I recently was editing a manuscript and came across some dialog that just didn’t work. It was written well and correct but something was nagging at me that it felt wrong. So what I did was to print it out on paper. I try to always edit everything in at least two different formats. I’ll see things on paper that I didn’t see when I was editing on the computer. Yes, I run through a lot of paper that way, but I find it the best way to edit. (And I get a lot of scrap paper that way too. Come to think of it… way too much scrap paper. But that is another topic.)
After letting it sit a day or two, I went back to the piece of dialog and read it again. Something was still bothering me about this part of the manuscript. So I next did something that I would suggest all beginning writers do. I read it out loud.
The written word and the spoken word are two whole different monsters. But in this instance the spoken word, simulated dialog in the manuscript, was the best way to edit the scene. You see in my mind’s eye, and in that of the reader’s, the dialog has to be real. After I read the dialog out loud, it was very obvious what was wrong. In this case it was just two words. When I re-read the part out loud with the fix it sounded smoother… more normal. Real.
I actually read a lot of my manuscripts out loud. It seems weird to sit in a room by yourself reading out loud, but it works. My family has gotten so used to it that they ignore me now, but it wasn’t that way a long time ago. So you might have to warn the people in your family or even better yet, make it a fun family event. Read the whole story to them. As you read if you find places that don’t read well or have issues mark them as you read. Then come back to them later and fix them. Not only will your writing improve but it will bring the family together.
Oh, and don’t forget the free conference call we do the last Saturday of each month. It last around an hour. We do a short presentation of about ten minutes, then we answer questions. This month we’ll have two editors, three authors and our cover artist. Come join us and pick our brains, what little of them is left! Just email at the address below for the phone # and access pin #.
Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series
Acquiring Editor, Seventh Wave Books, LLC