Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tips For Changing Your Manuscript From One POV to Another

So, at around the 60k mark in my WiP, I decided to try writing in 3rd person instead of 1st person, and I liked writing in 3rd person better.  This means I now have to change the first SIXTY FREAKING THOUSAND words from "I said/nodded/walked/died" to "Gwen said/nodded/walked/died".  Yeah. A little daunting.

I got started a few weeks back, and I thought, "This would make a great blog post!" So, here it is. I may come back and edit it to add more tips, as I have 74 pages left to convert. 

NOTE:  I use Microsoft Word, so these tips will work for it, but I don't know about other programs.

Tip #1: Listen to fun music so you don't get frustrated/bored.
I like to listen to music without lyrics, 'cause lyrics clog up my head. I usually listen to my writing playlist on YouTube.

Tip #2: MS Word's Find and Replace feature is your best friend (usually).
The first thing I did was search for "I said" (it appeared in my doc about 150 times), and replaced it with "Gwen said".  So much better than changing each one individually.  Other terms I searched for and replaced with their 3rd person equivalents were:

- I nodded
- I shook my head
- I raised an eyebrow
- I stood

 And other actions I know Gwen does a lot.  Now, a potential source of error is if you have another character say that they "verbed" in a bit of dialogue, and it getting changed to "Gwen verbed".  For instance, I just did a search for "I hated" and got three results. Two were Gwen's narration of the story, and the other was this bit of dialogue from my character Merig:  "At first I hated you for [SPOILER]" which he said to Gwen.  So, if I'd Replaced all the "I hated"s, this would have turned into: "At first Gwen hated you for [SPOILER]" So, Merig would be telling her that she hated herself. Um, no.  "I saw" also is proving problematic.  There are only 26 of those, and not all of them will have to be changed, so I think I'll do those manually.  Speaking of doing it manually, if you use the Find feature to find all the instances of a certain phrase, assuming there aren't a ton of them, you can sift through the results and change them one by one. 

Also, look for "we verbed"s and change them to "they verbed"s.  

Also also, include punctuation in your searches. For example: "I asked." and "I asked," with a period and a comma.  That may weed out bits of dialogue, 'cause it won't include things like "'I asked her for her pink flamingo slippers, but only got the purple elephants,' I said." You can use spaces in this way, too.

However, the lovely Find and Replace feature does have it's downsides. For instance, I was rereading a scene this morning and I noticed that when I replaced all the "I said"s with "Gwen said"s, it changed the "Leoli said"s to "LeolGwen said"s, since "Leoli" ends in an "i".  Sigh. 

Tip #3: Search for the more frequent terms twice. 
I am positive I searched for "I looked" and "I nodded", but I found an unchanged one of each, and searched again.  Word had missed 68 of one of them. SIXTY EIGHT! Grr.

Tip #4: Manually change the rest in manageable chunks. 
 Because it can get boring, and everything will suffer if you are irritable, and it does no good to dread reading/fixing your story.  I have personal experience.  So, when you start to get sick of it, take a break. Eat something. Walk around. Get away from the computer. Fight off an imaginary army of garden gnomes dressed as the Grim Reaper. Whatever.

Tip #5: Keep a notebook close by.
Because you are going to find things that you need to take notes about.  Plot holes, missing descriptions, a character who talks of nothing but llamas because you needed extra words one day during NaNoWriMo...

Yes, there is one of those in my work in progress.

NaNo has the power to make us do silly things in the name of The Word Count.

And I think that is all.  As I said before, I may add more tips if I think of any more. Got any advice on changing POV, or a story of something silly you did in the name of The Word Count? I'd love to hear it! 

Until next time, my friends. [insert really cool sign-off/end-of-post thing here]


  1. I think, actually, this list is just a teensy bit... off. See, changing a story from first person to third is not a casual sort of thing-- it must be necessary. First person is a tool, just as third person is, and to say the two are equal in all but pronouns is a mistake. I'm still not sure exactly the differences, but they aren't interchangeable. Just something to think about.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. 1st and 3rd person don't act the same. The biggest difference I can think of is in character voice. The reason I switched was actually a problem with voice (er, I think). When I wrote in first person, Gwen acted like Lizzie, and not herself. For some reason, switching to 3rd person fixed that.

      I didn't post about those differences because right then my goal was just to get the whole doc in the same POV, and to worry about non-interchagablity differences later. Perhaps I'll do a post on those difference later, when I have a better grasp on them.

  2. Sounds tedious! I've thought a lot of times about changing my 50,000ish word WIP to first person but every time I've thought about doing what you talk about here and I decide against it. Plus, most of my novel is written in notebooks so that would be a pain.

    In the name of word count, all my charries say, "do you not", "will not","did not", and all that jazz. It gets annoying when I'm rereading (which I'm not supposed to do...) but it adds a lot of word count it seems! :)

    Cool blog! I really like it! :)