Writing Advice #52: Fixing POV

Recently, a young writer commented on the original POV entry of this series, saying this:

I’m writing a full length novel and wanted to ask for some of your advice. I always get confused about POV, I wrote this book half way in the 1st POV and now I feel like I should’ve written it in 3rd POV. I’m confused. I’ve spent six months writing 18 chapters, and now I have to rewrite everything. Have you ever come across such a problem? And how do you tackle it?

I’ve never actually encountered this issue. I’ve had a situation where I had to change tense — wrote something in present tense, decided it was better in past tense — but I’ve never goofed on the POV before. So, truly, I’m not sure how much help I’m going to be.

When I had to do that tense switcheroo, though, here’s how I approached it: I did one chapter. Just one. And then I sat on it for a couple of days. And then I went through it again, just to make sure. Because it’s tempting to look at a change like this as a hard slog that is best done with your head down, charging straight ahead ’til the end.

I disagree. Big changes like this are best done piecemeal, with plenty of time to reconsider. You may think changing from first person to third makes all the sense in the world right now, but when it’s done, you may find you think differently. Rather than do all of that work on all eighteen chapters, do one. Then really ponder it.

Consider, too, that changing from first to third isn’t merely about switching all of your Is and mes into s/hes and her/hims. First person has a different set of requirements than third. Sure, go through quickly and change the pronouns, but then really take that chapter apart and think about what you’ve gained and what you’ve lost in the conversion. You’ll be tempted to change as little as possible, but I encourage you to dig deep.

I guess what I’m saying is this: Don’t despair. Don’t look at this as a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your book and to improve your ability to examine your own work critically. It’s a chance to reinvigorate your story. The lessons you’ll learn in this process will carry forward into every other story you write, so don’t look at it as “This is slowing me down.” Look at it as, “This is preparing me for the future.”

Good luck!


  1. Kashmira Kamat says:

    Thank you! I really appreciate your help. This Post totally motivated me. I’m still struggling with converting my chapters to 3rd person and it’s taking longer than I expected, but I really like what you said about treating it as an opportunity to improve.

  2. Hi Barry, I’m am wondering if we are related? Please go to my Facebook page, & add yourself to the Lyga Family History. This was so cool, I read a book with you in the acknolegements, for the life of me I can not remember the name of the book. Its in my car, & I am in the hospital with my sister Karen, & her husband Donald Goss.
    Any way my name is Nancy Lyga-Flick, I couldn’t believe it when I seen your name. A Lyga, being a writer, & maybe from part of my family also.

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