It’s story time! Let’s read! Out loud! I mean it. Put those self conscious feelings away. Embrace the silly – pick up that manuscript of yours and read away. You can even do the voices if you want to.
You know they’re doing the voices.
One of the best ways to do a thorough revision of your manuscript is to read that sucker out loud. And not on your computer, either. Print it out – there’s nothing quite like having the book in front of you, on pages rather than a word doc. Doing a printed revision is also enormously helpful, but that’s a topic for another blog. I wanna talk about story time. So grab that red pen (or blue, or purple, or those glitter pens if you’re feeling especially festive), settle in with some yummy treats and a glass of wine (or a mixed drink, or…vodka, but HEY – not too much. Let’s stay clear headed) and have a little solo story time.
Although…to be honest, it’s actually a lot of fun with someone else to help out, or listen in. My coauthor and I did this for the first book in our series – she lives two states away, and I took a trip down for about 5 days. We sat down in her loft with our own copies of the script, and read and revised through the entire thing in 4 days. It was unbelievable the inconsistencies we caught and the cutting/adding we did. It was also highly amusing (pineapple upside down cake drinks had nothing to do with it) and incredibly rewarding to make so much progress.
Reading a book out loud has an entirely different feel to it. You catch descriptive words you tend to use too much (for me, it was words like skirmish, tense, stiffen. Get your minds out of the gutter). It’s great for dialogue. I’m a real stickler for realistic speech, natural conversation, and pinpointing stuff that people just don’t say, depending upon the world/era you’re working with. What might look good on paper could sound super awkward out loud, and might need a little tweaking. With our novel, we found so many little unnecessary scenes that did nothing for plot advancement, and found a few continuity issues. We ended up butchering an entire chapter and tying up a lot of loose ends that might’ve been forgotten about or not addressed until much later. The end result was a tighter manuscript we felt a whole lot better about.
While it’s a good sign to get so caught up in your story you forget to edit, stay focused! Look out for any scenes that don’t feel right as you’re reading them, ask yourself if it’s really necessary or could be cleaned up and cut down. It’ll help you keep from going overboard with description too, especially physical character descriptions. If you’re allergic to sap and superfluous details, then saying it out loud’s gonna make you feel a little squirmy and a lot “what IS this? What was I thinking?”
So when you’re shaping up that rough draft and red penning your baby up like an F paper from high school, make a point to give it a vocal run through. It will be well worth it.