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I'm polishing and redrafting my novel. But grammar is not my strong suit. I need help with tenses, specifically. As you may already know, stories are usually told in the past tense. But it's not always simple past. There's past perfect, as well. Could you please help me with this particular sentence:

Megan couldn't remember how long she has been sitting in her armchair, staring at the empty wine glass in her hand.

Should it be "she has been sitting" or "she had been sitting"?

closed as off-topic by MetaEd, TrevorD, tchrist, Kristina Lopez, Hellion Sep 6 '13 at 14:50

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  • In your specific example, it is had. You would use has in "Megan is wondering how long she has been sitting"... – mplungjan Sep 6 '13 at 5:51
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    Off topic per the help center: Writing advice or critique requests (see Writers.SE instead—note critique requests must meet their criteria). – MetaEd Sep 6 '13 at 6:30
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It's "had." And I suppose I can't be anything other than impressed that you would venture to write a novel if tenses challenge you. Although I suppose being dumbfounded is also a legitimate way to feel about that.

  • Thank you for your comments. I must admit that grammar will always be an issue for me, as English is not my first language. I found out, though, that grammar is only one aspect of the whole creative writing process. Of course it would be great if I didn't have to worry about it at all. It can be distracting at times--having to check if the grammar is correct. But I didn't let that 'limitation' stop me from completing a full-length novel. So it's all good. – Mimi Sep 6 '13 at 6:40
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    Really, Mimi, I'm more impressed than anything else. Many people who think they want to write are daunted by much smaller challenges than this. Keep at it! And you might want to check out the Writers Stack Exchange web site. Good luck! – John M. Landsberg Sep 6 '13 at 7:02

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