If you’ve finished a first draft or completed a round of edits, you’ll be planning a read through – a full read of your manuscript from start to finish. Often when I am writing I keep the same routine, a series of mental signposts to tell my brain when it is Time to Write. Some people need the same place, or the same time. For me it’s a particular mug of tea. There was one draft when I lit a candle each time I wrote. Whatever it takes to get your head in the best place to write, do it.
However, it’s all change when it comes to a read through. You want your head to be in a completely different zone, more critical reader rather than intuitive writer, and there are some things you can do to help.
- Change where you read – try a café, your local library, or a different room at home. Physical location can have an impact.
- If you listen to music as you write, change it or try none at all. It will stop you making automatic connections – remember you are wanting to spot where your story doesn’t work.
- Instead of reading your manuscript on a screen, try printing it out – use a different format, font or size. Change how it looks, so it feels different to read.
- Read your manuscript aloud (though this is not recommended in a café, or the library for that matter). I felt self-conscious doing this at first, especially with the cynical cat watching, but now I’m used to it, and it is one of the most useful ways of spotting where things aren’t working.
- If reading it yourself isn’t for you, try a reading app. If your story still sounds interesting when all feeling is taken out of your words, you’ll know you’re onto something!
- Make notes as you go, but don’t stop to change, keep reading. You want to check how the story works overall.
One of the biggest challenges to a read through, or an edit, is starting – actually turning off twitter and getting on with the nitty gritty. The best bit of advice I’ve received is to break it down into manageable chunks or work in short bursts. Commit to a page/chapter or half an hour then don’t do anything else but that. Be single-minded. And once you have achieved what you set out to do, reward yourself – a snack, a cuppa, a sticker on a chart, a tick on a list – whatever gives you that lift of having completed a task. Editing a manuscript means you are in for the long haul – be your own cheer leader!