Thursday, May 20, 2010


Everyone has at least one particular thing they don't "get". For some people, it's numbers. For others it's a subset of numbers such as percents or fractions. Some people transpose letters. Some have trouble with verbs. For's point of view. Hence the title of my blog.

Since I started writing with serious intent, I've been teased about my runaway switching of view points--otherwise known as head hopping. I understand the concept when it's explained to me. Really.

But if you hand me a couple pages of manuscript--anyone's manuscript--I can't pick out the instances when this occurs. As hard as I try, the darn thing is opaque for me until someone else high lights it. Even then, I may not be able to decipher who's viewpoint it is. Or why.

If you're a non-writer you may be shaking your head and saying, "So what?"

But if you're a writer, you know this is considered a serious flaw. Editors and publishers don't want to spend time marking up your manuscript for the zillion POV changes that need to be made. No matter how brilliant your story might be, no matter how many heart strings you tug, ultimately it isn't worth the time commitment required to correct it.

Yesterday I worked many hours on a section of my manuscript that was about three pages long. I slaved over it word by word before finally sending it off to a critique partner. And still in that short piece there were two POV issues. That was with two characters in the scene. Imagine what it must be like when I have more than two characters!

There are certain subjects that don't seem to be covered in writer's workshops. One is synopsis writing. Another is point of view. I'm sure there are others. In the meantime I read every article I can find on the two I mentioned, believing that the day will come when the light bulb flashes and I finally understand. So far, it's not happened, but I haven't given up.

I have to admit, though, that frustration sets in when I'm told understanding POV is simple. No--for me--it isn't. I don't pick up on the cues that would give me the information I need. Someday in the future that might be the case, but for now it's not. To some extent, I might as well be blind when trying to decipher whose POV a particular paragraph is.

I'm sure every writer has some issue that drives them insane. Writing is such a solitary profession. It's not like the writer can wander over to the next desk in the office and chat up a co-worker for help. Yes, I know we have critique partners and fellow writers and editors. But if y'all are honest, you'll admit that dealing with problems in the technical aspects of writing are the most difficult to share. Especially when there's a repetitive issue involved.

Surely I must not be the only one with a writer's block. Right? What's your particular problem?



  1. Mine is physics. Weird, because I'm good at the math, and I get the concepts. But I never could put the two together on a test.

    Here's the thing. Your critique partner doesn't mind. She LIKES feeling useful and POV is one of those things she does "get." So put her to work and go back to writing wonderful characters in awesome situations.

  2. Yes, darling, POV is my main flaw. I'm getting better at it, but sometimes I get so caught up in the story I don't notice it. And it doesn't bother me in other books.

    I discovered I got my 'habit' from old Danielle Steele and Judith Michael books.

    Honestly, I don't understand the change in rules. Who decreed it, anyway? :PPPPPPPPPP (LOL)

  3. I can remember having someone write POV on a manuscript of mine and thinking "what the heck does that mean?"

    I finally figured that out but have trouble with time frames. Especially if I've changed something and have to go back through and edit everything to make sure it lines up. It usually involves losing some dialogue or narrative that I really want to keep. I've been known to whine for days.

    Hey Mol, I think DS and JM might get to bend the's just a guess, though:-)

  4. I get POV. I have no idea why. Maybe because I used to edit. I get physics but I'm horrible at math. Sometimes I just get stuck at some part of a manuscript and I have to do lots of other things until I get unstuck. I have no idea why that happens.

  5. Head hopping? I love it. Soemone telling you understanding 'pov is simple' - what a nong. That is so not helpful. My main flaws? I have so many but I enjoy them all.

  6. I really hate it when authors head-hop, even those who do it well. Of course, it's easy for me to handle. I normally write in first-person. It's hard to have a POV shift when you write in FP.

    In my non-FP books, I find that if I solidly put myself in the mindset of the person whose view I'm writing (i.e., the heroine), I can't head-hop. And if I find myself head-hopping, it's because the scene should probably be from someone else's POV. I just follow that old rule: always write the scene in the POV of the person who has the most to lose.

    If you really do want info about how to write POV, I think I can find some pointers. I teach a writing class and POV is one of the things we cover. I've got references to assorted books, etc., in my class notes. I'd be glad to send 'em along.

    And I agree with Cindy: there are things your CPs do well. Let them point out the POV issues and you go with your strengths. That's the way my CP and I work, and it's helped me like crazy in 18 books.