The Deep POV Effect

In last month’s blog we looked back at the results of running a series deeppovcoverof tests as specified in Marcy Kennedy’s cracking little book: “A busy writer’s guide to deep POV”. Most of the work I’ve done into deep POV has been with Mandestroy, and I thought that was pretty tight. But what did Marcy’s recommendations suggest? Well…

  • 23% of the sentences had deep POV errors in them; and
  • 31% of the word count was “infected”.
  • Some sentences had three separate errors in them!
  • And there were some pretty heavy and clunky 50 word sentences lingering around.

All in all, there were a few belts to tighten. So, better get cracking.


How long does all this take?

Well, it’s fair to say that it takes a while. I didn’t record the activity specifically, but I do know that I spent many evenings trawling through errors and correcting them. No, it wasn’t fun, but it was enlightening, and more importantly, I believe it was valuable, too. It rather makes my other edits seem a bit amateur, and frankly, a bit of a waste of time. This is definitely a technique I will be employing in the future.


What effect did the changes have?

Well, I’m going to be looking at each of my target areas in specific later blog posts (so make sure you stay in touch), but here we’re going to consider some of the wider effects. First things first, let’s line up our core statistics:

 

 What can we conclude from this then? Well…

  • The deep POV review has added words to the novel. Not many, but a few. That isn’t necessarily an intuitive outcome.
  • But it has also increased the number of sentences, breaking passages down into more succinct nuggets. And this means…
  • …that the average sentence length is down from 11.5 to 11.1 words. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is a 3.5% reduction.
  • Then again, we do still have our chunky 49 word sentence, but here’s a question: is it the same one?

Well, the answer to that question is yes. For those who missed the previous blog, here it is:

And yet he retained a sense of personal pride, refusing to be sucked into the vortex of self-deprecation that seemed to plague a majority of the city’s lost – though lost seemed entirely inappropriate when the unfortunate population were actually one of the more common sights in the city.

Again, that could be broken down a bit, but it’s actually not a bad sentence at all. And the fact that it only triggered one “error” (which actually didn’t turn out to be an error) says quite a lot – especially if we consider that some 15 word sentences created multiple errors!


What about the other chunky sentences?

After all, it’s not just the sentence above which is a bit heavy on the word count.  Well, here’s some analysis of the longer sentences and what they’ve been up to…

That’s a bit more useful, isn’t it? That feels like some good progress. True, we still have the same number of really long sentences, but nonetheless, there is clear movement. Let’s have a look where progress has been made.

This is pretty clumsy coming in at a weighty forty words:

He saw the prince smirk back as the heir turned to followed his father into the hidden luxury of the Royal Gallery, but there had been something else in the eye of the prince too – something Jossie didn’t recognise.

So, what did we get to post-deep POV review? Well, first we trimmed seven words, but we also tightened it up too:

The prince smirked and then turned to follow his father into the hidden luxury of the Royal Gallery, but there had been something else in those eyes too – something he didn’t recognise.

In fact, reading this back I’d be inclined to split this further into two sentences. That would really rein it in.

Here’s another one:

But it was the scream of the mare that was most startling, and as the prince’s horse reared up, Kantal knew that his master was in trouble.

This is a twenty-seven word-er, so not offensively long. But it is a bit clunky, and there are POV errors in there. What does it change to?

But it was the scream of the mare that was most startling. The prince’s horse reared up, and his master was in trouble.

Much better, and coming in at two sentences of twelve and eleven words, it just feels more concise. I like this outcome.


So deep POV is always shorter?

Well, not necessarily. Here’s another, just for good measure:

He knew it was there – he had felt it himself after all – but the king’s non-involvement in the verbal assault was stark.

…which has been edited to…

Of course, that the venom was there was no surprise – he had been on the end of that poisonous tongue himself – but the Hooded King’s non-involvement in the verbal assault was stark.

Here I think we have smoothed out the deep POV issues, but I don’t think this is a great sentence yet.  Needs work.  But importantly, the edit is actually longer here because we are removing some clear “telling” and replacing it with a bit more detail.


But overall…

Yes, the deep POV edit is more concise overall.  Here is a chart of how the sentence counts have moved between the two edits:

deeppovedit2

What this basically says is that the proportion of shorter sentences increased, and the proportion of longer sentences decreased. So it tells us the same story as we saw above, but I find it quite interesting in graphical form. All in all, a pleasing outcome.

And I suspect there is more to come. I intend another sweep with my new deep POV hat on, and suspect there will be more of the same. I shall report back!


So, what’s next?

Next month we start looking at the different error types that have been cropping up. As a recap, these are how I’ve classified them, and also how many of each I found in Mandestroy:

  1. Showing vs. Telling (226)
  2. Point of View Error (94)
  3. Depth / Author Intrusion (370)
  4. Causal Linkage / Timing (125)

We will start with that classic writing mantra: “show don’t tell” next month. I hope to see you then!

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