Editing tip: Keeping track of POV

A year or so ago I wrote up a little article that gave some tips on how to spot errors in your manuscript during the editing process. Today, I have another. One problem that I often find in manuscripts is an out-of-place POV (point-of-view) switch. I’m not talking about continuous head-hopping, just a sentence of an alternate character’s POV plugged in where it shouldn’t be. Most authors know not to do this, but sometimes a line or two will slip in as we’re writing our first draft because we’re in the heat of the scene and recording everything that pops into our heads. The trick is to catch those on the re-read—and the problem arises when we stop our editing session, or get distracted, right before one of these erroneous sentences, and then pick up later. It’s a perfect formula for us miss seeing it as the wrong POV.

So, a tip to help you remember who’s POV you’re in: Colour-code your manuscript. If you like, you can do it as you’re writing. If you’re doing it this way, choose different font colours for each POV Character, and then on the edit read-through, you’ll know by the colour whose head you’re supposed to be in and if you come to a sentence that isn’t in the right “colour’s” POV, edit or delete.

If you don’t want to use different font colours as you write, colour code your manuscript right before you edit. This may sound difficult, but since most POV switches are offset by scene breaks, you can easily see where the breaks are. Highlight each break/POV in a different colour. Then, when you fall asleep editing at 1 a.m., and have to pick it up the next day, you won’t have to remember, or go back and re-read to know whose POV you’re in.


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