Thursday, September 11, 2014

Out-loud editing

I'm pretty much finished with my second round of edits for the third Bladesman Lords manuscript and wanted to talk about how it works and why I do it this way.

Once I finish a final readthrough of a manuscript and make whatever corrections I can on the screen, I print everything out in hard copy and go through the entire thing out loud (or at least whispered/mouthed). I picked this step up based on advice I read on another blog (sadly, I have long forgotten which one) back when working on Lord of the City and it can be astonishing how much it reveals.

Here's the kinds of things I recognize during this step -

1. Some sentences just don't "sound right" when spoken. The words don't flow well, the syllables get mixed up, or a certain sound might get repeated in an unpleasant way. The muscle memory of our spoken language triggers different perspectives than simply reading words on a screen. Should my books ever get turned into audiobooks, there's a lot of potential ugliness there which can get detected at this stage.

2. Typing and editing in the trade paperback format that I use causes me to miss some repeated words or overused phrases that might not happen to be on the same page. Printing and editing in a different format helps bring these to light.

3. This is the first chance I've had to sit back with the text away from a computer screen. I have an opportunity to read it in a different frame of mind and a different physical stance than I do while writing it or during the initial rounds of editing. Subtle problems can be brought to light which weren't seen on a screen.

This process takes me about 10-15 minutes a chapter, during which I mark up the manuscript I've printed out. My next step is typing up corrections to the items I find, which may range from typos/extra spaces to entire new paragraphs to better explain an idea or rewrites of sentences or scenes based on problems. That step ends up being pretty short, all things told, just a couple of days worth of work. For reference, this third book is 47 chapters long (in three parts just like City of the Lords was), so the full out-loud manuscript readthrough has taken me between 9 and 10 hours.

What's the next step? Distributing my final draft to friends and family to read through. I'll give them a week or two to come back with suggestions after which I'll make changes (if any). The cover should be done by then. Everything is on target to have a proof coming from the printers in the first week of October, and if things work out right I'll have physical copies sitting in my hands within a month of today.

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