Friday, June 22, 2007

Record to Edit

Exile on Ninth Street had a blog post recently about getting published and the process involved. Among the things said, I found this interesting:
After I’d finished my second draft (mostly copy editing), I read the story into a tape recorder, and listened to it, and revised as I listened.
I liked this because it’s not only something I do, it’s something I recommend to authors I work with.

Usually by the time we finish writing a manuscript, we’re past the stage of calling it a first draft, although that’s exactly what we call it. But, if you’re like me, you’ve edited and re-written as you went along. By the time you write “The End” you feel like you’re at the fifth draft stage. Then when you move into the actual editing phase, you can go through many more drafts, especially if you read through it multiple times, each time focusing on something different, like line editing for grammar and punctuation, then continuity, then character arc, then … so on.

At some point in all this, it’s a really good idea to tape record the book. Read it as if you’re doing the audio recording that will be sold in bookstores. If you do that, you’ll be careful to read each word. When we read it silently to ourselves, for the fifteenth time, we skim. We hurry through parts we’ve worked on and don’t want to revisit. We actually “read” words that aren’t even there. You may even find yourself stumbling because as you read aloud you realize the words don’t flow as well as you thought they did or the dialogue sounds stiff once it’s said aloud.

Another thing I have been known to do is give those tapes (and there will be many if you’re recording a book) to a friend. Listening to a book is a whole different animal than reading it. When you read you can go back to review or find something you missed. When you’re listening, you’re usually in traffic with one hand holding the coffee, the other hanging onto a drippy breakfast taco and one knee on the wheel. Plus, you’re listening to a book and trying to keep track of the plot and characters. Ask the person listening to the recording if they were able to keep up with the story. With all the other stuff going on, did they enjoy it? If they lost interest, at what point?

Recording your work is a great idea. Reading can actually make your writing better.


  1. I'm working now as a textbook editor and after going over a text several times, it's true, you do sometimes "read" words that aren't there. And I keep experiencing that phenomenon when reading published stuff. Then again, in my case maybe it's age and bifocals. :)

  2. It's sort of like the tests they've done where they write a sentence and have someone read it. What the majority of readers don't notice is that a word is repeated, once at the end of a line and again at the beginning of the next line. People just read right over the second time the word is printed. Or the way our minds can read words with no vowels in them. Our minds insert the vowels for us. Age has nothing to do with. Atleast, that's what I keep telling myself.


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