Friday, September 27, 2013

Cold Read Revision Tips


It's hard to shut the writer in you down when you are going over your manuscript. It's tempting to jump into draft two right away. But cold read revision has it's benefits. Today, I'll share some of the useful strategies I use.

(For those of you not familiar with what a "cold read" is, I blogged about it here, when I was guest on Scarlett van Dyk's website.)

Getting started:

1) Save your story in .epub format, then put it in your Kobo or Kindle. If you don't have an eReader, this would be a good reason to go and buy one. Reading your story like a book allows you to get comfy in a chair, in bed, or wherever you'd otherwise read a book. You can take it with you, read it on the bus, while you're waiting two hours at your doctor's appointment, etc. Most importantly, having your story in an eReader gets you away from the computer where, even if you read it in .pdf, you might be tempted to open the Word file and make changes to a part that bothers you.

2) Have a notebook or notepad ready, and take notes as you go through, in the form of a checklist. Ideally, have a small one that's easy to tuck away with your eReader.

Once you are ready to go, here are some tips to help you stay on track:

1) Take a break from writing while you are reading. Don't open the file. Let it rest. If you don't, then such revising detours will slow the process down, and reduce the vantage point you have of going over your story at reader-pace.

2) Don't worry about typos or mistakes. This will just bog you down. You can go over the manuscript later and weed them out.

3) Avoid writing out the solution to problems in your manuscript. Every time you stop to take notes, you stop reading, which you normally wouldn't do when reading a book, so it's important to be taking notes just to stop and give yourself reminders of things you will have to address when you begin revising.

Some good things to take note of during your cold read:

"The pacing is slow here"

"This character contradicts what she said three chapters ago"
(You appreciate this because as a reader it didn't take the 3 months to get from chapter 5 to chapter 7 it took you as a writer)

"This scene doesn't add to the story and can get cut back"

"Wait a minute...now that I know what this character does in the end, his actions 3/4 through make no sense at all"

"I'm rambling"

"Info dump!"

"This conversation is stilted and unrealistic. Rewrite."

"My protagonist complains a lot. Yikes. Annoying! I'm going to have to change that. How can I make her more likeable? Simple fix, doesn't have to be complicated. Brainstorm 3 ideas, 1), 2), 3)"
(Leave space and fill in those 1, 2, 3, slots later)

Some effective note-taking strategies to speed up revision:

1) Write 4-6 words in succession from the spot in question so you can get there using the "find" feature. I like to put quotations around them to differentiate from notes. I.e. "slammed on the table, churning". That should take me to the spot in question, and if I have more than one place in the manuscript where I use those words exactly like that, I'd better go and revise that too!

2) Ask questions. This will give you fodder for later and inspire some at-the-keyboard creativity during polishing. I.e. "What does she hope to gain over Gordon? Isn't she supposed to be high-society? Think about her upbringing..."

3) Suggest later or earlier spots in the manuscript where the issue you are addressing might rear it's head so you can hop there as well when you get to that part on your checklist. For example, if you are dealing with an explanatory passage and there is another one at the end, as well as some foreshadowing in chapter 2, you will want to go between all of these places to make sure it is all balanced.

Lastly, the most important rule:

Have fun!

:)


Graeme Brown is a Winnipeg artist, fantasy author, and junior editor for Champagne Books. His first story, The Pact, is now available. Seventeen years of writing, which includes failing at two (unpublished) novels, has taught him a lot about writing methods and strategies, and he continues to learn every day.

Website: http://www.graemebrownart.com/writing.html
Blog: http://www.fantasywritingjourney.wordpress.com
Twitter: @GraemeBrownWpg



11 comments:

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Have fun? I tend to fix on a cold read. That may be why I do at least 8 drafts.

Big Mike said...

One thing I iterate over and over when I mentor newbies is to put your rough assign for a month, two perferably. Amazing what you see as a reader that you don't see as a writer.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

I get in a hurry to "finish" sometimes and don't want to let the MS cook.

But, the universe often conspires to help me with that. I spent about the last two months absorbed in getting on MS ready for editing and with a few life events. Now, I'm heading back to the second draft of the kid's book MS.

I think I'll follow these tips and do a read-through first, and see how it feels as a reader.

Thanks!
Liz

fantasywritingjourney said...

Julie, I can relate! I used to draft and only recently moved over to this method. I prefer it, but know there are benefits to multiple drafts as well. At the end of the day, it's half a dozen to one, six to the other - so what matters is we do the method that works best for us to tell our story true!

Liz, I know what you mean. I've been on one year with a novel and it needs a lot of polishing before I send it in. It's taking a lot of restraint to hold back on revision. Thank goodness for my Kobo or I'd be all over it.
:)

J.A. Garland said...

Great words of wisdom, Graeme. I like the idea of putting your manuscript into an ereader. That way you force yourself to read it, instead of making those changes right away, thus stinting the 'reader' flow, and in the end, missing more issues.

Jude Johnson said...

Great post, Graeme. It's important to let things lie dormant, or ferment. Usually it's you doing the growth during that time, not the mss. ;-)
~Jude

Susan Arscott said...

I agree with letting your manuscript rest for a while before beginning revisions. It's what I do and I encourage my college comp students to do the same. Coming back to something after a few weeks truly removes you from the intensity of the writing process and allows you to read your work with new eyes. Good post. Thanks.

fantasywritingjourney said...

Thanks for your compliments! The little things I've learned on the way have come from picking up techniques from other writers who have shared about their process, so I'm happy to return the favor. Us writers do well when we make a community and inspire one another.
:)

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

Great post. We do something similar sorta of a cold read but not quite. We work over our computers from our respective homes through a system called Join Me. Zi's the host and I'm the intruder...errr visitor. He gives me control of the mouse we can both use the system. Anywho, first go through is always simple, we use the computer's highlighter to mark out troubled spots and its editing system to make a a few. Words like... Stinks! What were you on when you wrote THAT! Give the character a freakin' personality. Use the BLACK highlighter, yes, it IS that bad. Plot? What plot. After our two hour glaring session we decided the comments are constructive and we get back to work. *GRIN* I'm usually right. Of course, y'all don't know which of us is writing this. We're such a tease.

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

Great post. We do something sorta similar, a cold read but not quite. We work over our computers from our respective homes through a system called Join Me. Zi's the host and I'm the intruder...errr visitor. He gives me control of the mouse so we can both work on his system. Anywho, first go through is always simple, we use the computer's highlighter to mark out troubled spots and its editing system to make a a few comments. Like... Stinks! What were you on when you wrote THAT! Give the character a freakin' personality. Use the BLACK highlighter, yes, it IS that bad. Plot? What plot. After our two hour glaring session we decide the comments are constructive and we get back to work. *GRIN* My comments usually are right on target. Of course, y'all don't know which of us is writing this. We're such a tease.

fantasywritingjourney said...

Great comment! Coordinated revision - sounds like a great system.

Now, the question I have is...did you post twice because you both hit send from your joined computers?