The Ultimate Editing Tool

>> Saturday, February 27, 2010

Over the years, I have done a lot of editing, revising, rewriting, and all. It's a great deal of work and sometimes very frustrating. It doesn't have the same appeal, at least for me, than creating the world in the first place. But it's absolutely necessary if one strives for excellence.

Having said that, it's always nice to fix something and make it better. Over time, I'm likely to go over it multiple times. And I have some fantastic people who take the time to read over it and give me comments - I've had my eyes opened to many things from thoughtful reviewers.

Still, of all the tricks and methods I use to clean up and polish my work, nothing helps me find typos and grammatical errors, nothing highlights out an awkward sentence, nothing ensures dialog that sounds real like taking the effort to read it out loud.

I've always read my work out loud. It's essential when you write rhyme/rhythm poetry, as I did in high school, to read it out loud. That kind of poetry (and, in my opinion, all poetry) is best when read aloud...or it probably isn't very good poetry.

When I moved on to short stories, I found that reading aloud was just as helpful. My husband of the time wasn't fond of listening, so I didn't write much, but, when I did, I'd hole up somewhere and read it out loud. Always.

My relationship with Lee has really changed things. He not only lets me read it out loud, he likes it. He listens. Reading things out loud to someone receptive and listening, someone interested, someone brilliant (and opinionated), is far more useful than reading to oneself. The humorous parts stand out, of course, but the reaction, the interplay, makes polishing not only more effective, but far more fun.

I wouldn't want to edit any other way.


  • Jeff King

    I have tried this... even though I agree it probably works the best. I can't read very well, so this solution compounds my problem.

    Maybe with luck, I can pay my daughter to read it to me; she is fantastic at reading and acting.

    Thx for the advice: the one BIG thing I have found to help me is, completing a project first... (A huge problem for new authors) and let the manuscript set-for-a-bit. That way it's not so fresh in your mind, so when you do re-read it the work is not so fresh in your mind... therefore allowing you see the words you wrote instead of what you thought you wrote, and see the problems that escaped your eye during composition.


  • Project Savior

    I like to do both, let it sit and then read it out loud. I catch a lot of mistakes that way.

  • The Mother

    Mine is useless. He just tells me everything I write is great. NO help, whatsoever.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Jeff King, I have to admit I've had a lot of experience reading out loud. Not only do I read my own work out loud to my husband (and read out loud to my children when they let me), but I also read other books out loud to him because he's severely dyslexic. Yes, he can read (and he's been told his level is such he couldn't), but it's a lot of work for him, and he both enjoys it more and absorbs more listening to it. He's an audio learner, which is quite common for dyslexics anyway. The thing is, he doesn't like short stories, mine or anyone else's, so I'm still on my own with those.

    As for setting it aside, I ALWAYS do that, a minimum of two weeks and, if possible, two months. Trying to revise it when you're too close to it is an excercise in futility. I'll be working on the novel draft I finished in November in March.

    Project Savior, me too.

    My husband's first reaction to everything I write without his involvement is "it's crap." He has little patience with novels - it's got to capture him quickly, and it can take a while for him to warm up to my not-what-you-expect characters. And I formulate stories far different than the ones he initiates (and some of our collaborations are his ideas). I have learned to plug onward and then he can be both helpful and learn to appreciate it. Usually.

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