Advice, Dialogue, Editing, Fiction, Novel, Read, Revision, Tips, Writing

Lo and behold, my novel speaks!

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.

See how seriously I take this?

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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Advice, Craft, Editing, Fiction, Tips, Writing

Your sentence deserves a good beating!

Do you hear the music in your writing? I’ve finished another round of red-pencil editing on my manuscript and next week I’ll start a read through. This time I’ll be reading aloud and recording it. Yes, I know, novels and short stories aren’t usually read aloud, but the voice in our heads is not really silent as we read. It picks up the rhythm, the music in the writing.

The sentence beats are what I listen for when I read my work aloud. Sometimes, I sense that a line is not working, but don’t know why until I hear it read. Often, the problem is that the sentence has one or two syllables too many or too few—one word—throwing off the rhythm.

Sometimes, it’s not the number of syllables that makes the sentence awkward, but the syntax. In those cases, often just a reordering of words or clauses frees the rhythm.

Another thing to consider is punctuation. Pauses are beats too. Sometimes a comma added here, or removed there provides the sound you’re after. A semi-colon might provide the continuation of flow that pleases your ear. Or possibly the removal of one gives the staccato effect needed in this part of your story.

So, listen for beats as you write because when a sentence trips up the tongue it also dances clumsily on the page.

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