Alexander Tor

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!