Editing? Then watch yourself read!
30 June 2015
In my last blog, I spoke about the pressure of daily publishing to motivate your writing. Today, I'm going to share some of my thoughts on editing. Again, it involves putting oneself in a potentially uncomfortable position in order to get the results that you want, so be prepared to feel the cringe!
I think everyone knows that writing is just the first part of producing a polished piece of work. And for many, the writing is the easy, and enjoyable, part. But in order to tell the story that you really want to tell, and for it to be read, enjoyed, and hopefully praised by others, it needs to be carefully edited. There are many people who will offer their services to edit your work, but before that, is it as good as you can get it? Does it create the emotion, the interest, the pull, that you want your potential readers to get? In order to answer this, you need to get into the head of those readers.
So, how do you do this? Well, the first step, I've found, is to get away from the voice in your own head; to distance yourself from the words on the page. This can be harder than it sounds when it is your soul, your blood, your tears, that have inked the words before you, and that are ingrained within your mind. But it is possible to be objective. Some people seem to be able to just read their work, keep the words in their head, and edit successfully. If this is you, then that's great, but getting the words our of your head and into the open can be a lot more telling about the flow and feel of your prose.
I've heard and read many people talk about the benefits of reading their work out loud, and that is the fundamental basis of what I am recommending here, but I like to take it one step further. When I'm 'reading out aloud' to myself, it tends to be quick, quiet, and poorly articulated. I still find I get a much better feel for the flow than when the words stay in my head, but it's still easy for your brain to autocorrect the errors on the page without you even realising. So, what can you do? You can record yourself reading and then listen back, or better still, video it all.
Many, most, maybe all of us, cringe when we hear recordings of our voice or watch ourselves on film, but if we want to improve our craft then this is something that we really should torture ourselves with. Make yourself read and record the entire section, or chapter, in one go, and then play it all back. Make a note of where the flow didn't seem right, where the energy dipped, and where you stumbled. If you stumbled over a word, phrase or sentence, then there is a good chance that your readers will as well, and every stumble is a distraction that will potentially alienate your reader and cause them to put down your work.
Almost every phone and computer now has the ability to record our voice and video our actions. If you can get a trusted friend or family member to help you then that's a bonus. Just their presence will encourage you to keep going when you feel the pain. But even if you are on your own, just hit record and then read. Read it all, and then play it all back. Don't hide away from the words, but instead use them to drive you on. Make notes about what you liked and what you thought didn't work as well as it could, and then edit. When you are done editing, repeat the process again, and again, until you are happy with the result.
You don't have to share these recordings with the world, but you can! They provide an alternative format for spreading the word about your work, and they show that you, the author, are real. If you'd like to watch me read from Caressing Lost Keys then you can do so here, and I'd love to hear you thoughts.
Happy readings, and good luck!
Musings after two months of publishing daily as I write
29 May 2015
I was sat in an airport lounge when I saw a tweet from Kara Monterey. She was calling for applications to write a series to be published on channillo.com, which was due to go live in two weeks time. With nothing better to do whilst I waited for my flight I jotted down a sketch of an idea and sent it off. The next day I got notification that my series been accepted, and the realisation of what I had committed to first hit me.
The series that I had proposed was called Life of Rose. I was to write journal entries for a fictional twelve year old girl over the course of a year, following her struggles of living with a mother with Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Rose is the daughter of Tom, and it is from Tom’s point of view that my novel Caressing Lost Keys, the first of The Keys trilogy, is written. I thought it would be fun to explore Rose’s character in parallel to that of her father’s, although the thought of getting into the head of a teenage girl every day for a year was, and still is, quite daunting!
My plan was that Life of Rose would read by the end of the year as a stand-alone novel to sit alongside The Keys trilogy. So, with just two weeks before channillo.com went live, I sat down to plot out a novel that I would publish in daily parts. Effectively, I would publish a 40-60k word novel live as I wrote it.
So, two months in, how’s it going? Well, I’m still writing, and I’m very much enjoying the process. If I hadn’t made the commitment to publish every day then this project would likely not be at all established by now. My daily word count is not high, varying from about 50 to 500, so I can always make time to get the entries out. And those few minutes every day, those minutes that we never have but can always find if we really need to, mean that two months in Life of Rose is becoming a significant body of work. The manuscript now reads at over 10,000 words, and so is on course to come in at around 60k by the end of the year. Not so bad for just a few minutes per day.
Maintaining consistency and building a coherent story when publishing each day is not easy. I don’t have the option to go back and change or introduce characters, locations or events, or to reorganise the flow and structure of the story. But I don’t believe that writing this way is not possible. I guess we’ll see by the end of the year if this experiment works for me or not, but it’s an experiment that I’m excited to continue.
So, thank you, Kara, for inviting me to write and publish Life of Rose on channillo.com, and thank you to those of you that are reading, which provides the pressure for me to keep on writing. If you are an author, then I’d certainly recommend that you consider writing and publishing live. It’s a challenge and a way of working that could change how you write forever. And if you enjoy reading, then why not check out what is happening on channillo.com?