The Writing Process: Drafting with POV Chapters

Last week, I didn’t write a post. It was the end of the school year, I had some family stuff going on, and all of my spare writing moments were put into working on the rough draft of The Island Experiment, Book 3 in The Kepos Chronicles. It was absolutely worth it, because I finished my first draft! Woohoo! I’ve now begun the editing phase, but it made me feel a little bad. After all, I had set this goal to write a post every week, and now I had missed a deadline.

That got me thinking about commitments, and how sometimes, you just have to step away, take a break, or decline an opportunity. I’m not writing these posts to gain prestige, followers, or fake internet points. I’m writing them to consolidate my own thoughts and ideas, and maybe, if I’m lucky, help someone or show them something cool. I needed to take some space and remind myself of that. As much as I enjoy writing about writing, I enjoy writing science fiction more. I love writing from the perspectives of Dione and Lithia and solving problems though their eyes.

Writing one POV straight through

Now that’s out of the way, I want to talk a little bit about a drafting strategy I used for this book that I’d never used before. The Kepos Chronicles has changing POV chapters. Most are either Lithia or Dione, but there are a few others in there. In the first two books, I followed my scene outline linearly through the story, hopping from one POV to the next when I shifted chapters.

For this book, I really struggled to do this. I’d have two or three chapters of one POV in a row then switch to someone else, and by the time I switched back, I’d have lost my place in the narrative. This probably isn’t a big deal if you’re cranking out 1000+ words a day, but I’m just not there most days. There are two main story lines in this book, so, in order to keep better mental tabs on them, I decided to write all the way through one, then all the way through the other. I got this idea about 25% of the way through the book, so I started there. I wrote Dione’s story through the climax, then Lithia’s story. For the wrap up chapters, I switched back to writing straight through because the worst of the mental gymnastics was over, and there were only a few of them. Overall, I enjoyed this approach, but it does have some drawbacks that I think I’ll have to deal with in the editing phase. We’ll see how things work out.

Pros:

  1. I was better able to remember and maintain the tone/feel of the scenes. I also felt more connected to plot details that I might otherwise forget.
  2. Improved momentum while writing, especially during the climactic parts.
  3. When I finished the Dione story line, finishing the Lithia story line didn’t feel so daunting.

Cons:

  1. It was harder to improvise communication between the characters. They are physically separated, and lining up their messages and interactions is going to be an important job in the editing phase.
  2. It made me realize that there were weaknesses in my outline that should have been addressed earlier. (Maybe this is a pro?)
  3. When I was working on the Dione plot, it was easy to lose track of the Lithia story line, and I worry this might make the book feel like it has “seams” where the POV chapters get stuck next to each other.

 

Would I do this again? Probably. I think it works best when your story lines are convergent, meaning the characters start in different places and eventually cross paths, probably around the climax. I think it would be very difficult to write one POV story line from start to finish if it interacts a lot with the other story lines. Maybe if you had a perfect outline (I don’t think these exist), it would work, but I find that my story changes enough as I write that I would not feel comfortable writing one POV all the way through the book. I know I would end up changing things that would impact those scenes.
It was an interesting exercise, and if you think it might help you tackle your current project, go for it! Let me know how it goes if you do.

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