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Putting on my Reader Hat to Revise

Since I am elbows deep in final revisions this week, I thought I’d touch a little on the what’s and why’s that work for me. Everyone has their own style and method, but the nuts and bolts are pretty much the same. Go over your WIP and make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building. (Yes, I took that from Annie and in my head it was totally Carol Burnett's voice too!) Incidentally, that is a pretty good representation of what I look like half-way through revisions. Go figure.
 
First, I am so glad we no longer have to write using a typewriter. I am educated and smart, but can’t for the life of me spell when I am trying to type fast. All I can say is, thank god for spell-check and Word! (Although there is a certain comedic bent when it suggests words for you. Yes Word, I did in fact really mean organism, though your suggestion would add a certain element of surprise to the book.) I cannot even imagine how much whiteout I’d go through. Not to mention how ugly that piece of paper would be. And having to retype an entire page when editing. No way.

I find I am thankful for these little things as I go through and edit, on paper, my 225 page manuscript. (Don’t worry, I have young kids and the pages get recycled as drawing paper when I’m done.) I have tried editing on screen, but for some reason, it engages a completely different part of my brain. When I have the words on paper, the reader in me wakes up and I can spot every little comma misplacement or mixed up word. (form and from anyone? Gah!)

I try not to analyze as I read. My main goal is to make sure the story flows and is logical, as if I were really reading a book. (Well, technically I am , but you know what I mean.) If something catches me as a reader, I can mark it to change. If I stumble over the wording of a sentence, I can fix it. If something makes no sense whatsoever and looks like the writer dropped it in to see if anyone was paying attention, I ‘X’ it out. But I don’t stop reading. These are quick notations as I go. Reminders of what I need to do when I put my writer hat back on.

I think there is a tendency to over-think and over-analyze every single mark of punctuation, or every word choice when you edit. You can rewrite the same sentence ten different ways and still not be happy. You can second-guess every choice your characters make and wonder why on earth you ever wrote this drivel to begin with. Internal editors are a bitch, plain and simple, and you have to learn to turn them off at some point.

I let mine have a say when I’m drafting. Typically, I will go back a few pages and read what I wrote before I continue on, just to get into the right mood. Inevitably, I’ll fix the little things as I go, so by the time I type The End, I usually have a decent draft to work with. Then it goes to my betas. When I get it back, I make any suggested changes and clear up the questions that might have come up, and I print it out.

I have a three ring binder that I use for my WIP’s. It keeps it all neatly together. (Which is good because I always forget to number the pages) Then I let it sit for a couple of days while I bask in all the free time I now have.(Why hello family! Long time no see!)Then I put on my reader hat, sit in my comfy chair with a red pen, and start reading. I pretend I am curled up with a book I’ve wanted to read for ages, and let that anticipation drive me into making it the best book I can.

This is where I am now. This week is “reader” week. I am almost done. Every single page has a mark on it. Soon I will get to make all the changes on my laptop and it will be out of my hands. At least until super-agent goes over it with HER red pen.

That's a whole 'nuther freak-out.
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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7 comments:

  1. Lee....good luck with edits! I'm in the middle of agent edits right now too. It's making my head spin. I've been reading my book on my Kindle and making notes as I go. I have about fifty pages of notes (seriously!) and they are really sloppy so I hope I understand them when I'm done!

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  2. I like editing on paper, too. I agree--reading it in a different medium than on your word document on your computer engages you differently, makes it easier to see things. Plus, it's so much more satisfying to draw a giant X through something than just highlight it and delete. So much more flair. (I even wrote VOMIT over top of one of my Xed out portions once lol.)

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  3. I sux at editing. But I will have to get better some day. February :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing your revising tips. I too, need to see it on real paper--to be recycled later!

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  5. I hope every writer lives by your example. The reader hat is so crucial. See it as the reader sees it, but also as your agent sees it (probably a lot more critical than most readers).
    I college I used to use the same red pen to paper method when editing my essays. It's no problem with 15 page essays. After 5 drafts, that's a lot of paper, but I don't get the same result using only the computer.
    But how do you then go back through your entire ms and compute all two hundred some pages into the computer?! That's true dedication.

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  6. Excellent advice:
    "I think there is a tendency to over-think and over-analyze every single mark of punctuation, or every word choice when you edit. You can rewrite the same sentence ten different ways and still not be happy. You can second-guess every choice your characters make and wonder why on earth you ever wrote this drivel to begin with. Internal editors are a bitch, plain and simple, and you have to learn to turn them off at some point."

    thanks!

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  7. Awesome post, Lee! It's really amazing what a difference revising on paper makes.

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Item Reviewed: Putting on my Reader Hat to Revise Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross