So, you’ve decided (or been told) to revise or rewrite your manuscript into deep POV. Congrats!! Once you go deep, you never go back! But WOW!! Every writer facing this decision is justifiably intimidated by the mountain of work you now seem to be facing. You’re not alone! I was asked in my free Facebook group to break down the process behind rewriting or revising for deep POV.
How Deep Do You Want To Go: Genre Conventions?
This is the first fundamental question you must ask yourself. What genre are you writing? You need to know the genre (assuming your goal is to sell your work in stores or online) because you need to know what shelf your book will go on. Readers will have certain expectations depending on genre.
Of course you’ll find books that break the rule, but generally speaking if you’re writing any kind of romance genre, women’s lit, YA and NA, you’re going to be using Deep POV exclusively, or very heavily. If you’re writing any fantasy genre or thrillers you’re going to use deep POV a lot, but by necessity employ the narrator/writer voice. Other genres can go very deep or not use deep POV at all. I’m thinking of literary genres, historicals, mystery/suspense, horror, memoirs, creative non-fiction. (Just off the top of my head.) These last genres can use deep POV for emotional gut punches, would be well-served by deep POV exclusively, but it’s not genre convention to do either.
So once you have genre conventions settled, you must decide how deep you want to go – personal preference. Because here’s the honest truth, it’s hard and it’s going to ask a lot of you as a writer. Going deep requires you to explore emotions with your character that you might not be comfortable exploring in real life which will make this work very very difficult. It will be worth it, but it will be hard. Be kind to yourself, learn when to walk away and clear the emotions the writing has unearthed, unplug, etc.
How Deep Do You Want To Go: Author Voice?
I asked students of my four week masterclass this: After taking the four week masterclass, how into deep POV are you on a scale of 10 – all in, every character all the time to 1 – like the idea but I don’t get it and it’s not for me.
Romance – 9/10
Sci-fi/fantasy: 9. Have to know when to pull out sometimes.
Thriller: About #6. I don’t think I’d want to write my thriller in any more or less than this.
Memoir: It’s 7-8 for me. My major issue is that writing memoir makes it a little harder, since memoir generally calls for 1st person, but it requires so much more examination in DPOV.
Historicals and fantasy: My goal is 10 – my skill is still about 7, I think, but getting stronger.
In order to make these decisions, these writers have had to learn about their genre, how deep POV best serves the story they want to tell, and their author voice (how they want to tell the story). Answer those questions first. In addition, you need to understand the basic tools of deep POV and the effects those tools aim to create. There’s more to deep POV than removing dialogue tags!
The point I want to make is there are no rules. YOU decide how deep you want to go and where you cheat, so the revision process is entirely dependent on those decisions. My best advice: be consistent, be strategic. If you’re going to use/cheat deep POV know why, know what effect you want to create and what emotion you’re trying to convey to readers. Have a plan.
Rewrite Or Revise?
This depends on how deep you want to go. If your goal is to add deep POV just for emotional gut punches in specific scenes or for specific plot points, revising those moments is all that’s necessary. If you have written in objective third person, limited third person, or used the narrator voice a lot in first person and want to switch to mostly deep POV, that’s a lot of rewriting.
What emotional tone are you going for? Is the emotional journey your character takes the major plot line? Then your story is going to be well-served by deep POV and becoming curious about what emotions are in play will add depth and emotional connection for readers.
All things being equal, make the decision that’s best for the story. You’ll be happier with the final product.
First Layer To Revise For Deep POV: Remove Narrative Distance
If you want to help the reader feel a bit more connected and immerse them deeper into the story world without a lot of major rewrites, these three things (the work needed to revise increases with each step) are where I would start. By employing the basic tools of deep POV, you can achieve a deep POV-esqe feel. I have a course here on the Foundations Of Deep POV.
- Remove dialogue tags and make better use of beats. Removing the he/she said tags and use action beats is a good first step. The next step to challenge yourself is using complex beats over simple action beats. Find out more about that here.
