I was recently asked what I considered to be my greatest editing tool. I was about to say something designed to make the person asking laugh when I stopped. Took a hard look at the question. Gave the person asking the respect they deserved.
“Out of all the editing tools available to me,” I answered. “The best one I use is to read the work out loud.”
There it is. The single greatest tool I use when I edit a manuscript or anything for that matter. If I can, I use some of the tools my Wifesty has found that will actually read something written out loud. I know it sounds trite, but I find I discover more errors when I listen then when I read.
I have found that when I read something over and over, I grow blind to errors. It is one of the reasons we here at The Pyrateheart Press use the two-person rule. One person reads the submission and edits then the next person does the same. It is amazing the number of errors you miss reading. Amazing how easy it is for the next person to see what you didn’t.
And still, you miss stuff. Important stuff since you become so focused on the grammatical parts and not the story. I read it out loud. Then I read it again. Then I will pull it apart. Edit chapter 9, then 2, then 6, then the end, then the beginning. Get my mind off the plot lines and simply look at the structure and the grammar.
Once I have the grammar and structure where I like it, I begin to reread, out loud once more, the entire manuscript from beginning to end. I will use the tools that speak the words and listen. Just listen. And when it sounds wrong, I stop and fix it. Simple. Yet not.
See, we don’t conform to the standard industry from of grammar editing here at The Pyrateheart Press. I do not try to make each piece match what Hemingway did. Hemingway was a great writer. His style matched his profession. When push came to shove Hemingway wasn’t an author, he was a journalist.
Like all businesses, whatever sells is what the publishing world represents. I get that. We are in the business so we too are looking to make as much money as we can off the writings of others. Which is why we edit so hard.
Not one author we represent or publish doesn’t go through an editing phase at least once. For some, all we do is make a single editorial pass and recommend some changes and leave it at that. It is what they have paid us for, so we provide. Others want the full package. This is when we truly edit every word, character, plot line. and subtext.
Which is when I begin to read the work out loud. Reading it gives the work substance. Gives the characters life. Does the character sound like a bigot or does he sound like every other character in the book? That is something I look for at every turn. Do the characters all begin to sound the same? It’s a sad but true fact that often characters in books begin to emulate each other. A fact I find I don’t see unless I hear them.
Characters are people and people are different. They think, act, speak, and feel differently than the person next to them. To the character next to them in the book. It affects the structure of the writing, the dialogue, the interactions.
The style of the book also affects such things. A southern Gothic book will read entirely differently than a Hallmark book. A thriller should read differently than an erotic book. This can be said as a comparison to every style and genre. Each has its base, its formula used to write in that genre or niche. And yet, the niche used may affect the style of writing, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are people and should be represented as such. Which is when reading truly helps.
When I read the work out loud, or have it read to me out loud, the work changes. I read fast. I mean fast. I can read a thousand-page book in a day and take a test on it next week. It is just something I learned as a kid to try and impress the girls. It didn’t impress anyone, but it helped me later when it came to reading tech manuals about such things as valves, pumps, etc.
Yet this speed also becomes a handicap. I tend to change words in my mind as I read to adjust the facts written in front of me. A good thing when you are up at 2 am trying to rebuild a valve on a submarine. Not a good thing as an editor. So, to slow it down, I listen to the work.
Listening is a lost art. One every person is capable of. At least those who are not deaf. And even they listen, just not with their ears.
Decide to listen. Practice it. use your ears for more than something to hang your sunglasses on. If you listen, truly open up and listen, you will discover amazing things.
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.