Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

This post is the thirty-sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing revising and editing your novel. You will go through several drafts, and these two tips can be employed at any time to help you refine your writing.

Take a Break

You have spent a good chuck of time writing your novel. And then you begin editing and revising it. It is easy when you have spent this much time on a project to lose your objectivity or get in a rush to be done with it. This is the time when you need to take a break.

Yes, that is right. One of the best tips is to take time off. Whether it is just a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, you need to get your mind off your current project. When you return, you will have a clear mind and will be able to view your novel with “fresh eyes.”

Now it is up to you to decide just how much time you want or need to spend away from your work in progress. Every author has their own preference of how much time they need off and what they want to do during that time.

You might take the time to do some pre-release publicity or you might begin work on another story idea. Some authors switch between working two different stories. They do draft one on one story, then draft one on the other story. Then follow with the other drafts switching back and forth.

I don’t take a break after my first draft, but I like taking a short break between drafts two and three, and then another short break whenever I am getting ready for my final read through.

Read Aloud

Often when we read silently, our mind skips small errors and typos. Reading aloud forces you to notice every single word. It can help you notice run-on sentences, missing words, awkward transitions as well as other grammatical or organizational issues. It also lets you hear the dialogue allowing you to determine if the dialogue sounds realistic.

The key to reading aloud is to make sure you are reading exactly what is on the printed page (or computer screen if you don’t want to print out your text.) You may want to follow along with your finger, pointing at each word. This helps you stay focused and not skip anything. Or you may want to cover up everything but the section you are currently reading so you concentrate on just it and not what is to come.

Another option is to read your work backwards, sentence by sentence. This helps you focus just on the text and not the ideas. It can be especially helping you catch sentence fragments.

Methods to reading aloud

Read aloud to yourself – This is self-explanatory. You can even pretend you are the famous actor/actress doing the audio version of your book.

Read to a friend – This can allow a second pair of ears to hear the prose and allow for additional feedback on what is missing or needs improving.

Have someone else read aloud – Allowing a friend to read to you lets you concentrate only on what is being read. You can note where your friend stumbles or gets lost. You do not necessarily need to follow along as they read but can certainly do so to make notes and corrections as long as you don’t start reading ahead.

An alternative to this would be to have the computer read to you. This works great as the computer will definitely read EVERY word.

For those of you who use Microsoft Word, this feature is already available to you. If you use another software that doesn’t have a speech feature, you can find many web-based services that can help you get your computer, smart phone, tablet or e-reader to read your work out loud for you. (Search ‘text to speech’ or ‘text reader.’)

For MSWord – At the very top of the screen is your Quick Access bar (circled in the below image). Click on the down arrow (Drop Down Menu) on the right. Select More Commands.

On the left side is a list of features/tools you can add to your Quick Access Bar. Go down to Speak and click the button to add it to your bar. (If you don’t see it under “Popular Commands,” then select “All Commands” from the drop-down menu above the left column.) Click OK.

To listen to your text, highlight the text to be read and then click the Speak icon (now located on your Quick Access Bar). It is that simple.

No matter which reading aloud method you choose to use, reading your novel aloud will be beneficial as will taking a break from your editing.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

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The kids are growing up…

I knew it was coming. As the days passed, and the kids grew older, I knew this time was coming. One day, I would no longer be required to attend parties or school events.

It starts in elementary school. In the beginning, you go with your kid to birthday parties and school activities. You relish going on field trips. Your child smiles when he sees you at the school. Or she gladly holds your hand as you walk through the zoo.

But then about second or third grade, you begin to just drop your child off at birthday parties. No longer do you have to stand awkwardly with the other parents as you watch the party games. Or if you are lucky you know some of the other parents and your time passes quickly. This stops at about the age of 7 or 8. (Maybe earlier or later depending on your child or perhaps where you live.)

During soccer practice or gymnastics, you sat through the class/practice – though sometimes that was because the practice was not long enough to leave, or it was too far to return home during that short of a time.

Throughout the elementary-school years, I have attended many after-school events with the kids from science night to art shows or choir performances. And my kids typically hung out with me at these events though sometimes as they grew older, they would venture off with friends for some or perhaps the whole time.

And then, this past year, Jase began going to middle school. There have been fewer events there, but he and I still braved an absurdly cold day in April to attend the History Fair together. But many of the other students there were with their friends and not their parents. The other parents I saw also had sixth graders. So I know what is coming…next year, I may not be coming with him at all.

And then just a few weeks later, it happened. There was a comic con at his school. Jase invited his sister to go with him. I left it up to him if he wanted me to come in with them or to just drop them off at the front door of the school. Yep, you guessed it. I wasn’t wanted. Oh, my fourth-grader wanted me to go, and in all honestly, Jase probably wouldn’t have minded.

Instead, I dropped them off at the middle school and picked them up an hour later. Jase met up with friends who are all use to Lexie joining them. (She has been tagging along since she was 4.) It felt a little odd. But now as I write this, I realize it has been coming.

