Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

At one point in the red-lining of the manuscript, the publisher stopped, and wrote a full page explaining the importance of careful Point of View switching.   I’m glad you’re on a computer… It means you’re probably already sitting down.  A lot of you might not like this much.  I know I didn’t.

The publisher counted nine different POVs in the Gold Mine Manuscript.  They said the problem with this is the reader can’t get deep into one character.  They realized the author was going to different POVs to give background, but they said that they could not relate to these new characters, because they hadn’t learned enough about them to understand their motives.  It makes it very difficult to feel anything for any specific character.

They cautioned against switching to POVs that are not intrinsic to the story just to give background, conflict, or added tension.

The publisher recommended **Gack** editing it to three points of view, one of them being the female character, who had not been a strong POV character in the original.


Now, I must say that I’ve read a partial revise of the gold mine manuscript.  Do not be daunted.  I’ve seen that this can be done.  If a scene in an “unnecessary  POV” has important information in it, you just need to get creative and find a  way for the POV characters to be there, or overhear what happened.  It’s possible.  You just need to broaden the scope of your thinking.

In my next post, I will show you the tool I used to break down my POV characters… and yes, I needed a tool.  I was surprised with how many POV’s I had!



10 responses to “Lesson Fifteen from a Manuscript Red Line: How Many POV’s Can You Have?

  1. That’s very interesting. I’m currently reading Gone Girl which has two PoV’s (both first person) It’s quite clear. I’m writing one in 3rd person with two, possibly three PoV’s. I hadn’t considered limiting the number of PoV’s but also probalby wouldn’t have had as many as nine. I’m using Scrivener with the Label as a POV and highlighting the binder entries in colour based on POV, which helps keep it visible and in check. It also helps with the distribution of POV scenes throughout the novel. I realised just yesterday that I had too many scenes from one POV together and little from another and this needed leveling out.

    • Dual first person is very tricky. It can work with great care. But I’ve seen readers really slam books that didn’t have very distinct voices in dual first. It’s a tough call.

  2. I’ve definitely chopped the number of POV characters in the manuscripts. And hard as that was to do, the stories have become stronger as a result. I still often prefer several to one, but there is a limit to how many a reader can keep straight and connect with!

  3. Excellent advice. I keep a spreadsheet, and in it I have a list of all POVs. First I count them to see how many I have. Usually in a first draft it’s way too many. Then I look for scenes I need but where I could change the POV. This means I can keep the basic scene, but give the POV to a main character. Sometimes I omit the scene altogether and sometimes I keep it. In all cases, I think it’s a good idea to make a conscious decision on POV. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Oh my. This is going to take work. Interesting. 😮

  5. This post might just have saved me from laboring down a confusing path!

  6. This is such interesting puzzle to read and think!!