How to Self-Edit Your Novel

How to Self-Edit Your Novel

Have you ever struggled with how to edit your how novel? Have you felt lost, unsure what to edit first? I break down the editing process into 4 separate rounds and 24 different action items that will make the editing process simpler for you. I have also created a FREE self-editing checklist so that you can keep track of all of your edits.

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The #1 POV Mistake and How to Fix It

POV Mistake

Have you ever read a book, completely immersed in the world and characters, when the author suddenly writes something that destroys your suspended belief? It’s a terrible feeling. No reader likes returning to reality before they’re ready, and no author wants to do that to their readers.

Switching point of views (POVs) abruptly when you shouldn’t is one way that you can guarantee ruining a reader’s experience. I like to call it “head hopping.” It is the #1 POV mistake I see in novels written from the first person or third person limited omniscient POV. (Click here to better understand the different POVs.)

The first person and third person limited require that only one character be the POV character. As soon as a scene or chapter changes, you can change POV characters, but you must again stick with that one character until there is another scene or chapter change.

Identifying Head Hopping

Take a look at this example from my WIP and see if you can identify the POV character and spot the POV change.

Drake’s muscles tightened as he resisted the overwhelming urge to take that swing he imagined. “I have responsibilities that require my attention. Not that I owe any explanation to you any more than I do a housemaid.”

“Then why are you neglecting your ‘responsibilities’ for a few hours ride on your horse?” Fredrick asked.

“You know nothing about being a prince,” Drake said through clenched teeth.

Fredrick leaned forward and gave a half grin. “Your father taught me everything.”

Drake lunged toward Fredrick and took a swing. Fredrick side stepped the attack, sending Drake fumbling into the stone wall behind him. Drake spun around to find Fredrick laughing. He couldn’t believe that Drake was idiotic enough to try that move again. While Fredrick reveled in his victory, Drake lunged again, and this time his fist met Fredrick’s stomach. Fredrick involuntarily doubled over, and Drake brought his arm back for another blow.

Did you see it? If not, read it one more time and ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What POV is this written in?
  • Who is the main character?
  • Are there any sentences that come from another character’s POV (or thoughts or emotions)?

In order to fix head hopping, you have to be able to identify it first. The simplest way to do that is to start by identifying the main character (MC), and in this example, the MC is Drake. We can also tell that this is written in third person limited.

Once we know those details, we can filter everything we read through Drake. Every single word that is written must come from what Drake sees, hears, smells, feels, and thinks, and it can only come from Drake.

With that in mind, when we come to a sentence like “He couldn’t believe that Drake was idiotic enough to try that move again,” we should be able to pick it out as head hopping. Since I’m writing strictly from Drake’s POV in this scene, I cannot share Fredrick’s thoughts about Drake. I can only write through Drake’s mind and eyes.

Editing Head Hoping

After finding head hopping in your writing, you have three options: delete the sentence, rewrite it, or change POVs.

Delete the Sentence

In my example, I can easily delete the sentence without losing anything that the reader should know.

Drake lunged toward Fredrick and took a swing. Fredrick side stepped the attack, sending Drake fumbling into the stone wall behind him. Drake spun around to find Fredrick laughing. While Fredrick reveled in his victory, Drake lunged again, and this time his fist met Fredrick’s stomach. Fredrick involuntarily doubled over, and Drake brought his arm back for another blow.

In your own writing, if the story can progress without that head hopping information, delete it. Don’t force the information if it doesn’t belong, and don’t try to hold on to it just because you like the way you wrote it. More than likely, your readers will be just fine without it.

Rewrite It

If the information is crucial for your readers to know currently or at a later time, revise the sentence so that it comes from your POV character instead of someone else.

Drake lunged toward Fredrick and took a swing. Fredrick side stepped the attack, sending Drake fumbling into the stone wall behind him. Drake spun around to find Fredrick laughing at him, and Drake admonished himself for being idiotic enough to try that move again. While Fredrick reveled in his victory, Drake lunged again, and this time his fist met Fredrick’s stomach. Fredrick involuntarily doubled over, and Drake brought his arm back for another blow.

Now, Drake scolds himself for his idiotic move. This keeps the same idea that it wasn’t the first time Drake tried to swing at Fredrick, but it comes from Drake’s mind so that I don’t stray from my POV.

Change POV

Sometimes revising the head hopping sentence or paragraph just isn’t enough to get the information across. When that happens, you can bring your current scene or chapter to a conclusion and start the next scene from a different POV character. That will allow you a lot more freedom in expressing the information or thoughts of that character than you would have if you tried to stick with your original POV.

This technique is used a lot in fiction writing. In one of my battle scenes in my WIP, I start the battle from Drake’s POV, and then I end the scene and switch to another character’s POV so that I can reveal events during the battle that Drake isn’t privy to.

No matter what measures you put in place to avoid head hopping, you will inevitably slip into it at some point during the drafting stage, and that’s okay. We all do it. Finding and editing head hopping is just one of the many things that you should be looking for during your revision stage. It’s a simple fix once you get used to identifying it.

If you find head hopping in your own writing, share with us in the comments below and show us how you’d revise it. One of the best ways to learn is through studying lots of examples.

Keep writing and editing!

Meagan Nicole

  

Understanding Point of View

Understanding Point of View

Choosing the right point of view for your story is crucial. Your POV will determine how your readers get immersed in the story. But how do you even begin to choose the right point of view? Let’s start by looking at the three most popular POVs.

First Person:

First Person POV is when the book is written like your main character is talking to the reader, telling his or her own story. Pronouns such as I, me, and my are used in this POV. This POV is used in popular fiction like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

Here’s an example from Divergent:

“I sit on the stool and my mother stands behind me with the scissors, trimming. The strands fall on the floor in a dull, blond ring.”

