Much discussion in the writing arena focuses on point of view. Should my book be first person, third person exclusive, switch POV’s, etc.? I firmly believe POV is a matter of personal taste–for each manuscript.
Every story has different needs. Most of the time I know what those are going into it. However, there are times when I’m unsure. My best example is my NaNo09 novel Whispering Minds.
I love, love, loved my character’s name: Gemini, Gemi for short. I wanted to hear it and see it and love it on paper. Selfishly. In addition, I had a whole lot of characters to incorporate into the novel and planned to give each of them their own space. So I wrote in third person and switched POV’s.
Twelve thousand words into the manuscript I realized this was too impersonal. I struggled to capture Gemi’s essence on the page. She felt distant to me. And if I didn’t connect, my readers would never give one flip about her.
Enter first person with no POV switch. From the moment I realized my huge mistake, I let Gemi tell her story. It worked out much better this way because she knew her journey more intimately than I and it sounded natural coming from her rather than via my translation of what I thought she wanted to say.
This technique is encouraged in writing circles and by writing professionals. I’ve heard it from editors, agents, writers and writing coaches. “Give it a whirl. See where it takes you. Use what feels best.”
However, I don’t think they intended for anyone to write 1/5th of a novel before switching. I have started editing Whispering Minds, but feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. All I’ve done so far is change out my she’s with me’s and my Gemi’s with I’s and a few other prominant word swaps. I haven’t even tackled the POV switch yet. Even so, this is a daunting task. To date, it is my least favorite edit.
It is even worse than the time I changed an entire novel from present tense to past tense. Ten times more horrific than a character name change. Scads more frustrating than the time I gave my MC a sex change. Not literally within the manuscript–just a simple character shift throughout the whole thing.
Everything is different. Word choices, emotions, actions, everything. Boys use shorter sentences and don’t get all touchy-feely. Changing tenses means a verb swap in EVERY sentence. Events feel foreign and forced when making simple substitutions. Voice is lost and language becomes stilted.
“Sharon and Gemi attended the play. The girls laughed so hard their sides hurt.” cannot become “Sharon and I attended the play. The girls laughed so hard their sides hurt.” Every sentence needs to be read carefully to make every appropriate substitution. This process is time consuming.
Along the way, I’ve learned some tips when making Major Manuscript Changes.
- Use the find and replace button if you have one. While this works miracles for POV or name changes, don’t try it on a tense change.
- In addition, do not–DO NOT–find and replace everything. Confusion abounds. I almost scrapped my whole project when I realized the magnitude of clicking replace all.
- Make your changes 100% BEFORE editing your rough draft. If you try to edit and change at the same time you will never understand what is going on. Your edit will be a Disaster with a capital D.
- Save the original manuscript someplace else and ignore it while you work on the new edit. You may learn–when you are all done ripping your hair out making the changes–that the original was, indeed, the better option.
- Relax. It’s not a race. You are not graded on how quickly you get the task done. However, your final manuscript is judged by editors and agents. Having Timmy start out the manuscript in present tense and ending the piece with Past-Tense-Tonya will likely get your submission tossed.
- Use fantastic beta readers before declaring your changes complete. A Major Manuscript Change is far too difficult to accomplish going solo (ie, we are too close to the project and know what it is supposed to say). At the end of the day, too many minute mistakes remain.
Have you ever made Major Manuscript Changes to a completed work? If so, what tips or tricks do you have to help others?
As readers or writers, what are your preferences regarding POV, tense, gender, etc.? Is one form an absolute turn off? If so, why?