POV: Who’s telling your story?

Multiple viewpoints are very useful in any novel! In the third person, several viewpoint’s allow the reader wider access to knowledge and events not necessarily involving each character in the story. In addition, changing the viewpoint will often increase the pace of the story and can be used to create mystery and tension.

It is acceptable to use at least two Point of View characters yet four is a good number for most novels. If your story is long and stretches over a longer period of time, however, 6 to 8 is quite reasonable. You should only use main characters, NEVER tell a story from a minor characters Point of View, not even for one paragraph. The reader will automatically assume the character is important, and will wait for him to reappear in the story to do something crucial to the storyline.

It is important to remember, however, shifting viewpoints too often may irritate the reader and you should never change viewpoint within a paragraph or scene. Always swap viewpoints with a chapter or scene break, which is usually marked with three or four asterisks. The opening line of the new paragraph should immediately tell the reader whose viewpoint it is so that it is easier for the reader to follow the storyline.

Types of Point of View

  • First person – I go, ie. an eyewitness account
  • Third person – he/she goes, ie. narrator can be absent
  • Second person – you go, (used mainly in non fiction)
  • Third person plural – they go

Advantages, Disadvantages and Mistakes of Each View Point

First person

Advantages: Creates an intimacy between the reader and narrator. The reader experiences everything through the narrator’s perceptions, coloured by her motives, driven by her motivations.

Disadvantages: Character must be present during key scenes and the reader can only know what this character knows.

Mistakes: The character describes what is going through other characters’ minds rather than just her own.

Third person

Advantages: Allows the reader to see all the events occurring . Allows the author to mislead the readers without cheating.

Disadvantages: Doesn’t allow a strong identification with any one character and can take longer to impart information.

Mistakes: More likely to switch viewpoints by accident.

Your Voice

This should not be confused with Point of View. Here we are talking about our own trademark, what makes the story ours. Your voice is natural — like how you speak and think. But it changes as you change and depending on the tone of the piece you’re working on. A writer’s voice should be real, authentic and honest.

Some authors write to a ‘recipe’ and every book you pick up written by that person has the same formula. Sidney Sheldon comes to mind, his books are written to a particular formula and the reader can foresee what will happen because of this yet all the books I’ve read of his have kept me captivated to the very end.

Why? His stories keep moving along, he constantly throws in sub-plots and twists to keep things interesting. He doesn’t have a lot of description yet it isn’t necessary. He uses a chapter for one Point of View then the next chapter for another – usually telling a completely different story. The two stories finally come together at the climax and the book is wound up. He has written many books using this same formula and is a successful author. His ‘voice’ is apparent in his writing, this is his trademark (so to speak).

So when you write try to develop and cultivate your own ‘voice’. Something that a reader will recognise and know is you.

Writing the Perfect Scene

Writing the Perfect Scene – When I read this it made perfect sense to me. A light went on in my head – “this is something I’m doing wrong”.

I will learn to write using the Motivation Reaction Units within my Scenes and Sequals.

Motivation is what the character sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels (as in touch). It is external and objective.

Reaction is what the character feels internally. It is internal and subjective and is broken down into three parts:

  • feeling (this always comes first)
  • reflex (this happens as a result of the feeling)
  • rational action and speech (this happens when the character has had time to think and act in a rational way)

Motivation and Reaction should always be written in different paragraphs and should always be in this order.

But what are Scenes and Sequels?

Scenes should have:

  • Goal – what the character wants at the beginning of the scene. The character doesn’t sit back passively and wait for it to come to them, they go after it.
  • Conflict – The obstacles the character faces as they try to reach their goal. Naturally, there has to be a struggle otherwise the novel will be boring.
  • Distaster – This is failure to reach the goal. Something bad has to happen to make the reader turn the page and keep reading.

Straight after a scene, comes the sequel.

  • Reaction – The emotional follow through to the disaster. Show the characters reaction to what has happened. Show a passage of time when there’s no action but there is re-action. Then have the character “get a grip” and look for options.
  • Dilemma – Oh, there are no options and the character has a dilemma. They wonder what will happen next and have to work through the choices available.
  • Decision – Let the character decide on the best option and decide to carry it through. Let the reader respect the character for trying. This gives the character reason to be proactive again because they now have a new goal.

And the pattern starts over.

Within the Scenes and Sequels you must rember to use the Motivation Reaction Units. If you do this well, you will have written the perfect scene.

Inside Information

Writing the manuscript is the easy part. Getting noticed is the challenge!

A friend of mine received one too many rejections where it was obvious that her manuscript had not been read. This was after she did the right thing and queried the agent first and she was asked to send in the chapters. After the normal waiting period – 6 to 8 weeks – her manuscript was returned untouched. Why do they ask to see it if they have no intention of reading it? But that’s a different story so I won’t go into that now.

