Stuck revising? Change your writing point of view!

by Amber Keyser
Published on: July 9, 2012
Categories: Challenges, Craft
Comments: 1 Comment

Being stuck sucks!

We’ve all been there.

A critique partner has made a good point and no solution is obvious. We know a scene is not working but are not sure what to do about it.  This is not the “I-can’t-write-a-word” kind of stuck.  It’s the “how-the-heck-do-I-fix-X” kind of stuck.

Sometimes what we need is some experimentation.  Here are some ideas that you can use to change your writerly point-of-view on a scene (or a whole book).  They are also ideas that can help you self-edit more effectively.  Employ whenever a section gives you that gut feeling: “this isn’t working.”  In no particular order:

1. Change the point-of-view.  Literally.  Rewrite a scene from a different characters point of view.

2.  Try reworking the scene by hand (if you are mainly on the computer) or verbally by “talking” it into the voice memo function on your smart phone.

3.  Get someone (or your ereader) to read your scene out loud to you.

4.  Change the format dramatically and print it out.  For one example, check out this great post via Molly Green and Christine Nolfi.  In it, they explain one technique:

“The key-line layout creates a paperback version of your novel. The end result is a landscape, two-column format. It’s an alternate way to review your manuscript that provides a fresh perspective after months (years?) reading in the traditional, vertical format.”

5.  Use scissors.  Print the scene and cut into pieces.  Rearrange.

6.  Highlight!  Use different colors for different POVs or for sensory details or for backstory or for showing vs. telling.  If you know the problem is voice, for example, get your critique partners to highlight the places where they best “hear” the voice.  That gives you something to work towards. Or highlight in three colors: active sentences (stuff/dialogue moves plot forward), flashback, and character’s thoughts.  You want more of the first than anything else.

Well that should get you started…  Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

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1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. Amber, I have never tried changing the POV when I’m stuck, though I have heard this advice a lot. I wonder why I resist this technique? When I am stuck I like to ask my character “what’s the problem?” Then I go to my “free write” file and let my character dictate a few paragraphs. This often helps me figure out why I’m stuck.

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