Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Best Editing Tool

What editing tool do you pull out of your toolbag, when it's time to get serious about finishing your novel?

Do you give it to a friend? Beta reader?

Do you print out a hard copy, grab a red pen, and go to work on it?

Do you head over to the local coffee shop, order a large espresso, and read all day?

I don't.

I read it aloud.

When I first started writing, I spent most of my editing time at a local coffee shop, a line of espresso shots sitting in front of me, and a red pen poised to make cuts. I will still do this early in the editing process, but when it's time to make the final edits, nothing works for me, like reading it aloud.

The best case is if my wife has nothing else to do, and I read it aloud to her. But that doesn't happen with enough regularity to allow me to use that technique to finish the book. So instead, I read it to myself.

What reading it aloud does, is clean up the prose. I can't count the number of times I have read a paragraph in my head, and thought it sounded great, but when I read it aloud, I make major changes. The paragraph usually still has the action, description, characterization that was there before, but it is so much cleaner and glides off the tongue.

That's what reading aloud does for me. It allows me to find the areas that don't have the right cadence, or just plain sound funny. I make the changes, then go back a couple of paragraphs, and read it again. If it still sounds bad, I make more changes and try it again. Only when the paragraph slides off the tongue like melted ice cream, do I consider it done.

How about you? What do you have in your secret bag of tricks to help you edit?


  1. I do the same. I read aloud to make sure the piece's "music" is not atonal.

    It really does help a lot.

  2. I also read aloud. It really adds a different feel the the writing.

  3. If you are talking about line-editing and proofreading, when it's time to get serious, I print that sucker out and attack it with a red pen.

    For general editing, I rely on beta readers and The Wife Unit.

  4. I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It's awesome for finding those problems that I just don't see because I'm too familiar with the story.

  5. I wrote about this on my blog today! I read aloud, too. It's kind of frightening how many errors I catch this way, haha. I also set aside my writing for a couple days so I have a more objective view of it later. Giving it to my husband to read helps, too, because he catches mistakes the way a reader does.

    I attack my manuscript with colored pens and apply those changes I found from reading aloud, setting it aside, and giving it to someone else to read.

  6. I read aloud, too. It helps me catch more mistakes than reading on the computer or reading a hard copy.


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