After this happening several times, she was frustrated enough to email the editor and ask politely what she should do to ensure her manuscript would be read next time. Apparently, the reply was a little agro but pushing that aside, she was given some inside information that really hit home.

This is the important part of what my friend told me:

She said that she receives so many submissions a week that she reads none of them first off. Even though the letters are addressed to her they automatically go to her assistant who doubles as her reader. The assistant reads the submissions and she picks out a tiny percentage to pass on to the agent. The figures I got was that perhaps 3 submissions out of 200 would be passed on to the agent. The rest get sent back. Even with the submissions she does read, the agent still may not request to read the full manuscript. She said that she takes on between 2 and 5 authors a year. According to the agent, this is the usual system with literary agencies (the screening assistant system) because they receive so many submissions and are nowadays acting as readers for publishers because the publishers won’t accept anything unsolicited.

So now we see just how difficult it’s becoming to be noticed. Right, this means a change of plan!

The Snowflake Process

Randy Ingermanson Talks About Writing but more importantly he explains a not so complicated method of writing a novel using The Snowflake Process.

I’ve heard about this before and have been to his site before but it was only tonight that I took the time to read his words. I think all writers grow as time passes and I’ve come to believe that ALL stories should be thoroughly planned BEFORE we start writing.

How often do you hear a writer say “my characters just won’t do what I want them to do”? That used to be me but not any more because that actually means that you have no idea where the story is going and you’ve lost control. Well, it’s time to take back control. It’s time to plan your story from beginning to end…

Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean the creativity has disappeared because you’ll still have flashes of inspiration and all plans can be changed but at least you’ll know where you’re heading.

Anyway, take a look at The Snowflake Process of Writing a Novel. It’s very interesting.

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastinate means ~~ v. intr. – To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. ~~v. tr. – To postpone or delay needlessly.

Some writers seem to have a never ending flow of ideas. They always have something to work on, something in the pipeline and even more ideas finding their way into a special “Ideas” notebook or folder. Then there are the other type of writers who find choosing the right idea more difficult. They spend so much time asking themselves “How do I get started” and searching the internet for the answer, that nothing actually gets written.

Here are a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Just sit at your computer and type. Doesn’t matter what, whatever is on your mind. What you did this morning or yesterday. Get the flow started and then at some point you can cross over into writing your novel.
  • Flip through magazines and newspapers and see if ideas can be stimulated by what you are looking at.
  • Take the phone off the hook and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the internet or the television. Pull the cords out, if you have to. This is writing time, not surfing time.
  • Same goes for eating and drinking. You’re only wanting these things because you can’t make yourself write!
  • When you do start writing, when it’s time to stop – finish in mid sentence so that when you return to your work tomorrow the thought is already there. You can finish the sentence and then continue typing.
  • If you get really desperate try opening the dictionary at any page and then writing a sentence using the first word you see; or, try to think of new words using each letter of the word you first see.

Here are some other suggestions:

Keep an open mind

Sometimes you can be doing something else and a character will pop up in your mind and shout “Hey, I wanna be in your next story”. Who are you to deny this person? Take notes and listen to what the character has to say because these are the best characters ever.

In other words, let your subconscious mind take over. It really does work.

Commit yourself to a deadline

Set a deadline for when you want to finish the chapter or novel. Make sure it’s a realistic deadline otherwise you won’t make it and you’ll be disappointed in yourself.

Another form of this is to set times especially for writing. Say… an hour a day. If you find you sit in front of a blank screen for most of that hour try giving yourself a reward when you’ve written a page or 1000 words – whatever works best for you. The reward can be allowing yourself 30 minutes on the internet or that cup of tea you wanted so badly.

Again, be reasonable or be stressed!

Start anywhere

Remember, you don’t have to start at Chapter 1 word 1. If that’s the reason you’re having trouble getting started go to a scene that you feel enthusiastic about and start writing. Often, once a few scenes are written the rest start to flow much more easily.

Don’t, however, write all the exciting scenes first and leave all the boring in between bits to last because then you’ll have a novel almost finished but you’ll be dead bored writing the rest of the story and will experience major procrastination problems.

Have more than one project

This is something that works for some people but not all. Have more than one project going at once. It’s better if each project is at a different stage and then if you get stuck on one project you can switch to another for a while (letting your subconscious take over on the first project).

Don’t forget that you can switch between activities in the same project too. You can concentrate on research, writing, redrafting, editing, and planning. Whilst you’re doing any of these things – you are still in writer’s mode.


