Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shared Work

Back from a month on the East Coast, I'm realizing that the best part of vacation, writing-wise, was not that I kept my goal of writing a chapter a week of my WIP. I am happy about that, but I'm thrilled about some of the most important writers and readers in my life, my niece and nephew, ages six and eight.

My niece narrated a dynamite story about an alligator while I transcribed. Over a few days she adjusted words, deleted sentences, thought about it, and edited more. My nephew corrected the dialogue attributed to him. He also asked that I read him one of my WIP's before bed. I was nervous because the in-process novel wasn't polished. But he was the best audience. He kept asking for more and had questions about the characters and the plot and he offered new ideas.

The process of reading my WIP aloud was fantastic. I got an immediate sense of what to cut and how to clarify and where I needed more. I made the extemporaneous changes verbally and they've been easy to remember, because now when I edit I go more slowly, even read aloud, all the time thinking of my discriminating nephew. Remembering his voice has become my best editor.

What I learned on my summer vacation... that we all have stories in us, that our writing is meant to be shared, and that the best editor is our audience.

Do you read your work aloud? Who are your editors?

(PS - Thank you, Heather Kelly, writing partner extraordinaire who blogged about our vaca reunion in Cambridge. Funny going to a post and finding one's own face there. A huge cheer for partners!)

23 comments:

  1. My wife is my editor, as is the editor who's working with me on a short story and the novel I'm going to have published.

    It's wonderful that your family is involved in the writing process. It can be such a solitary venture that having those people around you makes the task much easier, in my opinion.

    Glad to hear you had an excellent vacation!

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  2. ah, those kids really had some educational fun with their uncle :)))

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  3. You and Heather are totally a dynamic duo. It's amazing.

    Thanks for the great ideas. I have some hard to please nieces and nephews, so I'll definitely use them!

    Glad you're back.

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  4. Hi Robert. Sounds like you had some really special times with your niece and nephew. Sweet.
    And, I really enjoyed the photos of you and Heather that she shared on her blog a while back.

    I do read my work out loud. Usually at least once on the screen and once in hard copy. I've never read it to another person, except in a writers workshop--that sounds interesting.

    My number one editor is my wife. She is an english professor, has an MFA in creative writing and is working on a novel of her own.
    And, she devours YA fiction at a faster rate than I do. I feel pretty fortunate to have her in my writing life!

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  5. I do read my work aloud, usually just to myself. It helps me get the rhythm. I have a small circle of readers who all help with proofing and editing. But after reading your post, I may start reading to my grandchildren. :-)

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  6. reading aloud makes all the difference to hearing the story and any changes needed.

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  7. What a neat experience for you, your niece, and your nephew. Meaningful and special for all of you, I'm sure.

    When I'm in the polishing stage (not even close with my WIP), I find reading aloud to be so helpful! Who are my editors? I have a crit group and a couple betas lined up. My kids also help--and inspire.

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  8. What a great story! My son used to do this when he was little. He'd draw the illustrations then tell us the words to write down for his stories. I've kept them all :)

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  9. Reading aloud is a big help. I had some of my students read mine and I made them read aloud in class. It was really helpful to hear.

    By the way, I gave you an award on my blog.

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  10. That's a very good idea, to have a child edit a children's story. Also a good idea to write down a story a child comes up with. She's very clever to have changed words and such. Great future writer ^.^

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  11. What a great idea! Children will soon tell you what they don't like.

    I try to read my work aloud but I usually feel so stupid that I tend to whisper. It is helpful for seeing (hearing) what works and what doesn't though.

    Sounds like your niece and nephew could be on the bestsellers list in a few years!

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  12. I read aloud to myself! Sounds like you had a great trip East!

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  13. I frequently read my stuff aloud. BIg help. Sounds like your little helpers were a big help, too :)

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  14. I tried reading aloud but it seems kinda strange. Maybe I should try it again. Maybe I just have to get used to it. And I have an awesome editor in Marvin Wilson. He took my diamond in the rough and polished it into a smooth and shiny gem.

    Stephen Tremp

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  15. I love the idea, both the writing with your niece and nephew and the reading aloud! My son is a tough editor, I think. It would most likely be good for my book. Welcome back and I also loved seeing the proof of you and HK's meeting in Cambridge!

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  16. ...my youngsters played an important role in the completion of my upcoming novel. Based around the life of a troubled ten year old boy, I found myself constantly going to my own ten year old, asking him to read certain passages in hopes of it sounding like the jargon from his age group. It's amazing the inspiration one can pick up from our youth if we only listen:)

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  17. "the best editor is our audience"

    Love that! And kids are brutally honest, too, so that worked in your favor.

    I read my work out loud to myself, then someone else from my critique group reads it when we meet. It sure does feel weird to have those words spoken, right?

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  18. The best editor is indeed our audience; well said. I'm blessed to have a wife who enjoys hearing my work read aloud and who, at the same time, pulls no punches when given a third or fourth draft to mark up.

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  19. I'll read aloud certain passages, especially if I'm afraid they might be tongue twisters. Every once in a while I use the text-to-speech software that came with my computer.

    The computer voice is flat, and that sometimes helps me to see the problem spots better in dialog.

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  20. PS I have an award for yo on my blog

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  21. Read to the kids... what a great idea! I might try that - when I get to that stage. Right now I'm still slogging through the first draft. Though I recently switched to writing in scenes and it seems to be going better. Love blogging - you find all sorts of tips from fellow writers! Thanks... and nice to meet you. ~shakes hand~

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  22. Your nephew and niece sound like they could have some great careers in publishing ahead of them! I do agree that reading aloud helps enormously. It catches redundancy and reveals awkward sentence patterns. Thanks for this post--I really enjoyed reading it.

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  23. Thank you, everyone. I love this community!

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