Getting the story down on paper is the easier part. That sounds counter intuitive, but in my case, it’s true. I usually have a lot of talking heads. In the very first read through of the story, after I have written it, I look for talking heads and ask questions about the scene. Where is it taking place? What’s happening in the background? If two people are walking on a beach, where is the sound of the waves, the surf, and the seagulls? If they are in a café, where are the clink of dishes, glasses, the murmur of conversation, the waitress calling to the cook. That’s what I have to deal with, usually. Sometimes I can set the scene right the first time, but there’s dialog that goes wrong. There’s always something that needs to be fixed. Scenes almost never survive a rewrite completely intact. There is always a better way to say it. Sometimes there’s a better way for your character to do what it needs to do to further the story. Sometimes entire scenes are so completely rewritten that the original version is virtually dropped from the story.
That’s why it is harder to rewrite than to write. Some people feel that they have written the perfect prose right off. a lot of times, it’s bloated and slow reading. You don’t want a turtle story. You want a lean mean cheetah sprinting towards the finish taking the reader on a wild careering chase through the jungle. Or the plains, since that is where cheetahs really live. Let’s split the difference and say bush in place of jungle in that sentence. That would make it. “You want a lean mean cheetah sprinting towards the finish taking the reader on a wild careering chase through the bush.” That’s what revision does. It makes stories ring true. Getting the words down is good, but then you have to figure out which of those words are the right ones and which are wrong. That’s why revision is so good. Get the words out first and find the exactly right words later. Now is the time that you look for the right words.
Read your story aloud. I have trouble doing that so I downloaded a program that lets me have my computer read the story to me. That way I can listen for problems. If something is spelt wrong, the computer will not be able to read it. if a word is spelt correctly but is the wrong word, like personal for personnel, the computer will catch it, if you don’t. Reading aloud also lets you hear the dialog as it would sound if your character were a real person and all had your voice or that of the computer. Once you hear it spoken, you can correct it to sound more natural.
Count the number of times you use words. that shows where you may be repeating yourself or perhaps overusing a phrase. Sometimes, you might want a character to have a catch phrase, but most people don’t have one. try to limit the number of times your character say the same thing. Counting the number of times you use a particular word will guard against that. it will also keep your readers from thinking that you’ve just learned a new word and are trying it out in multiple sentences.
I once read a book where the author gave the hero brown orbs, no eyes, just orbs. She gave the heroine blue orbs. Then she made the moon an orb. It can jar a reader out of the story and that is not what you want to do. Now the word orb is a perfectly good word, but it should be used sparingly.
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