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

One thought on “Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

  1. “It also lets you hear the dialogue allowing you to determine if the dialogue sounds realistic.” One potential problem with reading aloud to make sure you have realistic dialogue is that you’re reading with the inflections and emphasis you know are meant to be there, not necessarily the ones you’re written.

    “An alternative to this would be to have the computer read to you. This works great as the computer will definitely read EVERY word.” I haven’t tried this, but I can see how it could help A LOT. As you say, the computer won’t drop or add words. (I can imagine a computer having a conniption fit over trying to figure out the pronunciation of some of our characters’ names, though… May be worth trying, just for that. 🙂 )

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