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Switching My Book's POV

Calvin Lubowa

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So recently I got feedback from a beta reader on my first book (which is a mystery plot), and one of her suggestions was that I should try third person limited as part of an overall suggestion to revamp the plot and make the characters more distinct. So now I'm just wondering how to go about converting my book into it effectively.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.
 

Tocotin

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I guess you will have to try to rewrite it, if you feel like it, of course. You can try to rewrite the first one-two chapters and see how it goes. If you hate it, just stop. That's it.

I did a similar thing with my first novel – I was halfway through when I decided I needed to change the POV. I had to rewrite the first half. It wasn't even that tough, because I loved it and I loved how it changed everything.

Good luck.

:troll
 

Maryn

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Most mystery is written in a single third-person voice using a single POV, although in recent years there are more exceptions than in the past. So if you do what your beta suggested, you increase the likelihood of pleasing a publisher.

I cannot stress strongly enough that you begin by making a copy of your mss. and changing the copy, leaving the original first-person just as it stands. Why? Because you may decide that it was better before you started messing with it.

When I've changed voice from first to third, it takes many passes. The first one is the longest, or seems to be, because it's literal drudgery: One sentence at a time, change first person to third. I becomes he or perhaps she. Me turns into him or her. While a global Find-and-Replace would be great, it will change things you don't want changed (I used in dialogue, him referring to someone other than the POV character, etc.) You may find that after a half hour of this, your brain stops working and you have to take a break.

While you're doing that step, you will probably see other things that need changing, not necessarily because of the voice thing. Write yourself comments in the document, or notes.

The next step will be addressing commentary your beta reader gave you. Since there are plot changes recommended, this involves rewriting parts--in third person.

Next pass, you clarify the characters' as unique, making them behave and sound different from one another. Remember, every character is the star of the show in their own POV. You can make even small characters more rounded if you try.

After that, I'd put it away for a few months, long enough that when you take it out again you can read it as if someone else wrote it. You'll see all kinds of things that could be improved.

Maryn, knowing this is a long slow slog because she's done it
 

Brigid Barry

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First, I'm seconding that you do a "Save As" to give yourself a new document to work with, and keep the current one the way it is, that way you can always go back. Always start a new version.

Second, what POV is it in now? Are there multiple PsOV? If it's in first person, 1 POV, that's annoying and time consuming, but relatively easy. If it's multi-POV, you have to determine what is REALLY the most important to the plot and either cut scenes or find a way to make it from your MC's perspective. I went through that with my fantasy novel that I'm revamping from 3 POV to 1 POV. If it REALLY mattered, I found a way to make it from my MC's POV. Ultimately a lot of scenes got cut, and when I cut them, I set them aside in a separate document so I can make reference to them. If I have them there, I can look at the scene and figure out how to change it so my MC is involved.
 

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Calvin, @Maryn makes some excellent recommendations. Those suggestions are based on a knowledge of mystery plots. However, I might add that a beta reader, even a trusted one, is one opinion. I would suggest trying to find a few more beta readers and get a consensus of opinions. Basing a rewrite on a single opinion, may not be in your best interest. Even if the opinions differ only slightly the delay may be worth the wait.

Just a suggestion.

Gramps
 

gtanders

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When I've changed voice from first to third, it takes many passes. The first one is the longest, or seems to be, because it's literal drudgery: One sentence at a time, change first person to third. I becomes he or perhaps she. Me turns into him or her. While a global Find-and-Replace would be great, it will change things you don't want changed (I used in dialogue, him referring to someone other than the POV character, etc.) You may find that after a half hour of this, your brain stops working and you have to take a break.

...

The next step will be addressing commentary your beta reader gave you. Since there are plot changes recommended, this involves rewriting parts--in third person.

Next pass, you clarify the characters' as unique, making them behave and sound different from one another. Remember, every character is the star of the show in their own POV. You can make even small characters more rounded if you try.

After that, I'd put it away for a few months, long enough that when you take it out again you can read it as if someone else wrote it. You'll see all kinds of things that could be improved.

+1 to this. I've done this type of conversion, and reversed it, far too many times. :)

Technical first--get it all grammatically, syntactically, and semantically correct. Set aside. Then read for, "does this feel immersive and emotional?" For some strange reason, POV techniques that work in 1st person don't always translate well to 3rd. Some adjustment will be needed.

I also benefited greatly from seeking out books written in close 3rd that really spoke to me. Make sure you're constantly reading something in close 3rd when you reach that nuanced edit, and take notes on POV execution for the books you're reading. This will help immensely with specific techniques that you can adapt to your book.

Hope that's helpful. Cheers! :)
 
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Brigid Barry

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My understanding (which is limited at best) is that agents want to see close POVs to get invested in the characters, so I don't see the Beta's recommendation as off-base. But it depends on the story and how it's currently being told.
 
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Paul Lamb

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I once write an entire novel in first person only to realize in the very last chapter that it wouldn't work. (The main character dies but the story goes on.) So I rewrote the entire thing in third person.

I don't recommend this approach.
 
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Calvin Lubowa

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I once write an entire novel in first person only to realize in the very last chapter that it wouldn't work. (The main character dies but the story goes on.) So I rewrote the entire thing in third person.

I don't recommend this approach.
So what would you recommend?
 

MythMonger

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I once write an entire novel in first person only to realize in the very last chapter that it wouldn't work. (The main character dies but the story goes on.) So I rewrote the entire thing in third person.

I don't recommend this approach.
Ouch!

At that point, I think I would've switched to another character, either in first or close third, for the final chapter.

Although there's always the "ghost narrator." Madeline Miller does that in Song of Achilles.
 
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CWNitz

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Calvin, @Maryn makes some excellent recommendations. Those suggestions are based on a knowledge of mystery plots. However, I might add that a beta reader, even a trusted one, is one opinion. I would suggest trying to find a few more beta readers and get a consensus of opinions. Basing a rewrite on a single opinion, may not be in your best interest. Even if the opinions differ only slightly the delay may be worth the wait.

Just a suggestion.

Gramps
On the other hand, when you follow a beta's advice, you always have two opinions: the beta's and your own. I had a single beta suggest I switch to first person, tried it on a single chapter, loved it, and that was that.
 

Gramps

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On the other hand, when you follow a beta's advice, you always have two opinions: the beta's and your own. I had a single beta suggest I switch to first person, tried it on a single chapter, loved it, and that was that.
The options are always in the hands of the author. Maryn made excellent suggestions. One being, to save the original and to make sample chapters. Well, I can't count that's two suggestions, but I was merely attempting to state more readers give you a more balanced overall opinion. If you find you love option one, then option one is the best.

However, you could also have eight other well read readers suggest something entirely different. It doesn't make either option wrong, just a different approach.