Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reading my novel for the first time

My month of rest from the novel is over. The first thing I'm going to do is just sit down and read the thing. It may sound odd--after all, I wrote the book, have edited it multiple times, dream about it at night--but none of that is the same as plain old reading.

A recent critique group meeting drove this home for me. One member sent out a "doorstop" of revised material. In this case it was the first 200 pages of her novel with some significant changes. I picked it up on a weekend, sat down, and read. My pen was at hand, but I didn't use it much.

It was enlightening to see how much of the flow and construction I had missed going through chapter by chapter. In this case it actually made the book much stronger, which is saying something given how much I enjoyed it a piece at a time. However, there's a whole class of issues that could exist that wouldn't show up with at a chapter per week pace.

Sitting down and reading through is also a specific piece of advice that Stephen King gave in On Writing. If you're a writer, I'd highly recommend that book, regardless what you think of Mr. King's other work. I listened to the audiobook, and that was even better--the man is an amazing story-teller, both on the page and verbally.

Anyway, he suggested spending some reading time with your book after the initial draft. See how it feels. What do you like? What don't you like? Did that chapter seem perfect in your head, but slow down when you read it now? Does it build the way you'd like? Did your character's name change halfway through (only partially joking there)?As the author, you'll always miss something, but that step back into more of a reader's perspective is important, and I've never done it before.

I'm hoping between the month's distance and spending the time, I'll get some insights into how I can tighten up the manuscript. Then, and only then, will I embark on the next deep editing push.

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