My WIP’s Fourth Revision
Editing – Doing It By Ear
How do we know if our writing is any good?
Think about that.
Walk into your library, walk down the shelf and pull books down at random. Read through them.
Is it hard to tell if you think you’ll like them? Nope.
So why is it so darned hard to do that with our own stuff?
Our Secret Weapon – The Ear
When you read something you really, really, really like, what do you do? If you’re like me, I’m dying to share it, and I don’t mean texting someone that they just have to read this. We share at the most basic level…we read it aloud to someone whether they want to hear it or not. And what happens? Usually it’s easy to read, right?
In other words, it’s pleasing to hear.
Is that enough? I don’t think so, because I’ve enjoyed a few things that I could never read out loud. And I’m sure at least a few of the things I hated would have been easy to read.
Have you ever had this experience? Early in my first draft I was dying to share my brilliant words with others. So I read it to them.
I spent almost as much time fixing things as I did writing.
So, I don’t think the ear test works for first drafts or revisions. I think it’s a finely tuned instrument we should reserve for something approaching the final stages before we turn it loose.
How did I use this wonderful tool?
I used a free text-to-speech app. It doesn’t matter which one, but, as long as you aren’t waiting for Samuel Jackson, you will be okay.
I was halfway through editing when I hit on an app. But let me backup and explain my approach. I wanted to do two passes, going from first scene to final scene. In my first pass I wanted to fix filtering, too many adverbs and weak sentences caused by something call ToBes. In my second pass I thought I was taking care of repetition, tweaking for characters, and SPAG. Evil pronouns surfaced later.
Anyway, I’d finished the entire first pass and was several scenes into the second pass. After finishing an editing session I remembered this app. I rolled my eyes, loaded it, and gave it a try.
I hated the scene I tried it on
Short sentences led to a choppy presentation, and I could hardly get through it. My word choices were horrible, when I wasn’t repeating things four paragraphs later. And my rapid-fire dialogue slogged through road tar on a hot Wyoming day.
I tried it on all five scenes I thought I’d finished.
I wanted to cry.
After sleeping on it, I knew what I had to do. I had to fix the scenes I those five scene and then rethink how I was going to edit the other 99. And, in the end, it all turned out to be the same thing.
In step one, I load a scene into the app, and let it read to me. I follow along but take no notes, relying on impressions and letting my ear tell me what it likes and doesn’t like
In step two, I go back in and fix the scene, and it usually involves almost rewriting the scene. Since I’ve already heard the scene I know if I’ve got pacing issues, and I can hear the repetition, sometimes a half page apart.
I start at the top of the scene and begin writing. Sometimes I’m just stringing seven word sentences into 20, 30 or even 40 word sentences. Other times I change sentence order in a paragraph, or pulling sentences from other paragraphs. Typically, a 1,500 word scene will take an hour or two.
In step three, I go do all my other editing stuff that I will write about.
In the final step I play it back through the text-to-speech app. But this time it different because I have the app open in one window and the scene open in the other. When I hear something wrong, I stop the app, fix the text, then go on.
Next time I will talk about another tool.