Most writers like to read so this shouldn’t be a problem. Read books in the genre you are writing or that are aimed at the audience you are looking at for your work. Reading wisely has two effects: 1) It helps you relax, and 2) It is great research.

Find other writers

Joining writer’s group and visiting writing message boards is a great inspiration and I highly recommend doing both. Naturally, don’t let these groups interfer with your writing by demanding too much of your time but sharing ideas and thoughts with people just like you, is an excellent way to help get the creative juices flowing. It also helps you to realise that you are not alone. There are many people just like you and I sitting alone in a room, trying to write a novel. By reaching out to those people, you will find a new desire flare up within you and “procrastinate” will be a word that no longer fits in with your personality.

You’ve Decided to Write

Perhaps, you have been jotting down snippets of thoughts and ideas onto scrap paper or maybe you have been writing little stories for years. However you started, you’ve decided that you want to write and you want to be published.

What do you do now?

  • Set up an area in your home especially for writing. Somewhere peaceful and quiet, where you can think and be creative.
  • Buy a computer with a decent word processing programme installed. Some people still like to write freehand but most publishers only accept typed manuscripts so why lessen your chances of being published by being in the minority group.
  • Read everything you can put your hands on about the art of writing. Visit your local library, book shops and search the internet for up to date information.
  • Think about joining a Writer’s Centre, Reader’s Group and Writers’ Message Boards on the internet as they usually have access to many useful resources and ideas.
  • Subscribe to Writers’ Newsletters.
  • Think about enrolling in a writing course or workshop. There are plenty available on a variety of subjects.

The Right Mindset

When you decide to write, you may encounter various obstacles. The biggest of these is often self-doubt. There is a lot of competition out there, so what makes you think you can make it when so many other haven’t. If we all thought like that, no one would ever get published. If you have the right mindset, the determination and a love for writing then you are on the right path. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

If self-doubt plagues you then this is where a supportive family and friends can make the difference between completing that first special manuscript or consigning it to the wastepaper basket.

Rarely, will you be able to sit with other people who also write with a passion so it is important to realise that you have entered into a very lonely profession but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If you’re doing it properly, you won’t have time to feel isolated with all those characters inside your head and those plots waiting to be put down on paper. Besides, these days with the internet at most people’s fingertips, you’ll be surrounded by other people who know and care about what you’re going through whenever you feel the need.

Making Time to Write Each Day!

This is critical to every writer. You will need to write every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the day, in the middle of the night, on the bus or if you steal a few moments at work to jot something down but you must discipline yourself to write EVERY day. If it’s only to write fifty words or edit an existing manuscript. The more practice you get, the better.

When you do sit down to write forget about everything else for that short time. The housework can wait, take the telephone off the hook and get your spouse or kids to tend the garden for a change. It’s time for you to be creative. After a while, you will discover that a certain time of day works best for you. Try to keep that time free.

The First Draft to the Last

Your first draft doesn’t have to be good and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about spelling, style, and grammar just yet. Just write. Get it all down on paper (or on disk) and worry about the rest later.

Before you start editing your work, put it away for a while. A couple of weeks or even a month should be enough. Then start reading it through with a pen and pad beside you so you can make notes. Again, you’re not looking at spelling, style and grammar for the second draft either – you should be checking that the storyline, plots and main points are coming through as they should.

Have you included all the necessary information? Are your thoughts logical and orderly? Have you started your story at the LAST possible moment, the place where the character’s life is about to take a real dive towards trouble? Does it make sense or has it been contrived to make it convenient for you, the writer? Does the reader get to know the characters? Does the story move along at a nice pace or is it slow and boring?

The third draft is when you check the spelling, style and grammer. If you have pointless words in your story, delete them. Study your first page and make sure it catches the reader immediately. This is also the time when you should trim your story.

If you are an unpublished author then this is a very important point to remember. First novels should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length. Less than this and the reader feels unjustified in parting with their money to buy the book because they feel as if they are being ripped off. If you have more than 120,000 words, however, the publisher will look at you as a financial risk because they have to outlay more money to publish a book by an unknown author that may flop.

For the fourth draft you should print your work out. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’ll find as it’s much easier to see them on a printed page. Once this final revision has been completed, you will be ready to start looking for an agent or publisher.

You Want to Write

Why do you want to write? Is it to escape the world in which you live, to entertain other people, because you want to see your name on a shelf in a bookshop or simply because you enjoy the craft. Whatever the reason, if you want to write… write! However, take the time to work out your storyline, to identify with your characters and know the industry, just to name a few very important issues.

I hope the information found on these pages will help you do this and will be a stepping stone to you reaching your goal. Click on “Writing” in the navigation bar at the top of the page to see the list of categories on writing.