It is Christmas! (Also some thoughts about point of view in novels)

I just finished an hour of work on the novel, and I cut another 220 words. Every day feels like so little progress, but I’ve  so far cut over 4100 words from a 40,000 word novel!!! And I’m only a bit over halfway through. Whenever I do this cutting, I sometimes wonder that the language is becoming too clipped, but then I go over and read through it at the end and realize that, no, it actually reads just fine. Furthermore, oftentimes clipped language just means you have two discordant pieces of information right next to each other. Usually it’s a slight perspective shift: you’re putting one thing after another in a way that’s not natural for the protagonist, given their position or mindset. The solution here isn’t to include a bridging sentence, it’s to either cut or rework one or the other of the offending sentences.

Going through a manuscript like this, word by word, makes you realize how hard it can be to stay authentically in a single person’s point of view. There’s always some detail that doesn’t exactly track with what the protagonist would see or could see. It’s a knotty problem, and not one that’s altogether solvable. Every novel breaks perspective a little bit, because every novel is ultimately a story that’s being told, by the author, to the reader. It breaks perspective because perspective is an illusion. There’s no such thing as really being inside another person’s head. You want to maintain the illusion as much as possible, but you also want to just tell the damned story, and sometimes the latter objective gets in the way of the former.

3 Comments on “It is Christmas! (Also some thoughts about point of view in novels)

  1. Yay, on the difficulty of staying in perspective? It’s amazing how simple things get harder as you become a better writer. I’ve also been struggling with tense issues for years.

    • It was about how perspective is always an illusion, basically! Mostly I discussed how narrators are used to create a story’s meaning, but I opened with “let’s get real, you guys, stories are actually told from the point of view of their authors, not their narrators,” more or less.

      I guess it makes sense that as you get better you get better at seeing flaws in your own work. I used to think I was a straight natural at maintaining tense, but this…uh…is not necessarily true. Was?

      Good luck with the rest of your edits!

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