There are many ways to edit your written work:
- Leave it and return to it at a later date with a fresh perspective
- Use an online editing program (Grammarly, ProWritingAid, Hemingway Editor etc)
- Ask friends, family, colleagues to give feedback
- Hire an editor
- Submit to contests or publications (sometimes, not often, an editor will respond with encouragement and feedback even if a piece isn’t accepted)
- Read out loud to yourself
Did I miss anything?
I used some of these options over the years with mostly positive results. But there is one other method I discovered just this week which I’ve been experimenting with: recording audio.
Recording yourself may seem similar to number 6 in the list above, but in actual fact, it isn’t. I learned a few things about this method of self-editing which I thought I’d share with you.
Recording your voice
When you read your piece out loud, you can hear yourself clearly. You may discover that you stumble on a few words, or pick up on minor grammatical issues. For me, it’s mostly punctuation in the form of extra, or misplaced commas.
I noticed something else: The act of reading and speaking out loud sometimes invites a battle of the wills between my brain and my mouth.
I sat at my desk with the laptop open. The page I was reading from was displayed on the screen.
My phone was placed strategically nearby, with the recording app open. Then I pressed record and read my piece from the screen out loud.
Here is where it gets interesting.
The words coming out of my mouth were not always the same as the words my eyes were seeing on the screen. It’s like my eyes see something, my brain processes it to something else, and my mouth spits out the result. 😳
It’s almost like the brain is predisposed to hear certain expressions a certain way, be it word order, pauses in a longer sentence, or even a synonym of a word you’ve written.
It was quite perplexing.
Using audio for editing
When I played back the audio file, I closed my eyes and concentrated on the words I was hearing. I did not follow along reading the screen while listening to the audio.
I noticed that in some sentences, the word order changed between how I typed it and how I read it out loud.
I wrote it like so: She decided to wait for him to make a move first.
I said it out loud like so: She decided to wait for him to make a first move.
That’s an example of my brain processing something differently from how I had written it. The brain says ‘this is what it should sound like’ and told my mouth to speak the words that way, not the way I wrote them.
I wrote it like so: Gently, she moves the bedding and starts to…
I said it out loud like so: Gently, she moves the bedding and begins to…
For some reason, the brain wants the word begins in that sentence, not starts.
It was extremely enlightening to make this discovery.
Another thing I noticed when I was listening to the audio was how my brain inserted pauses in places where I had not inserted a comma during the writing process. While I was reading it out loud, the brain stopped my mouth from speaking when it felt a pause was necessary. I went back and listened to it again when I re-read the story and more often than not ended up adding a comma in the place the brain prompted me to.
The same thing occurred during longer sentences which should have been two shorter ones.
My story is about 8 minutes of audio. As I’m reading and recording it, I noticed I stumbled over words at the 5 minute mark. This irritated me; do I now have to go back and re-record the whole thing?
I went back to editing. There’s a reason my voice stumbled. Turns out, the flow was interrupted.
My story consisted mostly of short, simple sentences. One sentence (around the 5 minute mark) was much longer and, during reading out loud into the audio app, my brain alerted me to this aberration: The story’s tone was off, and the flow was interrupted.
So, I went back, divided the sentence into two, and fiddled around with the general feel until it felt back in tune with the rest of the piece.
Side note: If you think writing is exhausting, wait until you’re editing. 😭
Anyway, this is what I’ve been spending time on this past week. The two flash fiction stories
I’m submitting I subitted to a contest will be sent out today come hell or high water because I can’t focus on anything else until they are out of my hair are gone off into cyberspace and no longer in my hair. 😀
Tell me: how do you self-edit your manuscripts? Do you have any tips to share?