For a while now, we have let the kids stay home for short times by themselves. No longer do I have to load them in the car for a quick trip to the store or to pick up a prescription. It was great to be able to run a few errands without listening to them complaining about going.

Yes, their independence is growing, and as it does, their dependence on me has lessened. A part of me is sad. Yet another part of me knew this was coming and recognizes that this is the way it has to be.

Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

This post is the thirty-fifth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past several posts, I have written about the many different drafts your novel will go through and some of the different editing techniques that you can use to reduce wordiness or strengthen your novel.

And when I have done a majority of my changes and am on what I am hoping is my final draft, I find I need something to keep me on track and remind me of all the areas that I need to focus on.

I am unsure where I got this revision outline. I believe it was condensed down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But it serves its purpose and ensures I do a complete job of editing on my final draft.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climactic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time.”

Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic.

Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Remove slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows.

Hopefully this outline helps you with your revision but feel free to adapt it to what does fit your style of editing and revising.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#AtoZChallenge Recap

In April, I participated in the A to Z challenge where each day (except Sundays) you post on a new topic following the letters of the alphabet. So April 1 the topic started with A, on April 2 the topic began with B and so on.

This was my fifth year doing the challenge. The organizers of the challenge suggest you pick a theme for your writing. The first year I didn’t do a theme. The next year it was TV shows, followed by characters and then last year I did antagonists. This year I decided to do songs about magic, which I felt tied into my fantasy writing at least somewhat.

Part of the challenge is also to visit other blogs. You never know when you will find a new favorite blogger. In past years, I have done better at this but this really has been a busy month. I did make it to some blogs and even some that were very interesting.

As always, I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to doing it again next year.

For any of you who have missed out on my blogs from the A to Z challenge, here is a recap of what I covered.

Songs of Magic A to Z Challenge Posts

A is for Abracadabra

B is for Black Magic Woman

C is for Could it be Magic

D is for Do you Believe in Magic

E is for Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

F is for Five Magics

G is for Gwen Stefani (The Magic’s in the Makeup)

H is for Honky Tonk Magic

I is for I Put a Spell on You

J is for Justin Timberlake (Love Sex Magic)

K is for Katy Perry (Dark Horse)

L is for Love Potion No. 9

M is for Magic (by Pilot, The Cars & Coldplay)

N is for Neon Magic

O is for Olivia Newton-John (Magic)

P is for Puff the Magic Dragon

Q is for Queen (A Kind of Magic)

R is for Ramble On

S is for Strange Magic

T is for This Magic Moment

U is for Under Your Spell

V is for Van Halen (Me Wise Magic)

W is for Witchcraft

X is for Xanadu

Y is for You Can Do Magic

Z is for Zomby Woof

Puppy Gypsy joins our family

Katie Bell

February 20th was a sad day for our family. Katie Bell, our two-and-a-half-year-old Cocker Spaniel, had to be put to sleep after losing the mobility in her back legs due to a freak accident. It was the kids first experience with the death of a pet. But even as we were morning the loss of our crazy dog, I knew at some point we would be getting another puppy.

No puppy could of course take the place of Katie Bell. But we have a lot of love to give, and there was our other Cocker Spaniel, Sadie Rose, to consider. She would now be alone.

So, I knew we would be getting a puppy at some point. But I didn’t know when the kids would be ready. Katie Bell’s death had been hard on my son. The news came as a total shock to him, and he was upset that he never got to say goodbye.

The weeks after her death I also knew were not the right time as the kids and I had a Spring Break trip to Albuquerque planned. Even though my husband would be home, he had some late work nights planned and wouldn’t have the time for a new puppy.

Gypsy on the car ride home

When we returned from our trip, four weeks after we lost Katie Bell, we began to look even as my son, Jase, was still hesitant about getting a new dog. We knew we wanted another Cocker Spaniel and was unsure how long it would take us to find one.  We found someone who had five blonde Cocker Spaniel pups. With Jase’s approval, we took one of the girls home. (I mean seriously, who can resist a cute puppy face.)

Sadie Rose, who had begun to enjoy being an only dog, wasn’t too thrilled with the new pup who wanted to snuggle with her or tried to play with her. But a week later, the two began to settle in. And the puppy, who we named Gypsy, quickly began fitting in with the rest of the family. She approached the cats with caution and they quickly taught her they were in charge.

The kids were thrilled to have an adorable puppy to play with and entertain them with her cute antics. There were a few sad moments as they compared her with Katie Bell or the inadvertently called her by Katie Bell’s name. (Heck, I still do that on occasion even after she has been here 6 weeks.)

I think one of the best things is that the seven-week-old puppy that came home with us was pretty much already housebroken. As soon as she learned to use the pet door, we had very few accidents (and those we did have were when we had her upstairs and she didn’t know how to walk down the stairs yet.)

So, six weeks after we got her, I have to say Gypsy is settling in well. She is keeping Sadie Rose company and forcing her to be more active. And more importantly, she is easing the kids’ heartache with her cute antics and puppy licks.