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Re-Reading: The Basic Revision Strategy

I’m always amazed at how much the revision process depends on re-reading what you wrote.

It’s an obvious statement, of course. Yet, when I ask people about their revision process, re-reading is seldom mentioned. It’s one of those assumed things.

Suggestions for Re-reading to Re-envision

Reading aloud

  • Re-read an entire section, not just half a page. One editor cautioned against re-reading just half a page, because you don’t get a sense of how the revision flows with the rest of the story. It’s easy to repeat a word or phrase, to change tone, or to get slightly off-voice (like a singer gets off-key). Take it from the top of the novel or the top of the chapter; for picture books under 500 words, read the whole thing again.
  • Single space the mss and print it out. This often helps me to see and hear the mss differently. Play with different fonts and print it out. Do you have a character who is feminine and delicate? Print her chapter in a script font; or, to contrast, print it in a harsh, upright font.
  • Read out loud. OK. I mutter out loud. My husband is self-employed and we own an office building, so I have an office there myself. If I read out loud, it would bother others. So, I mutter out loud. Or, I put on earphones and use a software program that reads it out loud to me. (Actually, this is a good reminder: I need to use the earphones/read to me option more!) Or, I go home and read it out loud. Or, go to a park. Muttering isn’t as good as reading aloud, because you don’t get the real flow of the novel or picture book.

Someone once asked me how many times I had read through a novel. Who knows? More times than I can count, I’ve read every word. It’s the basis of all good revisions.

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