Last Saturday's Guardian newspaper featured an interesting article on the rise in the use of the present tense in novels.
CHRONOS is predominantly written in the present tense but it wasn't always thus. The first draft, written back in November 2013, used the past tense exclusively.
By the time I started work on my second draft, in April 2014, I had decided to switch to using the present tense. I had experimented with the use of it since wrapping up the work on the first draft and I liked the way it sped up the movement of action scenes, always useful when writing a thriller.
For me, the use of the present tense complemented the choice of first person narrative. Using the present tense for the narration pulls the reader into the story, making them feel that they are standing alongside the hero as the action unfurls around them.
The use of the present tense also helped to distinguish between the scenes set in the "present" (i.e. the near future) and the historical scenes. Although only two historical scenes are in the final version of the book (the first time that Max and Tom meet and Max's catastrophic data loss), there were originally far more of these scenes. Indeed, my original plans for the whole first third of the book to be given over to having alternating chapters, one set in the present and one in the past.
As the novel progressed, I gradually cut the number of historical scenes down. Some were cut due to pacing concerns and others were ditched because I couldn't get the tone right (I struggled for several weeks with a flashback scene to Tom's fourth birthday, where he got lost by himself in the maze at Hampton Court Palace, never being satisfied that my "voice" for the four-year old Tom was sufficiently authentic).
Although switching the tense of fifty-thousand-plus words was a major pain in the neck, I'm pleased with the outcome. The resulting text feels zippier and the characters sound more immediate and alive. It was a big change to make but I think that it paid off.