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?


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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