Quick-Reading the Manuscript

Posted by on Nov 6, 2008 in Writing | 6 comments

Here’s my improvised workspace, and I’m not letting housekeeping in! I pulled out the sofa so I can watch and hear the Pacific. I like to spread my manuscript around, as you can see. You might also say that I’m playing a mind-game with myself, because if I’m reading in bed, then I’m not really working, am I?

cannonbeach6 

This thing I’m doing with my manuscript — I realized today that it’s part of my official “process.” Not that I have an official process, but still, I find myself doing it with every project. (And I always go on retreat, too; otherwise it won’t get done.)

I don’t think I’ve said exactly what I’m doing. It’s simple really: Reading the hard copy in a few days. The quick, big-picture read. I find this incredibly helpful.

Why is this helpful? For example, I’ve already noted internal logic flaws and other inconsistencies that I didn’t notice during the slow-paced revisions. Let’s face it, we lose track of the big picture, right? I can track the rules of my fictional universe when I read fast. I’ve managed to cut many an extraneous yet beautifully written (hehe) passage because they don’t fit anymore.

Also, painfully obvious now: All the squinting of eyes, cocking of heads, and raising of eyebrows. I’ve got the twitchiest cast of characters around. I’ve prescribed fictional Prozac: cut cut cut!

Not to mention the babies that I’ve kept since the first draft, mainly because they’re so familiar I took their existence for granted. Have you done that, read through sections without being aware of them anymore? They’re just there, innocuous as dust in the corners, until you finally realize they’re throwing off your internal logic or character consistency.

cannonbeach7It’s fun, but the challenge is staying big. I’m behind schedule with the reading (and leaving tomorrow!) because I keep getting caught up in the details. I’ll find myself line-editing and obsessing and analyzing — trying to fix the flaws I come upon instead of noting them and moving on. 

I’ve come up with many convenient words to stop myself from getting bogged down. The manuscript is littered with notations like “fix” and “clarity” and “awk” (for awkward) and “sensical?” and “transition” and “needs more.”

Does anyone else do the quick-read? Do you find it helpful? How so?

I’ve been getting my dog-walks in though. Always try to get them in between rain spurts.

Back to work!

6 Comments

  1. What a gorgeous pic of the beach! So jealous. Keep reading and cutting and reading and cutting. Those first draft babies are tough. They’re the ones I find the hardest to see, though once I do, the easiest to cut.

  2. Hi, Lisa 🙂
    I do this, too — at least I try. I don’t just wait till the end, though I do it again then. After the first draft, when I’m revising and reworking, I print out and try to do that big-picture read every 100 pages (or logical stopping point close to that).
    And OMG, is it hard not to get bogged down in the minutia. Especially at the beginning. I can spend days on the first 10 pages if I let myself. But, just like you said, the exercise is so helpful in pointing out repetition of phrases and inconsistencies.
    Good luck!!!

  3. Hey, I just noticed that tomorrow is your one-year anniversary of the blog! Happy early anniversary. (I’ll be out most of the day on RWA business, so I want to get it in now!)

  4. You’re right about that tracer: One I saw the first draft babies for what they were, I cut them easily. We’ll get ourselves to the beach!

    Hi DeAnna! You know, I kinda did that same thing with my most recent first draft — about 100 pages in, I stopped, printed, and analyzed. That might become part of my official process too…as for beginnings: ARGH.

    One year!!! I’ll have to think of a post!

  5. This is a good tip for revision. I never really know where to start, so I procrastinate and procrastinate until months and years go by!

    I also like your idea of going on a “revision retreat.” Nice.

  6. Hi Becca. I recommend this method for getting started. My thinking is that when you give yourself two/three days to read fast, your instincts jump into the game. Awkward passages and flubbed scenes jump out. I try to only note this and move on — the analyses and fixes can come later. It was a relief to finish my read!

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