Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Tricks of the revision trade #amrevising #amediting #amreading

To answer your first question, yes, I did get my manuscript turned in to my writing teacher before our Zoom call this week. Woo-hoo! Happy dance!

Well, except I didn’t make it all the way through the manuscript on that last revision round before I sent it. I was working on it last night and realized there are still a few inline notes I haven’t taken out yet. Mostly because I still need them. 🙂

I’m one of those writers who likes to go through printed copy when revising, because for me it’s easier to make notes right on the page. I end up doing some brainstorming work as well, filling margins with my chicken scratch. The toughest thing is always catching silly flaws, like missing words or misspellings, because as the author, we’ve been through the words so many times. It’s like when you have kids and you see them every day; they change and you notice, but don’t. Then when a relative sees them for the first time in months, they are in awe at how much the kids have changed (which is another tip: leave your work alone for a couple weeks before diving in to the next round of revision).

I have a few go-to techniques I use when revising, but one I especially like. Here’s a peek into my revision technique (wow, that rhymes!):

Compile to Word and read on my iPad

My writing tool of choice is Scrivener, for many reasons. I know, I know, writers have a love/hate relationship with Scrivener: they either love it or hate it. I’m one of the love crowd. While I compose using Times New Roman, when I compile to read through it, I use a different font (actually, I change the font on the Word end). Seems that is enough to knock my brain out of writing mode so it can look at the book a little differently. Less “OMG, I’ve been staring at these words for how long? I know what they say”, and more “Hey, look, it’s different.” Yep, not much, but it’s the little things 🙂

Print it out

Once I’ve read through the book on my iPad (and yes, I still use paper to take notes of things to fix) and made a round of corrections/revisions, I print it out (again using something other than TNR), then go through the hard copy. It’s easier for mark it up. There’s something about paper that inspires me to brainstorm while I’m revising (which just complicates the next round 😐 ).

Back to front

Another thing to try: read the story from the end forward. Start with the very last sentence, then read each sentence that comes before. It’s enough to trick your brain into seeing the prose differently. Of course, by the time you’re halfway through, your brain has caught on to your sneaky tricks.

Read it out loud (my favorite!)

I love this one! Why? Because I think it is easier to hear problems with rhythm and stuff like echoes and missing words (which your brain tends to fill in automatically) when I hear them read aloud. Reading the prose out loud yourself is helpful, but I think hearing someone else read it to you is better. And wouldn’t you know, Word has a read-aloud feature. Sure, you can’t have Sam Elliott or Mae West read it to you, and it does sound like a computer reading (not as mechanical as it used to be), but it beats recording yourself reading it aloud then playing it back. I mentioned this in a post a couple years back, when I had an older version of Word. I have a newer version now, and it’s easier to turn on. Here are instructions if you are interested.

And there you have it. These suggestions are for the read-through-and-figure-out-what-needs-work stage. Every writer is different, and what works for me might not work for you at all, but I think any time we can offer suggestions to each other to make our tasks more effective, if not easier, we might pick up something new that works for us.

It seems we blew right past spring here in MN. Average daily temps this time of year are supposed to be around 70 F. This weekend (at least the next 4 days) are supposed to be tropical heat (80s +) and humidity (dewpoint in 60s+). Ugh. It’s garden planting time, and tropical heat and humidity just make the dirt stick easier to my sweaty skin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but c’mon, we get that weather in July.

I’ll try to take pics of each stage of my garden planting adventure, so stay tuned.

Have a great writing weekend!


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Back to school, sort of

So, I can say I’m procrastinating on doing my homework because I’m writing my blog post instead, right?

Saying I have homework seems much more enjoyable now than it did way back in high school. Homework back then was a chore, something to dread. Even my college-aged kids groan when I ask them about their homework. (Sometimes in the middle of the summer I would even ask them if they had any homework, just to bug them 😀 )

As a writer, one of the things we do is strive to improve our craft. We read books about plotting, creating believable characters, using realistic dialog. We know–and have maybe even read–the “classic” how-tos: Writing the Breakout Novel, The First Five Pages, Techniques of the Selling Writer, and The Writer’s Journey, among countless others. We go to conferences and seminars. We even–gasp–take online classes!

That’s where I’m at right now. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’ve been struggling to write the infamous Book 2, the next book in my Sierra Bauer Mystery series. So, I figured if I was accountable to someone, like a teacher, I might make some progress, and learn other ways to get from A to B.

So I enrolled in an online class through UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies. By the way, they have a great writing program, with excellent instructors. Anyway, get this: my class is Write Your Novel Fast and Sure. Heh. Talk about ulterior motives. Or just motives. Or just plain accountability.

So yep, I have homework. And my next assignment is the first five pages of my novel. Woo-hoo! Or at least, woo-hoo once I get those five pages written. I do have a rough draft, though, so if my writing teacher is reading this, I am working on it. Really!

As for the garden, after a week of rain, rain, one cloudy day, rain + 10 minutes of sunshine, rain and half a day of sunshine, things haven’t really dried out enough to plant, but it’s getting late. I’ll probably try to get something in the ground, soggy soil or not, in the two days without rain we’ll get this holiday weekend.

