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April 27, 2012

My #1 Editing Tip - Say Again?


Editing is a tedious process for me. I complain about it more than I should, I’m sure. I apologize if I sound like a whiner. But there is one editing tool that I couldn’t live without.

Reading aloud. When I feel my story is fit for human consumption, I read it out loud to my children. I watch for reactions; laughs, furrowing brows, wandering attention. Sometimes I stop at certain points and ask what is going on in the story to see if they’ve picked up on a subtle story line. Or I ask what they think will happen next to see if the plot is too predictable. I offer as little information as possible (extremely hard for me, might I add!) Based on any comments they offer, questions they ask, or when I lost their attention, I go back to the editing process and tweak and tuck and cut and boost.

Then I read it out loud again, but this time I record myself. I plug a microphone into my computer and record an audio file (or several if it is a novel.) I attempt to read in different character voices with emphasis and verve. I try NOT to edit or to even really think about the story beyond the reading process, because a few days later I listen to it. Ideally, it would be fabulous if I had some crazy friend willing to sit in front of my computer for hours on end and read into a microphone, but I haven’t found that selfless being yet, so I’m the next best option.

Can I just tell you how much you catch LISTENING to your story! I don’t read along in my manuscript while I’m playing the audio, because then I stop really listening. When I hear an awkward phrase or out of character dialogue, I pause the recording and find the place in the manuscript to mark for future editing. Then I continue LISTENING.

Huge help!

What’s your best editing tip?


8 comments:

  1. Great hint. It's amazing how many repeat phrases and words you can find in your "perfect manuscript" by reading aloud. Thanks, Joyce
    Check out joycebrennan@snowycreekbooks.com or joycebrennan.blogspot.com

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    1. So true! Those repeat words and phrases really hide until you hear it aloud.

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  2. My process is very similar: once a short story is "ready" (meaning I think it's close to submission), I ask my wife to read it aloud to our nearly 6 yr old daughter. While they are sharing the story, I note reactions and keywords which need to be edited. They are both very helpful in getting the story into final form. I catch more things when I hear someone else read it then when I read aloud to myself. Good tips in this blog post Kai, thank you!

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    1. I admit to having reader envy. My short stories wouldn't be a bad thing to read aloud, but haven't found a volunteer for the novel reads. Hmmm, wonder why (pops a Halls Breezer in her mouth and sips hot tea).

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  3. I did this with my recent release. There are about 50 art images and I spent a lot of time having people flip through and give me an 'emotion' or not if that was the case. The art that did not give a emotion actually did because I never took my eyes away from the facial expression. Great exercise to help me weed out some ineffective images.

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    1. Lesley, that's amazing! I love that you watched their facial expressions too. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Reading aloud to someone is awesome, but a trick I rely on heavily is to have my computer read to me aloud. You might be surprised what your brain will see that a computer won't if it's not there.

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    1. The stilted computer voice doesn't distract you? I'll have to give that a try, Anna. Thanks.

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