Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Some Distance from Our Words

Woman reading in bed- by Gabriel Ferrier--1847 - 1914We’re having some painting done inside our house.  Years of children with sticky hands have taken their toll on our walls.  :)

While the painters were here, the owner said to me, “Would you like us to do your front door and shutters, too?”

I frowned.  “Why?  Do you think they should be painted?”

He hesitated.  “Well, what color do you think they are?”

“I think the shutters and door are black.”

“Could you step outside with me for a minute?” he asked.

As he pointed out, and as I was surprised to see, the shutters and door had faded quite a bit in the sun.  They used to be black—but now were varying shades of grayish-black.

He painted them yesterday and the house looks brand-new.  But I never would have noticed that they needed to be done because I drive up to my house every single day.  I don’t even see it anymore.

You see this analogy coming. :)  It’s true, though—we get just as close to our manuscript.  It can be really tough to see its problems when we’ve been reading the book every day.

First readers or an independent editor are obvious solutions to this problem.  They will read our work with fresh eyes and the problems will pop out at them easier.

Unfortunately, some of us may not have first readers to help us out.   I’ve had a couple of writers volunteer to read for me, but because I have more than one project going on at once, I tend to get right up on top of my deadline.  I just don’t feel comfortable asking anyone to drop everything in their life to read 280 pages in a few days’ time.  Oh—except I do ask it of my mother.  :)

So what’s the solution if we need to get some distance from our work to thoroughly edit it?

Time:  You can put your manuscript down for as much time as possible, then return to it.  This method does work, although I don’t have the time to do it anymore.  When you pick up your manuscript again, it’s almost as if someone else wrote it.

Reading aloud: This is a method that I use and it does help.  There are only so many pages I can read without going hoarse, but the reading does put a bit of distance between us and the work.

Change of scenery: I really don’t know why this works, but it does.  If I’ve written the majority of the book at home, then I’ll go to the coffeehouse to edit it.  Different setting, different task at hand?  Whatever it is, it seems to work for me…I think my brain is easily tricked. :)

Different font: I’ve heard this trick before, but haven’t used it.  Some swear by putting your manuscript in a completely different font for editing.

How do you get distance from your words?