No, I'm not a sadist (or is it masochist? which one likes to be punished? I forget). I really do enjoy spending time with my characters in my story world.
But there are risks with revisions.
If you're like me, when you finished your first "this is it!" draft, you got your manuscript out to a handful of beta readers. They probably picked up a few (a thousand or so) mistakes.
If you happen to have a couple of extra bucks (or euros, or Thai Baht, or whatever you use) you might have even hired a proof reader who found every single stray comma, adverb, or you-name-the-offense that reared its ugly head in your manuscript.
But then something else happened... you discovered that you had holes. Or you could do some scenes better. Instead of telling the reader "He was pissed," you showed, "He pulled off his belt and bit into the leather, yelling until tears burnt his cheeks."
This is the area of risk.
The moment you make updates to the story, whether a line, a paragraph or a whole new chapter, you have introduced the possibility of silly errors. We are human after all, are we not?
What's my solution to this? No, I do not want to bother my eagle-eye readers, or pay a few hundred drakma to an editor again (apparently, my children have expectations of being fed).
Read Out Loud
When you are done, reread that chapter out loud. It may seem odd at first, but this is the most effective tool a self-editor must use. In fact, reading out loud is a critical piece of my revision process. I read the entire manuscript out loud and as I read, I find mistakes, and more importantly, lines that don't sound right.
Let Technology Work For you
Although you should (must) read out loud, you will not catch everything.
Sometimes, your eyes overlook the obvious. Example:
- breath or breathe
- through or though
- lighting or lightening
We've all seen it happen. That one little letter gets passed us, just to embarrass us. After all, you've written the darn thing, and if you're like me, you know those lines so well that you can almost recite it without reading each word. Unfortunately, I am not able to turn off my automatic read-ahead mind. I'm not that disciplined.
As I've said before, I use (and love) Scrivener.
[Soap Box: If you don't use Scrivener, I don't understand. At $45, it is the single most powerful tool you will ever use as a writer. Visit my friend Gwen Hernandez's site to learn how to use it. Even better, sign up for her class.]
(Note, you can do this in MS Word also, but I'd rather pretend that everyone uses Scrivener)
On the Mac, the voice of the reader is fairly decent. The beauty is that you hear the mistakes immediately. As I listen to the narrator, all I do is highlight words, or sections that sound odd. I don't edit right then and there. I don't want to miss other mistakes that the narrator may pick up.
In Scrivener (or Word) highlighting is fast. So you won't miss more than a micro second at best.
Or you can do this with hard copy of your manuscript at hand. Listen and follow along on the printed document. When something catches your ear, highlight it.
When you hit the end of the chapter. Correct the mistakes. But wait, you're not done. Listen to the corrected section one more time. Yes! Do it. Be picky. This is your work. Listen again. Make sure you didn't just introduce another mistake.
I use the computer narrator all the time. It's a powerful feature. And although listening to the whole book is time-intensive, it is invaluable. The things you hear, will surprise you. Also, the experience of hearing your story read back to you is fresh and powerful.
I highly recommend it. Give it a shot.
Do you have any special tricks? If you try this technique, let me know if it works for you.
Fight the good fight!