From writer to reader

One the biggest challenges I think most writers face while editing is being able to distance themselves from their own work.

We need to be able to do this, otherwise those trouble spots remain hidden. Some of us do this by letting a passage of time go by when we don’t look at our manuscript. No reads, no re-writes, no sneak peaks. Nothing. While I think this is necessary, is it enough?

Somehow, we need to be able to turn off our writer brain, and become a reader. We need to be able to see our work as if it is the very first time we’re reading and have no expectations.

One of the things I do is I turn on my comments feature. Just this act is like a trigger for me: it means no writing, no deleting, all I’m allowed to do in comment mode is find weaknesses and them point out. I go through the whole manuscript like this is one shot, or in big sections, about 100 pages at a time, depending on the stage I’m at. Then I do it again, this time reading the comments, seeing if I understand them and if I agree with them. Most of the time, I’ll delete a few, add a few. This also gives me a chance to see different ways of fixing these problems.

As it happens, I was reading February’s issue of Writers’s Digest and there was an article on how giving feedback to others really helps tone our own writing (I’m a strong believer of this). It explains how when we read for own pleasure, we naturally skip over things that hold no interest to us, or are boring, or gross, or or or. As writers, we want to eliminate these spots as much as possible from our writing, so we need to notice what we skip over. ย This means to only being a reader, but an aware reader. It means reading for work and not for pleasure. Reading with energy and for a purpose.

What about you – any tips on how you go from being a writer to a reader?



22 thoughts on “From writer to reader

  1. I’ve started transferring things onto my Kindle and reading them there – it gives me that distance and my brain goes ‘you’re reading a book!’ not ‘you’re reading your own work’. Also, unable to make any changes, though I can make notes if I want to, so it’s a good way to remove myself from my story.

    Of course, one needs an e-reader for this! If you have one, it’s definitely worth trying ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’ve tried to get it on my ipad, but still haven’t found an app that I’m comfortable reading a word doc with.
      I’m stalling on getting Scrivener — I’ve decided countless times to switch, and then life gets in the way and time passes and here I am still in doc.
      Do you use an app, or do you read your work as a .pub?

      1. I actually use calibre (which is free to download) to convert it into a mobi file – that way it looks like all the other books I read. You could give that a try if the kindle app words on the ipad?

      2. Thanks, JC. Are you pleased with calibre? I haven’t used it before because I’ve heard it produced unstable files. I’ve just done some research now and it seems like there are mixed reviews.
        Perhaps if it’s just solid text there’s less room for instability.
        My favourite reader is ibook. Unfortunatly most of the titles I want are not available in Canada – I wonder if you have the same problem in Australia, I’ve encountered it trying to buy books of the kindle site as well. We’ll catch up eventually I suppose!
        Thanks for the input Cassie!!

  2. I’m a big believer in letting our work set for a time. Even at that, it is difficult to catch everything. I’m constantly amazed at some of the obvious things I overlook. It’s not an easy thing to do.

    1. No,Laura it’s really not.
      I really like the tip from writer’s digest about noticing the parts we skip over subconsciously. It may be one of the reasons I’m so slow at finishing a wip, I keep going over it and over and over it.

  3. I’m not good at being only a reader … not even when I read others work. I use the comments feature while I write, so that wouldn’t be a trigger for me. (Obviously, I don’t write a fast, no-editing, first draft.)

    I do read it out loud, but I also do what Cassie does and convert my Word file to a Kindle file and read it there (I used Mobipocket). Like she said, it really makes me feel more like I’m reading a book instead of my file.

    1. Mobipocket doesn’t work on mac platform – I just checked. Oh well ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
      It’s really something I need to make a point of doing.
      I just have to figure out the best set-up for me. Be it scrivener or what not. I’m going to aim to have it figured out before this wip is done.

      Linda, do you still print your work out as a final draft or is reading it on Kindle sufficient?

      1. Reading it on Kindle is my LAST step. Before that I would have printed it out, double-spaced, to really dig in and edit with my trusty red pen.

        Though I catch errors reading on Kindle, no way do I have the patience to type notes to myself on it. So I jot down any typos to correct or changes I want to make, and then do that on the computer.

    2. hehe, I guess I’m calling you back here, LInda!!!

      I’m just curious (in addition to the questions in my other reply to you), how you read back to yourself? I normally only read out certain passages when I’m not pleased with the cadence.
      Do you read it out scene by scene? I remember you and Cathryn discussing this somewhere, but not the details.

      1. I read the whole thing, start to finish. Not in one setting of course. Actually, with Brevity I recorded my voice reading it, then played it back, so things I didn’t catch in the speaking, I caught in the listening. Then I went another step by reading along as I listened. (Did I mention I’m a perfectionist? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I will do this with all my novels.

        When my inner voice seems to stumble as I’m writing, I also read those sentences out loud to figure out why.

      2. I’m in awe at your discipline!

        I guess the closest I’ve come to that is having someone read my work back to me. It was great to hear the way they intonated it, it was like listening to a different piece.

  4. Good article. I’m not sure what happens exactly, I sort of get a gut feeling that something just isn’t right and after a long process of wrestling with the text, I finally get rid of the sections/story angle and start afresh.

    Hope your writing’s going well at present, Lawrence

    1. Hi Lawrence, sorry for the delayed response, somehow I missed your and NIsha’s comments!

      They always say to listen to your gut, and if your gut tells you it’s not right, then it’s not.
      Thanks, Lawrence, the editing’s going steadily. Hope your having fun with your new draft.

  5. I like your comment mode idea, I must try that.
    I think I’m quite lucky because with short stories, each one is different and since much time elapses between writing each one, when I go back to them, it’s like reading them with fresh eyes. I was editing one story the other day and because I had written it so long ago I actually forgot a lot of the details so it was like reading something someone else had written! Lol.
    When I attempt my first novel(which will be soon) however it’s probably going to be different and much more daunting… :/

    1. OOhh, Nisha, it’s so exciting to be getting to the point closer to writing your first novel! Can’t wait to hear how you find it compared to writing shorts (when you get there).

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