- Remove filter words to help the reader feel immersed in the story. Don’t tell the reader the character sees, hears, knows, learns, remembers, wants, feels, etc. Just show what the character is experiencing. There’s a lot of art to this, it’s not as simple as it sounds, but this is a good starting point.
- Remove emotion words to remove some narrative distance. Don’t tell the reader the character is happy, sad, angry, betrayed, melancholy, etc. SHOW the reader how the character feels using sensory details, setting and description, actions and posture, tone of voice, etc. The key here is after you’ve removed the emotion words, remembering to add the emotion back into the story. The emotions are the glue that makes deep POV work and this is required if you want to go deep, but the deeper you go the more rewriting you’ll have to do. I have a whole course dedicated to writing emotions in layers you can check out here.
Second Layer To Revise For Deep POV: Remove Author/Narrator Voice
We’re wading into rewriting more than revising territory here. You need to learn to recognize the author or narrator voice first, learn how to remove it, and then learn how to give that information to the reader without inserting yourself into the story. If you’ve been writing for a while, the first two steps will come easier.
First Person and Limited Third Person all allow for the author/narrator voice to different extents. This narration/author voice is a big part of what’s eliminated by deep POV to immerse readers in the story world and emotional journey of the character. Read more about POV styles here.
This a HUGE topic and is one a lot of writers new to deep POV struggle with, so as a place to start, keep in mind that when writing exclusively in deep POV every word on the page comes to the reader through the point of view character. So, either the character hears, sees, learns, interprets, intuits, what’s going on around them and filters that information through their unique perspective (past experiences, prejudices, morals, priorities, etc) to the reader, or the reader is privy to the internal thoughts and sensations of the character directly (not through you the writer).
The writer/narrator voice is often used to explain, justify, describe, summarize, give backstory for what’s going on for readers as a sort of short-hand to keep the story moving. Once you remove this and deliver the same info to the reader entirely through the character’s perspective it can slow the pace, it can add layers of description that editors not familiar with deep POV will say is “on-the-nose” or unnecessary. This is why you need to know the tools and the effects the tools create, and then use them strategically. Without that purposed perspective, deep POV can slow the pace, add to your word count, meander, and leave readers frustrated with false anticipation.
Write thoughts (internal dialogue) as though the character is alone inside their own heads.
They don’t remind themselves of past relationships, or actively recall prior knowledge. We don’t usually choose to relive the most painful moments of our past, we avoid doing that so giving backstory requires thought and consistency.
Always keep the reader rooted in the POV character’s perspective.
Hoping I’ll share some examples? Make sure to join the free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions In Fiction where I do a live video of blog posts and share examples, further explain points in the post, and take questions.
Third Layer To Rewrite For Deep POV: Adding Emotional Surprise And The Why
Adding emotional surprise and exploring the WHY will absolutely take your writing the next level and you’ll never go back. Each scene will have its own emotional arc, and the high point can land at any point in the scene (beginning, middle or end), but building in surprise for the reader is crucial. I really enjoyed Donald Maass’ book Creating Emotional Craft Of Fiction for understanding this aspect of emotional surprise.
You must become curious about the emotional context and the emotional stakes for your character. What makes them speak up or keep quiet? What makes them take a risk or play it safe? What ELSE are they feeling? Too often, we write one-dimensional emotions and with deep POV you really need to dig deep and discover the emotional conflict in every decision that drives the story.
The WHY is the lynch pin to all of this. WHY does your character make the decisions they do? Why do they choose x over y? Exploring this adds depth, nuance, and subtext that grabs readers by the throat and won’t let them go.
Example Of Deep POV Revision
Original: Jason watched the woman walk towards the bar, her heels clicked on the hard linoleum. Looked too much like his ex-wife, and he was too smart to fall into that pit twice. He tipped his beer to his lips to calm the zing of attraction in his gut. Not worth it, he thought.
