Edit Out Loud

When I began my novel, I didn’t have a clue as to the depth and breadth of this thing called EDITING. I wasn’t one of those who resented other people editing “my baby,” because I’d re-written it too many times to be that sentimental about it. I was just grateful that my editor was kind, even when suggesting changes.

My publisher suggests to everyone that they read aloud their work as part of the editing process. I thought it was a good idea, but couldn’t imagine reading my whole book again – and aloud. I’m a fast reader – reading aloud slows me down!

But after it was pointed out that I had way too many repeated words (smiled, grinned, laughed, etc.), I decided to give it a try.

It took about 3 days, in hitches, to read it aloud, and I couldn’t BELIEVE how much it helped. Here are some areas that made the most difference to me:

  1. Repeated words. When you read aloud, it shows you just how boring repeated words can be. You can imagine that I immediately looked up synonyms for “smile” and “laugh.”
  2. Unnecessary words. Along those same lines, when saying it aloud, you realize that you don’t need to describe when the conversation lets you know what the character is emoting.
  3. Out-of-place sections. Oh. My. Goodness. My last read-through showed me that the VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH, taking place in April, was repeated verbatim in a section taking place in JUNE. Oy. I had to change the entire first scene of the book on my last read-through. Neither I nor my editor caught that the first time. When I got to it in “June,” I thought – wait a minute, I’ve seen that before . . .
  4. Poor word choices. Sometimes we write things as dialogue that a human would never say. Sometimes we write things as description that will make a reader laugh when it is at a particularly poignant scene. For instance – Sarah’s shoulders slumped slightly. Alliteration is fun, but not when the character is sad! When I read that one aloud, I literally laughed out loud.

Westerfield.commaThere are many other advantages to reading your manuscript aloud. It’s taught me that I not only need to do this at the end, but as I go. Punctuation, paragraph length, spelling – all those things can be caught on a read-aloud.

So my advice? Slow down and read aloud. You’ll be glad you did.