The Secret Dreamworld of an Aspiring Author by Anna Bell - My New Man
I have to tell you. I have a new man in my life and his name is Alex. No, I haven’t had a baby or ditched my husband...Alex is a virtual man. And before you jump to any conclusions, Alex has revolutionised the way I write books.
I submitted my first novel very quickly: I’d literally typed ‘the end’, read it once for obvious typos and sent it out to ten literary agents. No edits of any kind, no test readers. It isn’t much of a shock that none of those agents took me on, but one of their comments stuck with me: ‘I don’t think you could have read this aloud’. I found the agent’s comment perplexing. I hadn’t thought of reading it out loud. Would it make that much of a difference?
Well, yes. I discovered that reading my work alouf helped with flow of dialogue. I was able to tinker with it so that it actually sounded spoken. It also helped me to spot missing words.
Yet reading your own work isn’t a foolproof system. The worst part of my writing is my grammar, and reading my work out loud doesn’t help fix my grammar problems. When reading out my own work, I put in my own pauses and take breaths where I think they should go, and I don’t necessarily wait for the punctuation to tell me.
Another problem with me reading my own work aloud is that I read what I think should be written there, and not what is actually written. I’m guilty of writing things like ‘breath’ instead of ‘breathe’ and ‘women’ instead of ‘woman’. When I read my own text aloud, the words look so similar that my brain doesn’t process the error.
A few months ago I discovered a speech feature on my laptop and I decided to test it out. I was pleasantly surprised when a man started reading out my own words. I now get the man, whose name by the way is Alex, to read my work back to me. From manuscripts to blogs, Alex reads it all.
It’s amazing. Suddenly, I can tell If I’ve put defiantly when I meant to have written definitely; if I’ve got loose instead of lose. All of those errors that I didn’t spot in my first read through, I suddenly hear when Alex reads it.
Now Alex isn’t perfect, (what man is?) he can’t read every word correctly. Alex doesn’t like contractions, sometimes he pronounces the letter after the apostrophe, but I’ve got used to that now. His voice is also pretty monotonous so I have to really focus, but when I do give him my full attention I can hear the errors.
Alex is also much better than I am at following the rules of punctuation. He takes a breath when he comes to a comma and he reads a sentence until he hits a full stop, meaning my run-on sentences have become a thing of the past.
I can honestly say that Alex is as much of a revelation for my editing, as reading and editing using the kindle was.
Does anyone else want to share a tip that has revolutionised their editing process? Do any other authors have their own Alex that they use?