Help me! > BookMarc by Peter Abresch

Writing/Rewriting -- Part 6

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Bob Mueller:
 Date:         Thursday, April 22, 1999 07:22 PM

BookMarc #24
Writing/rewriting part 6

One of the greatest tools we have in rewriting is our voice. I don't mean our writing voice that we develop as we continue to practice our craft, but the voice we use when we say, "Good morning," and "Bah humbug." If we can't read a sentence out loud, there is something wrong with it. We either need to reword it, add punctuation, or break it apart. This is obvious in dialogue, but equally important in narrative. If a sentence does not sound right, it will not read right.

Remember in BookMarc #21 we talked about how a printed hard- copy can point out mistakes not caught on the monitor? Reading out loud is like printing a hard-copy.

Reading out loud will also point out rough spots, words missing or used repeatedly. Phrases creep into our writing like they do in conversation, and if we keep repeating them they will detract from our story. In The Matarese Countdown, Ludlum uses "you know that" and "young man" so much in dialogue it becomes distracting. This may okay if used sparingly as a tag for one character, but for many characters it rings false. It might seem like a small point, but if it becomes annoying, we stand a good chance of losing our reader. Remember, we're trying to make our writing the best we can.

Reading into a tape recorder and playing it back will do all of the above, but is also a good way to listen to our dialogue. Does it sound logical? Do all the characters sound alike? Have we sufficiently identified who is talking, either in dialogue or POV internal monologue. It's also a good way to tune our ear to our writing voice. This is the way our readers will hear our writing. Are we too harsh, too cute, right on? And it will give us an idea of how our writing will sound if it is ever made into an audio book, something to think about.

Finally, when we have completed all our rewriting and we're getting ready for submission, now is the time to run some last minute checks. Do a search on "ly" for adverbs and adjectives that might be robbing our story of more powerful verbs and nouns. Do a search on "that," which often creeps into our work and eliminate those that will not change the sentence. If we have personal errors we continually make, like for me it's using "it's" for "its," do a search for these and clear them up. All of these seem picky problems when we really want to get the story out there, but in this world of bottom-line profits, editors and agents will toss stories that need work. A writer who helped me and has since passed away, Harry Arnston, always advocated, "give them no reason to reject your work."

I think that's what we face in trying to get published--not giving them a reason to reject our work. We don't have a big name. We haven't yet built up a readership. We can't hope that a great plot will get us by. Or good characters. We have to take up the challenge and write so that we dare those that will judge our work to put it down.

This brings us to the end of writing/rewriting. The subject, like plot and characterization, is interwoven and inter laced with everything else, description, dialogue, narration, point of view, but this gives us an idea of some of the things to look for in working through from our first to final draft.

In BookMarc #25 we will take up POV, point of view.

Copyright Peter E. Abresch BookMarc February 13, 1998

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