I or She?

One of the most crucial decisions when you start a novel concerns point of view. Will it be in first person, told through the eyes of the main character? Or third person? In other words, will it be an “I” book, or a “she” book?

When I first started writing, I wrote exclusively in first person. I put myself in the head of my character and told the story from her point of view. Cowboy Trouble was originally written this way, and it worked well for the mystery part of the plot. The reader could only see what Libby saw, so they gathered clues as she did and only knew what she knew.

But once Luke turned up, it became clear that the mystery would take a back seat to the romance. Still, I kept tapping blithely away at the keyboard, telling Libby’s story from her point of view. The story cruised along, and I was happy with it.

I finished the book, and started another – which I wrote in third person. It didn’t flow quite as smoothly for me. Something was wrong. I sent it to my agent, and she agreed. It wasn’t as fresh and funny as my previous books. The voice wasn’t there.

So I rewrote it in first person, and eureka! The voice was back. My conclusion? I couldn’t write in third person. It just didn’t work for me.

Not long after that revelation, my agent sent Cowboy Trouble to Sourcebooks. The editor loved the book, but she felt it would work better in third person.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Love scenes in first person are a little ooky. I mean, it’s like the reader is right there. In third person, you have a little more distance. Not much, but enough that you don’t feel like part of some kinky menage.

The editor wanted me to rewrite the book in third person, which evoked sheer, stark terror for me. I was sure I couldn’t write in third person. I knew I’d lose the voice that was the book’s best selling point. And she wanted me to put in Luke’s point of view, too. This was a major rewrite – the Augean stable of writing projects.

But if I did it, she might buy the book. This was one tempting carrot, even if the stick was a mile long.

So I tackled the first fifty pages. I started out with Libby’s point of view, and it went pretty well. Then I started Luke’s – and wow. There was the magic the book was missing. Luke is the heart of the book, and letting him tell part of the story made it infinitely better. I didn’t lose the voice at all; in fact, the story took on new life. And the book sold.

Since then, my fabuous editor has continued to challenge me with out-of-the-box ideas for rewrites – and every time, she’s right. My books have shined a little brighter through her input, and my grasp of my craft has improved, too.

We make a great team.