Reading As A Reader

I’m trying to have another light day. It’s the weekend. And it’s Sunday:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a man sleeping in a hammock.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a man sleeping in a hammock.

However, yesterday I started giving Distances a read thru. I plan to continue today. It’s now nearly 90,000 words and maddeningly close to being completed and read in full by someone other than myself.

Writing a novel is not just about the characters and the story. Both can be great, but if the read is lousy, the characters and story get lost in the mess. That’s – by my lights – a failed book.

Not every reader will feel I have managed it, but I try to compose in a style in which a reader isn’t conscious she is turning pages. “Rhyming poetry” is too strong an expression, but it conveys a sense of a “bouncy” reading rhythm I aim for. To try to check myself on that score, as I proof I like to use a “voice assist” that reads me the text and I listen with headphones.

That can also reveal not just “flow” awkwardness, but any weaknesses in the writing. In turn that helps highlight where the story need “fixing.” A draft always needs repairs until the moment it’s published (and even after, in case of a missed typo, etc.).

It’s also intriguing to re-read large stretches that may have been written months ago and since then have been essentially “dormant” on the pages as I’ve moved on to writing other parts of the book. In the past when I’ve gotten to this point, I’ve sometimes thought either, “Wow, that’s great! I wrote that?! Fantastic!” or “Geez, that’s awful. What am I? In high school? Change that.”

As difficult as this is, above all I also try to read the novel as a reader might. I do my best to sit back and take it all in as if I have never seen any of it before. Looking at a draft with that level of critical eye is absolutely necessary.

Have a restful Sunday, wherever you are in the world. Now, where are my headphones? 🙂