I have began editing my novel, well it is more of a re write than an edit, but an edit all the same. I discovered recently that Microsoft Word has improved its Read Aloud function, so I decided to listen to what I have edited so far.
This is what I discovered.
My prologue is really very visual and I’m excited about it. It sounds nice and punchy.
The narrator sounds funny when she reads Scots.
Read Aloud let me close my eyes and edit at the same time. I found parts that need cut back, and some that need further explanation
More importantly, in chapter one alone, I found 25 errors. It might have taken me three or four edits to find those. They were mostly duplicate words or missing words that an online editor wouldn’t pick up.
Read Aloud is my new best editing friend.
The voice is better on my phone that on my laptop. I’m thinking when I do a deep edit, I’ll print it and use Read Aloud at the same time.
Do any of you guys use a narrator as an editor?
Thanks for reading my blog today and happy writing.
If you are struggling to write about something from a particular point of view and not quite hitting the mark, or if you are stuck in a certain scene – change your perspective.
Example: I stood at the back door and watched the sunset. The orange sky stretched across the horizon, widening the earth. From where I stood, the hills were on fire. I want to put my trainers on and run. I wanted to run into the sun and far away into those glorious orange hills. I looked to Joanna, who sat drawing, her chair turned away from the dazzling light. She smiled.
Now change perspective.
Joanna sat with one foot resting on the table, and a drawing pad balanced on her knee. She’d drawn the framed mirror first, then carefully sketched the lines of the six-foot fence. The plant pots were easy, but those damn lanterns, she just couldn’t get them right. In the mirror she could see that the sun was setting, the colours in the frame changed, adding pinks and purples to the fence, and the silver pot rims were dazzled with orange. She heard Bella at the back door. Wow, she heard her say, and Joanna guessed it was the sun set that caused the reaction. She wondered if the hills looked epic, like that time Bella had taken her to the park at dusk. She smiled, not only at the memory but at how beautiful the garden looked in the mirror. She took the brake of her chair and turned around.
By changing perspectives we now know more about the garden, about Joanna, and about Bella. Now if we were to go back to Bella’s pout of view we could expand the scene:
I stood at the back door and watched the sunset. The orange sky was stretched across the horizon, widening the earth. From where I stood, the hills were on fire. Wow. I said. Joanna sat in the garden. She had one foot rested on the table and a drawing pad balanced on her knee. She’d stopped drawing and I could see how hard she’d worked on the picture, each fence slat was perfectly aligned, the curve of the pots and even the lanterns looked perfect.
How does it look from up there? she asked.
You’ve done a brilliant job. I said.
No silly, the sunset.
Incredible. I said. Turn around.
I can see it from here. she pointed at the mirror.
I felt a familiar gnawing in my stomach as the guilt of what had happened crept in. I wanted to put my my trainers on and run. Run into the sun and far away into those glorious orange hills.
Now the story has a new slant. Changing perspective opens up opportunity. Why not have a go yourself and be sure to let me know how it goes.
Some images evoke the senses without any effort, for me it is logs. Look at all that rich colour, the moss, the darkness of the wet wood compared to the dry wood, see the reds, browns and blacks in the bark and the yellows, oranges and shades of brown in the trunk. What do these colours resemble?
Now imagine what the wood smells like, the just cut smell, the dry wood before it is thrown on the fire, or the wet wood that has been frosted over. Can you taste the smell of the wood on your tongue? What are each of those smells like?
Imagine the noise of the tree being sawn down, or the axe splitting the logs into small pieces. Imagine the sound of the wood being bundled together and then thrown on the fire. What does it sound like?
Finally, what does the wood feel like? Imagine it in its natural form, a tall tree, rooted deep into the earth. Think of the birds and the animals scurrying through its branches, the leaves and buds, fruit and nuts, that it produces each year. Imagine all the insects living in its bark, on the leaves, amongst the roots. Now imagine your fingers on that bark, the roughness, the damp and the moss, the knots and the sap. Now think of the log, the weight of it in your hand, the lines and the grooves of the split trunk, the softness and the hardness, the jaggy and the smooth. What does the log feel like?
As a writer, we rely on the senses to help us to describe an object, a place or a person or an emotion. Transfering your own experience of the senses into language isn’t always as easy as you would think, after all, you might normally use the most beautiful, poetic sentences that drip of your tongue like nectar, but if the reader cannot see it in their own minds eye, the detail will be lost on them, and it might be the most important detail in your work.
Let me give you an example:
I beleive a good way for writers to develope their craft is by allowing themselves the gift of presence and curiosity when researching, or, when looking for inspiration. Remember when you were a child and experienced something or somewhere new? If we allow ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of a child again, with curiosity and without judgement, and then apply all of those wonderful senses available to us, we might widen our knowledge. Then, if we try to describe that experience, with all the fancy, exciting adult words and techniques that we have learned, but with absolute clarity and precision, perhaps we will deliver a win.
In the novel that I’m currently writing, my character is watching Swift’s flying through the air. I described them as being like fighter jets ducking and diving and tearing the twilight into scraps. Now, I personally love that sentence, it fills my heart up with joy because that is what I imagined when I experienced something similar myself. However, the latter part of the sentence doesn’t make sense. The similie of the swifts being like fighter jets is something that can be imagined, but tearing the twilight into scraps doesn’t work, if you can’t see it in your mind’s eye, drop it.
So why not give it a go? You might even do this as part of a mindful walking excersise, or, to really focus on something, someone or somewhere, do it with intention. Take three long deep breaths and allow yourself to arrive into the present moment. Take time to feel your surroundings, the air on your skin, the temperature of the air, is it wet or dry? Then feel you body making contact with the earth, or your hands on the wheels. Check to see if you are holding any tension in your body, and relax. Now it is time to go forth into your present moment, with curiosity and without judgement.
One of the best things about living in the Scottish Highlands in the wee detached village of Killin, is the night sky. It’s pretty dark at night, with little light pollution and the brightest moon I’ve ever seen. When there is a scattering of clouds, however, the sky puts on the most spectacular show of patterns and shapes, it’s like art. When the days are clear and the rain is at bay, we have a new exhibition to indulge in every night, and often with twinkling stars dotted in between. That’s not to say it’s not freezing, wrapping up is essential for sky gazing. The picture that accompanies this post was taken in December 2020. It was taken on my phone and zoomed in. I couldn’t help but notice a genie smoking his pipe and pondering what’s to become of this bloody pandemic.
What do you see?
The night sky is a great place to start for writing inspiration. Perhaps on a clear night, get yourself wrapped up and venture out into the dark.
Listen Look Smell Feel
By tuning into the senses, you might be surprised at what the night has to offer. For me, on a night like the one in December, I would hear the hoo-hoo of the owl, the swishing of the trees on the old railway, the creaking of the car port roof, possibly a car in the distance bit mostly not.
The sky can be anything from a yellow oil slick, to a blue fox stretching lazily between the seven sisters and the plough.
There’s usually a smell of a burning wood in the air, the smell of wet grass, sweet frost or mulch. Sometimes even the smell of laundry from someone’s tumble dryer.
I will feel the sharpness of the air as it reaches my lungs, the sting of cold on my cheeks, my feet on the ground, my heart beating, the clothes on my skin.
This is present moment awareness, a moment of mindful contemplation. All of it relevant as I stand completely alive, sharing the sky with those brave enough to be out too.