As you think back on the steps I’ve listed above, you can maybe see some obvious revisions that would be simple and easy to complete. Let’s look at those first layer revisions.
First Step Revision: The woman walked towards the bar, her three-inch heels clacked on the hard linoleum. Looked too much like his ex-wife, and he was too smart to fall into that pit twice. He tipped his beer to his lips. Not interested.
This accomplishes everything in step one — almost. Lots of writers believe this is deep POV. It’s a first step towards deep POV. I removed the tags (he thought) and the distance (watched) and the emotion words (attraction), but I didn’t add the emotion back in. What might this look like if we move to step two? We’re looking to do all of the above, but also remove the author/narrator voice now.
Second Step Revision: The woman walked towards the bar, her three-inch heels clacked on the hard linoleum. He tipped his beer to his lips. Not interested.
Do you see now where the author intrusion was? The line: Looked too much like his ex-wife, and he was too smart to fall into that pit twice is the author explaining why the character is making this choice, and. adds some backstory. Now, if the reason this character is making this decision isn’t important to the plot, this may be all that’s necessary.
But, let’s say why he makes this decision is the lead up to the emotional high point of this scene, what might that third layer of revision look like? What questions might we ask this character to become more curious about the emotions involved? Why isn’t he interested? What about his relationship with his ex is he wanting to avoid? What were the consequences of that past relationship he doesn’t want to repeat?
In moments that move the story ahead, leaving this emotional gap will get you feedback like: I didn’t get why they did x or this character makes no sense or I couldn’t connect with the character.
There’s no WHY.
Third Step Revision – Full Deep POV: Feminine heels clicked on the hard linoleum behind him. Jason swivelled in his seat. The lanky blond-from-a-box strode towards the bar, chest out, chin high. Her high-end heels and pricey suit too rich for this rundown hole. Her blouse peeked open with each flirty swing of her hips showing more cleavage than would be office-appropriate. He leaned in for a second look, heat spreading to all the right parts.
She glanced at him, her gaze flicking down to his boots and back up to the brim of his dusty hat. She gave a small eye-roll the way Sandy used to, and aimed two extra seats away. An old pain filled his chest, a horse-kick to the sternum. He wasn’t changing for no woman. He turned back to face the bar and tipped his beer to his lips. Not worth the trouble.
Do you see how deep POV is just MORE? More WHY. More emotions. More showing. This last step of adding in emotional curiosity/context and THE WHY adds more depth, but it also requires the reader to lean in and do their own work to understand what’s going on. That engagement is a feature of deep POV.
Without the explaining, justification, summarizing, of the author voice, it takes more work, more curiosity, more emotional context to give the reader the same info. So, you can decide that this stylistic choice doesn’t fit your story except in specific scenes and that’s fine. You can still use deep POV and land somewhere inbetween the original and this last revision. But maybe this last revision is the direction you want to take your writing.
Choosing An Editor For Deep POV
As you can see for yourself, deep POV uses tools that other POV styles will avoid. If you’re wanting to write in deep POV, aim to find an editor familiar with deep POV and your genre. An editor unfamiliar with, or who doesn’t like, deep POV will flag much of that last revision as unnecessary. For editors more familiar with limited third person especially, deep POV appears to drag down the pace, will feel like navel gazing or on-the-nose. (I would argue none of those things are wrong if you’re using them sparingly and strategically, but that’s another blog post.)
I have critique partners who are experienced with deep POV, who can point out where I could go deeper or where deep POV doesn’t serve the story in places (where the author voice/explanation is most expedient for instance). It’s less about being in deep POV ALL the time than it is about learning the tools and using them strategically in the way that best serves your story and your voice.
How into deep POV are you (or do you want to be) on a scale of 10 – all in, every character all the time to 1 – like the idea but I don’t get it and it’s not for me?