As you can see in the excerpt, Veronica Roth also writes in the present tense, which shows that everything the main character is telling us is happening as she tells us.

This POV limits you to one character, which means the readers can only know what your main character knows. In Allegiant, Roth finds her way around the limited POV by switching POV characters from Tobias to Tris every chapter. That allowed Roth to maintain the first person POV while allowing her to reveal information and events to the reader that she would not have been able to do otherwise.

Third Person Omniscient:

Third Person Omniscient is written from the outside looking in. Pronouns such as he, she, his, and hers are used because we are observing the characters from the outside instead of being in their heads. It is written in the past tense.

The thing that separates this POV from Third Person Limited is that the omniscient POV allows the readers a glimpse into any of the characters’ minds at any time.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott gets us into the minds of all the characters while maintaining the third person POV.

“Jo’s face was a study, for the secret rather weighed upon her, and she found it hard not to look mysterious and important. Meg observed it, but did not trouble herself with inquires, for she had learned that the best way to manage Jo was by the law of contrary, so she felt sure of being told everything if she did not ask.”

In the first sentence, we’re given a glimpse into Jo’s thoughts and her struggle to look unimportant or risk telling her secret. In the second sentence, we learn that Meg knows she is hiding something. We can only know the thoughts of both women because Alcott chose to right in the omniscient POV.

Third Person Omniscient was more common in literature in the nineteenth century than it is today, but authors are still using this as a device to tell their stories.

Third Person Limited Omniscient:

Unlike the Omniscient POV, Third Person Limited Omniscient only lets us into the mind of one character. This POV still uses pronouns like he and she, but the focus remains on one character, who is often the main character. This POV is also written in past tense.

While J. K. Rowling strays from the limited POV on a couple of occasions, she mostly uses the limited POV in her Harry Potter series.

“Harry kept to his room, with his new pet owl for company. He had decided to call her Hedwig, a name he had found in A History of Magic.”

Some authors will have the same POV character throughout the whole novel or series. Other authors choose to alternate POV characters so that the readers can see events they wouldn’t be able to if the author remained with one character.

I used the Third Person Limited Omniscient for my novella Wynter. I use my protagonist, Wynter, as the POV character in the first chapter, and I switch my POV character to my antagonist, Lucinda, in the next chapter. I continue alternating each chapter through the end of the book.

Many romance novels will also alliterate POVs so that the readers can get into the minds of both the hero and heroine.

If you use this POV, you have to make sure not to slip into another character’s mind in the middle of a scene. Only alternate POV characters at the start of a scene change or new chapter.

Which POV should you use?

1. Preference

Some authors choose their novel’s POV simply by preference. I prefer third person limited omniscient because that’s what I usually read, and I enjoy writing it.

If there is one POV you prefer over the other, try writing one of your scenes using that POV. If you don’t have a preference, try writing the same scene three times using the different POVs. Which version do you like best?

2. Genre

If you haven’t already, read a few popular books in the genre you are writing. What POV is the author using? Does the author stick with one POV character, or does the author alternate or use multiple POVs?

First person POV is common in dystopian novels and third person limited is common in fantasy and sci-fi. While you’re not restricted to the writing styles of your genre, it is important to know what those trends are and consider using them in your own writing. Readers often expect certain styles or plot points in their genre, and sometimes it helps to follow those expectations.

3. Limitations

More important than preference and genre is what will serve your story best. If you prefer first person POV but have to clue the readers in to information that your POV character doesn’t know, then you will have to try the omniscient POV or use alternating first person POVs.

Look at your plot and your potential POV characters. If you chose only to write from your protagonists POV, will you leave the reader in the dark about important plot points only the antagonist knows? Or will you confuse your readers if you write in omniscient POV and give them too much information?

Sometimes stories benefit from keeping information from the readers until the end, and other stories give the information up front to heighten the suspense for the reader.

Still not sure which POV to choose?

If you’ve written the same scene in all three POVs, researched which POV is used most in your genre, and analyzed what would serve your plot best and you’re still unsure, ask other writers or readers in your genre. Give them all three POV versions of your scene and ask them to tell you which version they liked best and why. You can even talk through the pros and cons of each POV for your story. Sometimes simply talking out loud helps you find the answer.

If you’re not sure who to ask for feedback, join my Facebook group The Write-Up. It’s exclusive to my subscribers, so all you have to do is subscribe below to receive your invite to join.

The Write-Up is specifically designed for you, the author, to connect with other authors and get feedback on your writing. We also have weekly discussions focused on specific topics, and I’m there regularly to answer your questions as well. I hope to see you there.

Which POV do you use in your writing and why? I’d love to hear how you use your POV to add depth to your story, so share with me in the comments below.

Meagan Nicole

   

Editing Advice from 10 Sucessful Authors

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You know all too well that feeling that forms in your stomach when you look at the first draft of your manuscript. Your confidence that soared high when you finished the draft comes crashing down when you come back a few weeks later and discover a messy thing you called a novel.

But you're not alone.

Every writer has come face to face with that feeling at least once, and there are ways to get through it and edit your novel.

Here are ten pieces of editing advice from authors:

1. “No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published." — J. Russell Lynes

2. “Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.” — Kurt Vonnegut, How to Use the Power of the Printed Word

3. “The waste basket is a writer's best friend.” —Isaac Bashevis Singer

4. “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." — Arthur Plotnik

5. “There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.” — Elie Wiesel

6. “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

7. “There is but one art, to omit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

8. “The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” — Neil Gaiman

9. “Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.” — Will Self

10. “When in doubt, delete it.” — Philip Cosby

Are there other editing (or writing) quotes that inspire you to keeping working even when you're discouraged? I love hearing new quotes, so share them with me in the comments below!

Meagan Nicole