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Friday, June 02, 2006

A word on your lips is worth two on the page

So I finished my latest novel—and it was, of course, brilliant. I wrote it in about 4 months, but it was perfect. Just to be sure, however, I read it out loud to my husband as we traveled to Idaho and back for Memorial day weekend. I’m not one that has read out loud very much, in fact my last book (#7) was the first one I ever did read aloud—and that was only because my husband never sits still enough to read it for himself. It was effective last time and so I thought, sure, I’ll do it again. I’d heard the advice for years, but never thought it was necessary for little ol me.

Well . . . there’s a funny little thing that happens when words are spoken out loud and when the scenes are read in order. You might, hypothetically speaking, realize that you have your character saying the same damn thing five different times. You might find out that your first 100 pages are dead boring, and you might, possibly, realize that you’re not half as brilliant as you thought you were. I know, I know—it’s an unconscionable idea—but come on, if we really want to make something of this whole writing thing we have got to be able to admit it when we really screw something up. That’s not to say that the book is dead, not at all, it’s just got some serious internal bleeding issues that are in serious need of attention.

Hence, my sage advice to all writers everywhere. Do you best work, revise it like crazy and when you think it’s great, read it out loud to another person. Had I not been filtering everything I read through another person’s auditory system I don’t know that I’d have found the perspective necessary to know that I can do better than this. I also found things like using the same word four times in one paragraph, using the wrong name on a dialogue tag or using the same phrase of speech such as ‘it was only a matter of time’ twice in the same chapter.

It’s back to the writing desk for me, and I’m a little nauseated at the task before me, but if I know what’s wrong I can fix it, right? That’s what I’m banking on. Do not be afraid! And face it, isn’t your husband, sister, neighbor, or friend a better bet than an agent or publisher telling you it’s not quite done? In my mind there is no contest.

Happy Writing.

2 comments:

Tristi Pinkston said...

This is part of why I hate editing -- going back and seeing how much it really stinks. I prefer not to face reality.

I doubt your book was as bad as you're making it sound, Josi! But we all have the tendency to beat ourselves up over every little thing.

Annette Lyon said...

I'm constantly amazed at how different a manuscript can look on the screen, on the page, and then read aloud.

Any time I read something aloud to my critique group I'm glad I did--I catch all kinds of weird, stumbling, unnatural stuff that looked great when I first typed it.

Like Tristi said, we're always our own worst critic. Josi, you're incapable of writing drivel.

Annette