Friday, December 11, 2009

Self-Editing One Step at a Time: Read Your Manuscript Aloud

Authors and editors will tell you that reading your manuscript aloud is one of the best ways to identify any remaining problems with awkward sentence structure, sentences that are too long, word repetitions, bad dialogue, and silly goofs.

Maryann Miller posted two excellent articles on line editing in April, 2009. Line Editing: One and Line Editing – Part Two will give you great results if you go over your manuscript visually. However, if you follow that effort with another read, this time out loud, you will improve your manuscript. Why is that?

When the writer reads to himself, his eye ignores and visually corrects the problems noted at the beginning of this post as well as typos, words or lines accidentally deleted during the revision process, and spacing and formatting errors.

Reading aloud, however, forces the reader to look at words individually instead of seeing phrases and whole sentences at once. We often hear what we don’t see.

Dialogue might look great on paper, but could sound unnatural or pointless when spoken.

Watch out for more of those silly things we do:

1. Repeating names over and over during dialogue.


“I went to the story this morning, Mary.”
“Get anything good, Doris?”
“Oh, just some apricots, Mary.”
“Mmmm. Sounds good, Doris.”


2. Flying body parts.


He threw his arms out from his body.
His leg flew up and his foot kicked Adam in the jaw.
She dropped her eyes to the floor.
Her eyes darted about the room.

You will often hear what you don’t see. A lot of authors know this to be true and list this step among their tips for writing and revision. Alex Sokoloff said it here in June in Top Ten Things I Know About Editing. “Read your book aloud,” she told us. “All of it. Cover to cover.”

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Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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15 comments :

  1. Yes! Doing this has improved my writing so much that I tell everyone else to do it too. No matter what writing of theirs they give me.

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  2. Reading aloud will help find mistakes!
    It's also good practice for public speaking, too.

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  3. How true about using names in dialogue (either as a tag or spoken). We rarely repeat each others' names in conversation, and it seems so forced when we say it on paper.

    As for reading it out loud - yes, you must do this as it does indeed help to catch missing words or phrases you assumed/thought were there.

    It also helps to have someone read it out loud to you. This is a great way for you to get a handle on how it will feel for your readers. Have a 'virgin' read it to you: someone who is not and has not been kept abreast of the MS as you wrote it. Best if they have no preconceived ideas about character & plot. They'll read it naturally and "unplugged" and you'll hear your story in a new way.


    You'll be amazed at just how helpful this can be!

    Cheers, Jill
    "Blood and Groom" is now in stores!
    www.jilledmondson.com

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  4. I have been reading my work aloud for a long time to catch those annoying repetitions and awkward phrasing, but I had never thought of having someone else read it to me. You are so right, Jill, about that being another good way to catch mistakes.

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  5. Reading aloud will help find mistakes!
    It's also good practice for public speaking, too.

    Work from home India

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  6. This is very good advice. Before I publish my blog posts I always read them aloud and almost always discover errors that I have overlooked.

    Lee
    http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/

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  7. It's also good practice for public speaking, too.

    Work from home India

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great article! I agree. Reading my manuscript out loud is when I really know I'm far from ready to submit. When I get bored reading it...LOL

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  9. Great article! I agree. Reading my manuscript out loud is when I really know I'm far from ready to submit. When I get bored reading it...LOL

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  10. I usually don't edit my blog posts, but when I do, it is because I read it out loud to Hubby. Yep, makes it easy to spot lots of trouble!

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  11. Great advice. I always do that. I often record myself as I'm reading aloud, then listen back. If you the author stumbles over passages, then you know you need to work on those.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  12. It doeesn't hurt to have someone else read maybe a chapter out loud. We know how the inflections and thoughts are supposed to go,but someone else doesn't. That way we can hear the awkward, redundant, or other problem parts.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  13. When I worked for a publishing company, someone would always be sitting around, reading aloud the books before they went to press. I was the company Librarian, but listened & learned, which I still am.

    Great post!

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  14. I tell everyone else to do it too. No matter what writing of theirs they give me.

    Work from home India

    ReplyDelete
  15. Golod advice. I first tried this a few years ago and found I was out of breath before I could finish my looooooong sentences. Helped me especially to learn to write dialog in a way people speak. Excellent post.

    The Old Silly

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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