Big Smoke Writing Factory: student blog

Big Smoke students blogging! The Big Smoke Writing Factory provides creative writing courses and workshops at 7 Lower Hatch St, Dublin 2. Existing students: if you'd like access to the blog, drop us an email at, or ask your facilitator.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

POV Woes

I kept waiting for the perfect topic to post here before I realised it probably wouldn't present itself promptly, so I decided to ramble talk about something I've been worrying about lately: Point of View.

(Background info: I'm editing the third draft of my teen novel before giving it to the hapless people to read so they can tell me whether it sucks or not, or if it would be better for the world if it mysteriously disappeared. I'm joking about that last part. Maybe.)

Point of View can make or break a book--choose the wrong one, and you might have missed a way to create perfect, gem-like scenes that resonate with the perfect emotion and circumstance that keeps your reader turning pages (I'm exaggerating slightly). I wrote the first draft of the novel in first person, mostly because that was how the first paragraph formed in my head and I went with it. I figured using first person would be a good way to give the reader a glimpse into my main character's head, her motivations, the way she viewed the people and world around her, while also giving subtle glimpses into how the world and people viewed her in return.

Yeah. What I forgot in those wild, heady weeks of recklessly churning out a first draft and worrying about things like plot and sense later (like in the second draft) was that first person is hard. And not suited to every book. As I especially found out towards the end, when everything tied into a lot of blood and violence (I write about werewolves. Blood and violence are a given, no matter how much coffee they drink or what job they hold down. Some things the gene pool just can't get rid of), first person was making all those scenes of blood and violence go in directions I wasn't happy with.

In hindsight, the hints were there early on, but I gritted my teeth and told myself I'd worry about it later.

Something I learned the hard way: when the writing part of your brain is sending you red lights, warning signals, and every Bad Feeling Possible--DON'T IGNORE IT. Instead of just having 20,000 words to fix, I ended up with over 50,000 and an approaching breakdown.

I may have had a couple of beers... and glasses of wine... and wailed at my housemates that this book was terrible, the whole idea was terrible, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't fix it.

These moments are good. But make sure you wail at someone who's not afraid to yell at you. Also make sure you can give yourself a metaphorical kick in the ass.

I went out with a Writer Friend and she let me talk about the book and my POV worries. She agreed that because of Certain Things I Cannot Reveal Because Of Spoilers, third person would probably suit the book better. I took a deep breath, shoved the moping aside, and sat down with a notebook and reworked the outline for third person limited. Then I rewrote the first chapter.

It worked. The third person was limited to Violet, so I still had the benefits of first person, but also the necessary distance I felt had been lacking in the first person draft. I wrote the second draft and felt awesome... until someone read it and quietly pointed out the scene and structural problems I had somehow missed. There may have been more beer before the third draft, but that's another story for another day.

So why did I decide to write a whole post about my POV fears? I got back a critique of the first 50 pages of the book last week (I did a critique swap with another girl) and one of the things she mentioned was that she thought the book might work better in first person.

I admit it: my immediate reaction was to shriek, "Nooooooo!" at the top of my lungs. I am not ashamed of this.

As of now, I'm not too keen about going back to first person in the fourth draft. I don't think it suits, and I think if the critiquer had read the whole book, she might agree with me. I'm going to mention it to my readers when they get the book, and we'll see what they think. If they agree with her, I may need to sit down with a notebook and figure out if I misjudged my POV decision.

Not with beer, though.


Blogger Janice said...

'...when the writing part of your brain is sending you red lights, warning signals, and every Bad Feeling Possible--DON'T IGNORE IT.'

Helen, The red lights are flashing, but I've been ignoring them. Great post, you've given me lots to think about.

25 February 2010 at 11:28  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home