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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Editing Out Loud

For years I've heard authors sing the praises of editing out loud. Literally reading the book out loud as they edit. It's been described as the miracle cure for everything from spliced commas to errant detail changes. For all I know, it cures baldness and wandering eye too.

But, no matter the hype, I wasn't willing to convert.

Editing out loud? READING MY BOOK OUT LOUD??? I'm not that kind of crazy. My kids would point and laugh at me! Besides, I can edit just fine reading silently...

Or so my argument went. For years. Literally, years.

This past week I broke down and tried reading JANE DOE out loud as I did a final edit before querying. Can I just say: AWKWARD!

I'd start reading and the baby stared at me like I was going to do flips. Bug repeatedly came up to me, "No, Mommy. No talking. Quiet, Mommy. NO, MOMMY!!!" My older girls checked my temperature and asked me if I was okay, and they started listening, which was even more awkward.

JANE DOE isn't a romance, but it isn't a kid's book either. One of the characters has PTSD and several characters are in adult relationships. There's no on-screen sex, but that's not the same thing as no on-screen thinking about sex, on-screen talking about sex, or on-screen not-quite-sex.

Let me tell you, if you thought kids giggling outside the door when you tried to get hot and heavy with your spouse it's really no comparison to your ten-year-old walking up to you mid-debauchery scene and asking, "What's erotic exhaustion?"

Um... well then. 0.0

She knows the basics of the birds and the bees, but that wasn't a conversation I wanted to have with the rest of the kids listening.

So. Very. Awkward.

However, if you can get past the awkward audience interaction, this is a great editing tool.

It's a lot easier to spot awkward phrasing when you get tongue tied over a phrase. Finding repetition is a breeze. Typos jump out at you. And, though I didn't expect it, I found it was easier to find logic flaws, plot holes, and out-of-sync details while reading out loud. Processing with a different part of the brain makes those things more apparent I guess.

Reading a book out loud takes longer than skimming through. I can polish off a regular novel in a few hours if I'm reading for fun. Out loud... yeah, not so much. I've spent the week reading a 90,000 words manuscript and I'm 73% done. I hope to finish today, but we'll see what SNAFUs I encounter. Chapter 26 was an unholy mess that required a exorcism to fix. Chapter 30 was, quite surprisingly for the content, very well done in my opinion. It read very well and the transition from nightmare to reality flowed well.

Is it worth it?

Yes, despite all the awkwardness of having an audience, yes. But save the read aloud for the final drafts. I'd hate to see how bad a rough draft sounded. Wait until the book is as polished as you think it can be, so very near perfect that you can taste it, and then read it out loud to get the last few bumps smoothed out.

Happy writing!

1 comment:

  1. Hehe, love it. So very true. Thankfully, the Small Person is too small to be worried yet, so I read aloud when I have a captive audience - long car trips, bwa ha ha. The husbandical one is really quite excellent at spotting logic holes for me, even if he doesn't especially enjoy the experience O:)