reasonings, get deeply into many points of view? (As opposed to being able to show everybody by dialogue and observation through MC’s eyes)

YES – 0 points

No – 6 points


3) Are you writing for the young adult market?

YES – 4 points

No – 0 points


4) Are you writing for a series which will have the same MC in all the other books?

Yes – 8 points

No – 0 points


5) Is the book an action-packed movie type scenario or is it more intellectual and slow moving?

Action packed – 4 points

Intellectual and slow moving – 0 points


6) Which 2 of these 4 writers do you prefer to read? (If you don’t know any of those given below, substitute writers you like who write in the third person (0 points) or first person (4 points)

J K Rowling  0 points

Suzanne Collins 4 points

Trudi Cañavan 0 points

Veronica Roth 4 points


  1. Do you have a great MC you understand? Can you get inside that MC’s head completely? Can you become that MC for the whole book? (Express yourself as him/her? This means subjugating YOU!! Answer no if you are a man writing as a woman or an old lady writing as a young teenager or vice versa, unless you a REALLY good)

Yes 6 points

No 0 points


  1. Do you dislike seeing a lot of names in your novel? (Third person writing uses more names than first person which allows more pronouns of he/she/him/her)

No 0 points

Yes 4 points



RESULTS third or first person:


0 to 23 points …  Initially try writing in Third person, change if you feel uncomfortable.

24 to 48 points … Initially try writing in First person, change if you feel uncomfortable.





  1. Which 2 of these 4 authors held your attention better? (Substitute for others – writing in first person present or past – you read if you don’t know the ones given here. Authors who write in the present 4 points, authors who write in the past 0 points)


Jo Thomas 4 points

Victoria Aveyard 4 points

Rick Riordan 0 points

Janet Evanovich 0 points


2 Are you writing for the modern young market or an older, more mature reader?


Young market  4 points

Older reader  0 points


  1. Do you want the book to connect aggressively and insistently with the reader in one experience after another so he has no time to breathe (as opposed to alternating with longer descriptive passages to set the scene and builds up slowly to a crescendo)


Connect aggressively 8 points

Alternate with descriptive passages then up to crescendo 0 points


4 Do you want to keep the book as simple as possible (as opposed to using more tenses, more grammar) or do you enjoy using complex tenses and grammatical structures?


As simple as possible  8 Points

I enjoy using all the verbal tenses  0 points


5 Have you published with great success before in present tense?

Yes  +4 points


6 Have you published before with great success in past tense?

Yes  -4 points


7 Did your results in the first part advise you to start writing in third person or first person?

Third person 0 points

First person 6 points




RESULTS present or past tense


0 to 20  Start writing in past tense, change if you are uncomfortable

21 to 38  Start writing in present tense, change if you are uncomfortable











@Gillian Andrews 02/04/2016


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