The process of editing a novel is like nothing I’ve ever encountered. I’ve edited book-length non-fiction work. But fiction. Whew. And I am a copy editor by trade. It’s the length, it seems. Sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter — the story, the ebb and flow, the characters, setting, dialogue. It’s a massive undertaking. My impatient journalist ‘your deadline is now’ self strips gears downshifting from daily newspaper work to the slow, meandering, herculean effort of writing, then editing, long fiction.
So I read aloud what I’m editing. In a newsroom, it’s annoying, and maybe fatal, to read aloud, but in the privacy of your writing nook it is essential. At least for me.
Reading words on a page can be anything from a sprint to a marathon, the eye and the mind choosing whatever speed is most comfortable at the time. But reading aloud – there is no such thing as speed talking a novel, unless it’s to amuse friends at a party.
But that’s for another time. The time I’m spend now, the critical, fine-tooth-comb, prelaunch editing, is nerve-wracking at best, thrilling to be sure, but best executed simply by reading the pages aloud.
Well-written sentences are musical, have their own rhythm, their own cadence. A conversation seguing into a narrative passage that sounds simple and easy when spoken aloud is magic.
Don’t believe me? Go to your work-in-progress and read one paragraph aloud. Tell me what you think. I found four mistakes in this post after publishing it. I didn’t see them so much as heard them when I read them aloud hours after I published it. It happens to everyone. Just keep at it.