In addition to all the editing I did daily while writing my novel, I have twice printed it out and gone through complete edits. With my third printing, I began audio recording. My purpose is to get a little distance and, in some respect, experience a “fresh” reading. But this experiment has resulted in a few surprises.
First of all, reading a novel aloud is not something I normally do. I’m certainly not Meryl Streep, all dialogue is read in the same voice, so it doesn’t “sound” like what I heard in my head as I wrote it. And it’s a strange experience to speak words I don’t use in life—profanity. Not that my book is filled with it, but I feel ridiculous when I have to say those words. Also, it’s hard to keep from smiling after I read some of Jalal’s lines … he’s a charmer. And I wonder if I’ll choke-up when I come to a couple scenes that made me cry when I wrote them.
Secondly, I’m only three chapters in, but I’m surprised at the number of edits I’ve made already. I thought I’d caught almost all of the little problems in my previous rounds of editing, parts of which were read aloud. I’ve written about “beats” before, the main thing I’m listening for, which has enabled me to hear and correct awkward syntax, but I’ve found something else.
A problem particular to one of my characters is the use of contractions. English is not Jalal’s first language, and though he has little remaining accent, he speaks more formally than a native. He doesn’t use contractions. I’ve been conscious of this from the start and caught most of my slips as I wrote, but by reading the manuscript aloud—or hearing the playback—I’ve caught several more slips.
And imagine my surprise when I read that Meredith’s future husband had been a PhD candidate in the “archeology” department, when he received his degree in anthropology. So, it looks like I’ll do more work than I hoped this time around, but rewriting is the what it’s all about. I’m polishing like mad.
Now, hand me that microphone.
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