The POV in my WIP is set in first person/present tense. This makes it intimate to the extreme. There are a few take-a-breath moments so the reader can reflect, get a cup of coffee, or stop turning pages long enough to sleep, but the whole novel covers about 6 waking hours.
I’ve read there is a renewed trend toward first person, but my question is: how do publishers feel about an entire novel, not only written in first person, but also in present tense? Is this considered experimental? Feedback I’ve received from contest entries have not been negative on this point. However, since I’ll start the submission process after the first of the year, I’m curious about what to expect from the agent community. Does this type work (without regard for the writing or the plot) have sale’s merit.
How's that for a clear answer?
Here's the real answer: if someone writes back to tell you that present tense doesn't work in the novel, it's not about the tense. It's because the story didn't grip them enough to forget about syntax, diction, tense and grammar and just KEEP READING!
My colleague Penny Moore and I were talking about this very thing recently. Some really not-well-written books are doing very well because the writer grabs you and doesn't let go.
Only later, when you're deconstructing the book (something most regular readers don't really do!) do you notice plot holes, inconsistencies, and the stuff that makes you wonder what the hell the editor/agent/writer were thinking.
The only question you need to ask about your writing is: does this work? If present tense makes for a gripping story, use it. If past tense makes for a MORE gripping story, use that instead.
You hear a lot of agents or writers kvetching about this that or the other: "I hate present tense" "I hate third person" "I hate dual narrative"
As Elmore Leonard famously said "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
Tell your story in the way that makes it the most compelling. Don't worry about anything else. The thing agents really like? Compelling stories.