Today's guest post is truly helpful for anyone who's finished their first draft and is about to embark on those all important revisions. Writing is re-writing after all!
Today's guest blogger is:
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She is very passionate about publishing and helping aspiring authors achieve their dreams. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading, writing, and plotting her own books.
Check out Reedsy on Twitter and Instagram.
5 Unusual Editing Approaches To Help You See Your Book With Fresh Eyes
It’s easy to look forward to editing your book when you’re still in the trenches of the writing process. After all, even reaching that stage is a sign that all the hours you’ve logged at the keyboard have finally born fruit — you’ve got a finished manuscript on hand!
Watch how quickly those feelings change once you actually put the period on your concluding sentence. At that point, the very idea of editing can make your stomach go icy with dread (perhaps especially if you’re a pantser). It’s like being told to take a victory lap when you’ve just huffed and puffed your way through mile 25 of a marathon.
Editing a book you’ve written takes more than superhuman stamina — you also need to scrutinize a text you know better than your own reflection, all while maintaining the perceptive freshness of a stranger. That’s why most people recommend taking a least a month off between drafting and editing — multiple months, if you can swing it. But once you’ve taken a break from your own writing, come back because we’ve got some unusual editing tips to make it even easier to see your book through new eyes.
1. Turn your book into an audiobook
Record yourself reading your manuscript, and then play it back — keeping one hand on the pause button to jot down notes. Believe it or not, the making of your DIY audiobook is as important to this process as listening to the finished product. So take it seriously, reading every line with all the sensitivity and showmanship you can muster. Let your voice amplify the emotional impact of your words.
Are there any lines you instinctively stumble on, because the rhythm is off or the meaning isn’t quite clear? Do you feel embarrassed reading certain scenes, because the feelings you tried to channel come through as over-the-top? Do you find yourself choking back laughter at a metaphor that seemed like a stroke of genius when you wrote it? Take these sorts of bobbles as indicators of what to revisit as you work through your manuscript.
Because this editing hack is very time-consuming, it’s best applied to shorter works like children’s books. But you can also try it for particular chapters or scenes from a longer work — slices of your story you aren’t sure about, or that are so crucial you want to make sure they land.
2. Get someone to do a table-read with you
Instead of reading — and recording — your manuscript by yourself, enlist a friend (or two) to go through the dialogue with you. To save time, skip all the attribution tags and surrounding narration: just go through the spoken lines, like you’re practicing for a stage play. That way, you’ll be able to check whether the speech itself sounds natural and appropriate to your characters.
The fellow cast members you enlist don’t have to be Tony-nominated thespians. In fact, finding some collaborators without acting experience might actually be more helpful. They’ll be better proxies for the readers who will eventually encounter your manuscript, and you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your dialogue from their unfiltered reactions.
3. Cut it up and read each character’s arc separately
Say you’ve written a sprawling saga with an ensemble cast big enough to populate a small village. Getting through the sheer bulk of your manuscript will be the least of your worries. With that many character arcs to juggle, finding ways to make every one of them be coherent and emotionally satisfying is a huge undertaking.
To make things easier, cut up your manuscript and read each character’s arc as a separate mini-novel. In other words, take all the scenes where Character A appears and copy-paste them into a new document.
Now, read it through to see if her characterization still makes sense once you’ve removed all the distractions — that is, the rest of your ensemble. Do her motivations come through clearly? Do the major revelations unfold naturally from the events of the plot? Does the heartwarming conclusion to her personal journey feel earned?
4. Read it backwards
By the time you’ve finished writing your book, you’ve probably read the whole thing so many times the sentences start to blur together. Your brain automatically fills in the end of every line as soon as you so much as glimpse the first word, and the typos slip right past your eyes.
To actually see your manuscript again, you’ve got to defamiliarize it — to shock your eyes into thinking it’s something new. The easiest way to do that? Reading backwards, going from your dynamite conclusion to your intriguing opening.
This particular hack won’t work if you’re looking to make developmental edits to your manuscript. But it’s a lifesaver for proofreading, and it can help you sharpen your line editing chops, too!
Go sentence by sentence if you’re focusing on fine-grained mechanical edits — things like catching typos and double-checking punctuation. But if you’re more concerned with refining your style, go paragraph by paragraph, instead. That way, you’ll be able to discern the effect of your sentences as they flow one into the other. Sure, your story will feel hilariously disjointed, but that’s part of the point. Let the absurd humor keep you alert through the long editing process.
5. Remove all your adverbs and adjectives — then slowly add them back in
This strategy is simple enough, but it works best when you implement it on a chapter by chapter or even scene by scene basis. Just cut all the modifiers from your manuscript — that’s right, every single adverb and adjective. Now, read through the whole book without them. Then, with a mindful eye, add back only the ones you think are necessary (or that add a dimension of beauty and clarity to your prose that you can’t achieve otherwise).
Of course, you don’t have to turn yourself into Hemingway. That’s not a style that suits every writer, and you want to preserve the distinctiveness of your own voice! But this exercise will stop you from tipping over into purple prose territory.
You’re written a powerful book. Don’t let the bones of your story get obscured by a layer of stylistic excess!
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