Monday, August 11, 2014

Have Your MS Read to You.

In my writing career I have found one method of editing a piece of work very useful: have it read out loud to me.

Now this isn't the only editing I do. I edit the manuscript at least three times the old fashioned way: by reading it. But between edits 2 and 3, I like to have the manuscript read out loud to me.  I listen to it, often with my eyes closed. Having it read out loud to me I notice things I missed during reading it. Things such as word repetitions, awkward sentence structure ("which 'he' am I referring to?"), and even statements by characters that seem out of character. It's a amazingly useful tool.

The method I use is I recruit my wife. She reads the manuscript off her iPad and when I say "stop" she does. I can often just come up with a fix there, she types it into her iPad, and then reads it back to me.  If it sounds good, I say "better" or "great" or something positive and we go on. The downside of using my wife is she won't say swear words, even mild ones such as "hell" and "damn." She'll be reading along and say "To heck with it" and I'll say "I'm pretty sure that's not what I wrote."

Last night we started on my latest work in progress and it took almost 40 minutes to get through the 1,067-word prologue because I kept noticing things that I don't think people would say in 1865 when it's set. I'm hoping the rest of the novel goes a bit quicker.

Someone once said I should follow along reading a copy of the MS as she does this but I don't think I should.  That would be too much like reading. You want to hear the words, not read them.  And don't do this right after doing a reading edit. Wait a while (I wait while my wife and my friend proofread the MS) then start this process.

If you can't get anyone to read it to you, I understand there are programs or online services that will read text for you. And if that doesn't work, at the very least, read the entire manuscript out loud to yourself.

Believe me, there is something about hearing it versus reading it that makes you find things you'll want to improve.

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