Editing and POV, a Software Story

Editing and POV, a Software Story

I owe a debt of gratitude to Doug “D.P.” Lyle, with whom I took a Master CraftFest class at ThrillerFest in NYC in July. Not for what he did in the review of my manuscript (which was awesome), and not for what else he did, which was to inspire the hell out of me with his casual generosity (as did Gayle Lynds and all of the other kickass authors with whom I interacted there), but for doing a quick demo of the writing software Scrivener.

OK, full admission: I am a tech snob. I spent my whole career in tech, and am really good at learning and using software. I started my tech career teaching how to use tools like Microsoft Word in the early 90’s, so I know keyboard shortcuts like the back of my hand. So, when I’m asked about writing tools by other budding novelists, I proudly talk about writing in Word, outlining in Excel, and note-taking in Evernote.

But Doug did a quick 10 minute demo of how he uses Scrivener, and the scales fell from my eyes. Yes, that is a little hyperbolic, but seriously–the software rocks. What inspired me to today’s particular procrastination while figuring out the revisions to part one of my novel The Halting Problem was the extra trick that Doug taught us: tagging the POV of each chapter.

Since Scrivener allows you to break up a manuscript into independent documents representing scenes or chapters (which are equivalent for my manuscript), you can see how the manuscript flows at a scene level. And that is very useful, but Doug’s trick of color tagging POV is even more important, as it allows me to think about the impact of whose voice is relating each chapter.

And why did that make a big difference for me? Because it forces me to think about voice in each POV: a collection that includes a female graduate student, her male Harvard humanities housemate, her MIT research advisor, and a running-to-catch-up FBI Special Agent, among others.  Who best to tell each story, move each plot element forward, build action, delay information, challenge reader expectations?

The tool is forcing me to become a more aware writer when I am tackling the very real challenge of being a novelist, what Walter Mosley in his ThrillerFest keynote so perfectly identified: your novel is bigger than your head. Trying to make these meta-level edits is already hard enough, and any help is very much appreciated.

So, thanks Doug!

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