Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Revise As a Reader, Not a Writer

I've always said reading is the best form of research for writers. When I need inspiration, I turn to a good book and just read. I learn the most that way. But I've learned that reading helps with revision too. How? If you want to know how your readers are going to look at your book, you have to read it as a reader and not a writer.

The best way to do this is to separate yourself from the manuscript for a while. Write something else and then come back to it. You have to almost forget the story so you can read it with fresh eyes. I can spot "telling" a mile away in someone else's book, but in my own, I have to step away and read like a reader to see it. You also have to keep in mind that the great backstory your MC has isn't known to anyone but you. You know what I'm talking about. All those details about their childhood that makes the MC who he/she is. If there's something you want the readers to know, you have to actually write it down. You may be thinking, "well duh," but seriously, I see this all the time when I edit for clients and I've even done it myself—just assumed the reader knows what I know. They don't. They only know what you tell them.

In the same token, your reader isn't inside your MC's head. If you don't share your MC's thoughts, your reader won't see them. Don't forget to have your characters react to things, either verbally, through actions, or through their thoughts. It makes your characters come alive on the page, which is what your readers want.

As a reader, I skip over mundane details, so when I revise as a reader, I delete those details. Why give readers a reason to skim your work? Then I replace those boring details with something my readers will actually care about.

Can you read your own work as a reader instead of a writer? Do you have any tips to share?

60 comments:

  1. Great tip, Kelly. I always try to do a pass through where I read it as a "reader" without consciously "editing". Marking as I go those spots that will need to be fixed or altered on the "editing" pass.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I put away the manuscript away and read again to see these problem spots. After that, my CP's will tell me where I need to elaborate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I critique other writings, I do it strictly as a reader. I haven't done so with my own writing, but I will take this advice when I get to that point!

    Great tip, Kelly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should. It's probably the most helpful run-through I do when revising.

      Delete
  4. I know what you mean. I have a manuscript in need of serious work. No way I'm able to touch it for awhile.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I completely agree. Revising takes me forever because I want to make every sentence matter to the reader and be well-written. Not an easy task, right? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is timely for me. I started looking over an MS last night. It needs a lot of TLC. This was helpful. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found it helpful. Good luck with your manuscript.

      Delete
  7. This is so hard to do. I struggle with the things I know that never made it into the manuscript. This is also an issue when I decide to delete a scene and forget to insert the one crucial piece of information that scene provided. Oops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, great point, Sarah. It is tough for an author to realize that when we delete a scene we do have to take whatever is essential and reinsert it elsewhere. Thanks for mentioning that.

      Delete
  8. I agree that getting distance from the work is the best way to read it like a reader. Like you, I look for "backstory telling," and think really, really hard about what details the reader ACTUALLY needs to know, and what my ego thinks they should know ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kelly, what great advice! It's like knowing what it's like to be in the driver's seat as well as on the passenger side. We have to work both sides of the equation.

    And I love how you mentioned that writers take for granted that readers know their main character as well as they do. I'm guilty of that all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we all are, Faith. It's hard to separate our knowledge from the reader's sometimes.

      Delete
  10. You're absolutely right that separating yourself is the best editorial tool. I always step back from my manuscript, and it works every time! With the first book in my series, I didn't know I left out some important details about the world I was creating until a friend read the beginning of my story. At first I looked at her like she was an idiot! Then I realized I didn’t explain everything I knew about the world for my readers to know too.

    Great tips!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I need to work on reading my own books as a reader. How long in between writing, revising, and then reading as a reader do you take? I'm afraid it would take me a very long time to come back around to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michelle, the key is to work on something else before going back to revise it. I'll finish drafting and then either revise or draft another book. Once the other book is fresh in my mind, I go back to the previous one because I've pushed it aside and let myself forget it enough to revise it as a reader. Does that make sense?

      Delete
  12. Very timely Kelly--I just pulled a manuscript I stuck away for a couple of months and need to go over it for a publisher who wants to see it. I'll take your advice and read it was a reader to see if I can pick up my errors a little better--thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherry, I'm trying to find your blog and can't. I added you on Google+ but that didn't help me either. Can you leave your blog url so I can return the comment love?

      Delete
    2. No blog yet Dear Kelly. Soon though when I figure it all out. I follow u here and on writer's retreat :)

      Delete
    3. Okay, Sherry. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing your blog. Keep me posted if you start one. I'll be sure to follow you. :)

      Delete
  13. I've been reading a lot lately, and it's awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very sage advice Kelly. As a reader I also tend to skim the boring bits so need to cull that out while writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I skim a lot when I read, so I make sure I trim what I feel readers might be tempted to skim over in my own books.

      Delete
  15. Great thoughts. Time and distance are the only way to be objective.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Amen to all of it.
    When I was asked how long the separation from the earlier draft should be, I can only say, "depends." But you know when you read your own writing as a reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it does depend. That's why I like to work on something else to get my mind off that particular manuscript.

      Delete
  17. Hi Kelly, Great post! Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to edit your own writing- sometimes, you just don't see it. So, good advice about stepping away for a while and then reading with fresh eyes. I find this always helps me too! ~ Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The combination of fresh eyes and revising as a reader really works.

      Delete
  18. Yes, I can read my stuff as a reader.

    I did come back to it after time away, and it does help with the revision process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely. It's good that you can do this. It's not always easy.

      Delete
  19. Great tips! It's stuff that sounds so simple that it should be easy to do and remember when hammering out that first draft- but it's definitely not!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's always the things that sound easy that really aren't easy to do. ;)

      Delete
  20. This is excellent advice! It's hard to do but it does make revising much easier. And I really, really dislike revising. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And poor you with your WIP trying to tempt you away from revisions. I feel for you. That's tough to handle.

      Delete
  21. Great tip, Kelly. I found that if I read my first draft a few weeks after I wrote it, I'm better able to spot errors, too. My Kindle is also an invaluable tool during my revising process.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Your first sentence is spot on. Separating yourself from the manuscript before revising is a must. Otherwise, the sight is clouded with the surface, too close to see beneath.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I've had to revise right away to meet deadlines and it never goes as well as when I have time to put it aside and go back to it. My editorial notes are proof of that. ;)

      Delete
  23. Great advice, especially the part about cutting the parts a reader would skip over.

    ReplyDelete
  24. When I'm reviewing or critiquing another author's writing, I try to do so as a reader. As far as my own writing goes, I always try to imagine I am people of different ages or come from various backgrounds to see if I can relate to the story or in some cases, the words of my poetry.

    Great post, Kelly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, Gina. I'll have to try that. Thanks for sharing your process.

      Delete
  25. Great tip, Kelly! I started revising my manuscript about three weeks ago so this came perfectly in time. If I remember this I'm sure I'll meet my goal for today: to finish revising the first chapter today. Thanks for sharing! :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just read the first chapter of Stalked by death. How I'm supposed to stop reading after this? :D Kelly, I love you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw! You have no idea how happy that makes me. :)

      Delete
  27. If you read Face of Death when it comes out in January, be sure to check the acknowledgements page, Ida. ;)

    ReplyDelete

I love comments, but not spam. All spam will be deleted.