This bit of advice may sound a bit like a no-brainer, but given the number of manuscripts that cross my inbox that show no semblance of having heeded this simple wisdom, I fear it is not.
So here we go:
Read your whole work– beginning to end – just like if you bought it or checked it out from the library.
Not rocket science, but as all of us who write know, it’s very easy to get caught up in the “parts” of our work – the chapters, the scenes, the paragraphs, the sentences. But readers don’t read in parts. They read in wholes. They want a cohesive, comprehensive reading experience, and the only way we know if we are giving them that experience is if we try our work out the way they do.
That said, it’s easier said than done. Often, by the time we feel like the work is ready to go out in the world, the last thing we want to do is read it beginning to end. But we need to force ourselves to do it. If we don’t, we’ll have repetition or gaps. We’ll mess up character lines or forget to tell who won the parade contest (that’s from one of my own books). We’ll simply have a work that is a group of connected parts rather than a cohesive work.
Here’s how I make sure I do this:
- I put work on my e-reader so that I don’t nitpick the parts.
- Then, I read it in as few sittings as possible, making notes on a piece of paper about where I need to revise.
- Finally, I revise as my notes suggest.
Again, it’s not complicated, but it is tedious sometimes, not to mention time-consuming. But every time, it’s worth it. Every time.
If you’d like more information on what I recommend writers do before having anyone else read their work, check out my list “12 Things To Do Before Anyone Else Reads Your Work.”
Andi Cumbo-Floyd lives in the mountains of Virginia with her young son and her dog Meander. Her books include Discover Your Writing Self and Love Letters To Writers. She blogs regularly about writing at Andilit.com and can be found on Facebook here.