It’s a Teachers-Write Friday, and that means it’s Friday Feedback day on Gae’s blog. Head on over to get some feedback on your work in progress and to offer help, too!
Also, Erica Perl, our guest author here today, has some revision tips to share! Erica is 3 of the 4 following things: 1) the author of picture books including Chicken Butt! and Goatilocks and the Three Bears; 2) the author of middle grade novels, including When Life Gives You O.J. and the forthcoming All Three Stooges; 3) the author of plays including The Capybara Conspiracy; 4) a hilarious public speaker; 5) terrible at math.
Six Reasons to Strip Down to Your Underwear and Read Your Work Aloud
An important piece of the editing process is reading your work out loud in your underwear. Not in front of an audience, mind you. But just to yourself (or, if you’d prefer, to supportive pets and houseplants). I find this to be an invaluable step, whether I am working on a picture book, an early reader, a play, a poem, or a novel.
Here are six reasons why you should do this:
1) Certain words or turns of phrase will trip you up, even though you’re the one who wrote them. This is particularly important in picture books or anything else that’s designed to be read aloud. If you stumble over it, chances are your reader will, too.
2) In a rhyming piece, you’ll also notice – most of the time – if your rhymes or meter are off. I say most of the time because you can actually force both things without intending to, so pieces that are written in rhyme require the additional step of having someone else read them aloud to you (you might want to put on a bathrobe for this). Ideally someone who has not heard you read this particular piece aloud before, so as not to be influenced by your patterns of inflection.
3) Your brain and your mouth will instinctively try to improve your work as you read. So, for example, if you used the word “kind” in a sentence you may find that you replace it aloud with the word “generous” if that’s really what you meant. Take note of this!
4) Your ear will notice which lines of dialog sound like the way people actually speak, and which sound “written” (the kiss of death, unless for some reason that is your intention).
5) You will discover how the rhythm of your piece works. For example, you’ll get a sense of which parts of your piece are too “talky” and need to be pulled back or balanced with more action, visual storytelling (in an illustrated book) or silence.
6) You will notice your bad habits, like specific words and phrases you lean on too hard, and you’ll discover excess words that you can part with. Half the battle of writing, in my opinion, is figuring out which words you don’t need.
With an audience of actual people (fully clothed, please!), you can of course discover many more things, like which of your jokes are actually funny and whether your plot makes any sense. But before you take that step, do your writing a favor: find a quiet place and read it out loud to yourself. And while the in-your-underwear component is optional, since you’re the only one there (except for the pets and houseplants), why not? Summer is the perfect time to shed clothes, and reading aloud is the perfect way to shed whatever’s holding your writing back.
After you do, leave a comment to share the most surprising thing you learned about your writing from trying this exercise!