Revising Fiction and the Challenge of Alternating Points of View

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How would you like to face this mess every day?

I’m in the revision process (on a page like this, the “rewriting process” is a more accurate term.) Every day, I go through a few chapters and scribble all over them, as you can see here. Then I start typing the changes into the document. It’s arduous, though as usual, I must add it’s not as arduous as fighting fires or teaching junior high. Still, with deadline looming (and a few other stressors in my life, which I won’t go into here. . . Good stressors, for the most part), a page like this one really gives me the willies.

Here’s a tidbit about this book and how I’m writing it: It has two points of view–sisters Maya and Rebecca, who are both doctors. I’m alternating Maya’s first person POV with Rebecca’s third person POV, but that confusion I’ll save for another post. What I’d like to discuss here is the fact that their stories are wildly different from one another. Therein lies the challenge. Rebecca is working with hurricane evacuees in the closed environment of an airport. Maya is trapped in the backwoods with strangers. I found it impossible to work on their stories simultaneously–that is, shifting back and forth from a Maya chapter to a Rebecca chapter, etc. So, as I’ve done with other books that have a similar structure, I wrote all Maya’s chapters first. Then, all of Rebecca’s.  Once I completed the rough draft of their chapters, I worked out the timeline to make sure what was happening to Maya matched the date of what was happening to Rebecca in the next chapter. (Ha! Easier said than done).  Now as I revise, I’m doing the same thing all over again. I’ve revised all of Maya’s chapters and am now working on Rebecca’s. Then I’ll once again be sure they flow well together. I will probably have to turn the book in at that point, although I know it will need more polishing, but it will be time to see what revisions my editor wants. After that, I can make it pretty. Right now, it’s kinda ugly.  But I love the story. Love it! I usually hate what I’m writing around this time in the process, so I’m not sure if loving it is a good sign or not. We’ll see!

I just noticed it’s already 7PM, so I’m going to grab a slice of pizza, take one of Rebecca’s chapters out to the porch, and make a mess of it as I did with Maya’s above. Wish me luck!

P.S. Remember, your comments on any of my blog posts give you a chance to win the cute tote bag in my current contest!


  1. RobynL on July 7, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Enjoy the pizza ( a good choice to take it outside and work). I’ve seen letters/documents almost that bad with changes to be made and it is very daunting. I wish you the best. I so can see why you need to write one sister’s story and then another; wow.

  2. Denise on July 7, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Diane, I get confused just reading about this! I don’t know how you keep it all straight!

  3. Margo on July 8, 2009 at 8:05 am

    I love it!!…not the mess of course but the 2 stories taking place…Diane, I don’t know how you do it…you’re a genius at writing and interweaving plots and in the end everything falls together beautifully. These challenges must keep you up at night!!

  4. Sharon on July 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

    You writers amaze me!

  5. Ingrid King on July 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I love this view into your creative process. The POV changes must be so challenging – I don’t think I ever thought about this from the writer’s perspective.
    I can’t wait for this book – it sounds like it’s going to be amazing.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on July 8, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Ingrid, actually I usually balance many different POVs, so balancing two is a piece of cake, relatively speaking. The challenge I’m having is twofold. The first challenge is keeping each their two very different stories cohesive, which is why I have to write them separately. Otherwise, I lose track of what I’ve told in one story because I’ve gotten lost in the other. Second, is this alternating first and third person POV. I’m doing that because Maya’s story is more central and I want the reader to feel closer to her. Yet, it’s weird to switch back and forth in this way. I’m a little puzzled by it and curious to see how it all turns out!

  7. Ashley on July 8, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I do not envy you of the re-vise/writing stage.. or the constant juggling etc. It seems the easiest part of it all is listening to the characters and getting the story.. after that, well, anything can happen. Now, back to packing.. when I’d rather be reading… but we’re moving into a house (from an apartment) at the end of the month- and I go back to work Friday; after 2 weeks vacation. *teeth chattering; nervous glance*

  8. Brenda on July 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    You never ever cease to amaze me. I’ll not forget when my students went onto your website to “study” writing last semester. THEY LOVED it. I’ll have to let the new ones get on this BLOG this fall to see this picture…it is something else. They think the first draft should be the best…wait until I share this with them. You are “teaching” as you “write” our next book…can’t wait until June 2010…I also think that l book a year is fine…some of the mainstream authors who are doing 2 or more a year-something is lost-Margo and I have discussed this…
    I am enjoying reading/writing/resting this week as my son starts his new job 24/7…Much needed rest for this “old woman…” 🙂

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