3 Tips for Revising One Character At A Time

You’re probably thinking: Michelle, you already wrote this post. Well, halfway through the process I talked about how helpful it had been for me to focus on the boy POV in order to figure out his character arc. Now that I’ve finished both characters, I’ve pulled my thoughts together and have some specific tips on how to get the most out of revising one character at a time.

1. Completely separate the POVs.

This is easier if you’re using Scrivener or a similar program (is there a similar program?) rather than Word, which would require a lot of cutting and pasting, but it could be done either way. The problem with not separating them out completely before you start is that it makes it hard to do step No. 2, which is:

2. Keep your eyes only on the POV you’re revising.

While it was confusing at times and I know will result in some issues I need to fix now that I’m putting the two POVs back together, I refused to peek at one POV while I was revising the other. Why? Because I didn’t want what one character was thinking to influence the other’s thoughts. I had to draft this sucker linearly. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had any idea what was going on. But as a result, the characters’ thoughts intruded on each other’s scenes.

For example, I had a scene where the boy came up with a strategy where he’d tell the girl a story to get her to trust him. When I switched to her point of view, she started thinking about why this story made her trust him. However, when I revised with only her scenes, I realized that his story would have the opposite effect. After what she’d been through, it wouldn’t make her trust him at all–but she would let him think that she did. That’s why I needed to stay completely in one POV for the revision, so I wouldn’t get caught up in what the other character was thinking and confuse the two.

3. Do this as early in the revision process as you can. I suggest the second draft.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that the more drafts in I get, the more tied I am to the story. I’m much more likely to make sweeping changes with an early draft. (I’m referring to self-directed changes here, not those from outside feedback.) When I used this process for my other dual-POV novel, it was around draft four or five. That was way too late. The characters were too set by then. It was still beneficial, but I made only minor changes. With this WIP, I know my characters are going to stand out as individuals because of the care I’ve taken to tackle them first.

Now that I’m merging the two POVs back together, I have a more solid understanding of where my characters are coming from, and I’m not tempted to let them bleed into each other. I’m so glad I made them a priority. What strategies have you used when writing multiple POVs?

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