Speaking of, for those in the US, Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Is this my good side?


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Have you heard this writing tool?

No, I didn’t forget a word in the title. If you’ve been following this blog the past few weeks, you know that the past couple of months I was working on my manuscript for my editor. I sent my edits in last week–woo-hoo!

In the process of trying to make up for a nutso April when I didn’t get much editing done–but hey, I did get stranded in WI by a blizzard–I searched for anything to help me speed things up.

It’s easy to add a sentence or edit a whole paragraph, but sometimes I end up with a long convoluted sentence that should be split, or more than one way to “fix” something. Besides, if there’s something wonky, I’ll catch it when I proofread it, right? Like those awkward sentences that are grammatically correct, but just don’t flow. Or those two words that should be swapped, like “you were” and “were you”.

I use a few proofreading methods, like printing out the manuscript in a different font so it looks “fresh” to the eye, and reading the manuscript from the last page to the first page, which interrupts the brain’s tendency to anticipate what the next sentence should be (yes, it works, until the brain figures things out 😐 ).

As writers, we are too close to our work to really look at it objectively. That’s why leaving the manuscript sit for a few days to weeks is good; you gain a little distance from it. But I didn’t have a few days, much less a week, to let the story rest. And I printed out the manuscript once, but I didn’t have time to do it all over again. Besides, I was at my dad’s house.

Another thing I’ve heard about to help with the proofreading process is text-to-speech (actually, it’s reading the manuscript out loud, but no one said you had to do it yourself 🙂 ). There are a number of programs out there that will read what you’ve written. I tried a couple, one of which is Natural Reader, which I tested. I spent way too much time looking for something cheap. Yes, I know the online version of Natural Reader is free, and there is an iPad app, and maybe I’ll use it sometime, but I knew there had to be something included with Windows 8.1, with the whole accessibility thing and all.

So I looked it up. Turns out that Windows has a built-in voice that can read websites and stuff. And bonus, Microsoft Word (I use Scrivener to actually write, but I compile the manuscript for Word when I read through it) has a text-to-speech function. A-ha!

First, you set up the Narrator voice in Windows. I have Windows 8.1, but it should be the same process in Win10; you’ll have to do a search for text to speech. In the Control Panel, there is a Speech Recognition option. In there are the settings for the Narrator. Select the option for Text to Speech. TTS

Next, select the voice. There are only three options in my version: 2 American (male and female) and one British (female). I didn’t look to see if I could get any more; I just wanted something to read to me. I picked Zira, the American female voice. She just sounded nicer.

speech propertiesAdjust the voice speed. You can use the Preview button to hear the voice. Set the speed, then apply the settings with the OK button (I didn’t include that in my screenshot).

Next, I opened my Word doc. Do you know what the Quick Access toolbar is? It’s the tiny toolbar with the W icon for Word. It has the most used stuff on it, like Save and Undo. Mine is in the upper left corner above the menu bar.

menubar

You’ll have to customize the toolbar to make the Speak command available. (FYI, I have Word 2010, so the newer versions might be a little different. You should be able to use the Help to find the Speak command.) Click on the down arrow with the line above it on the right side of the Quick Access toolbar to open the toolbar’s menu.

word options

You’ll see the commands on the toolbar marked, but you need to add the Speak command. Select the More Commands… option way at the bottom.

Now this is a bit more involved. At the top of the left panel where it says Choose Commands From, change where it says Popular Commands (click on the down arrow) and change it to All Commands.

Then you will have to scroll (luckily the commands are alphabetical) all the way down to Speak. Select Speak, then click on the Add>> button. The Speak word moves from the left panel to the right panel. Click OK to finish.

word options2

Now you should have the Speak command easily accessible in the Quick Access toolbar.

menubar

All you have to do now is highlight a chunk of text and click the Speak button. Granted, it’ll only read about 700 words at a time no matter how many you select, but I found that is enough to hear the section, fix anything, and read it through again.

It’s not perfect, and it will spell some things out when it doesn’t know how to pronounce them, but I heard misspellings (“h-d-d” instead of “had”), missing words (rather, I didn’t hear the missing words 😀 ), and awkward phrases. The voice is a bit robotic, but it’s better than computer voices were 10 years ago. Even sounds more human than Stephen Hawking.

Anyway, I found the Speak command a huge help. I even heard it read character facts that were different than they were in an earlier chapter. For instance, my character started off wearing a sweatshirt, and two chapters later she was wearing a sweater. Same day, only hours apart, and no, she hadn’t gone home to change. I think I found and fixed more stuff because I heard it. And I think it helped that I wasn’t reading aloud myself, because I suspect you still miss stuff because you’ve gone through it so many times.

Anyway, sorry about the long post today, but I wanted to share this tool with you. Who knows, maybe I’ll use it so much I’ll spring for the Natural Reader. I’ve been thinking about Dragon Naturally Speaking as well (speech to text), but guess what? Windows and Word have something like that built in as well. I’ll test it out a bit to see if it could work for me before I drop money on Dragon. (BTW, Google also has a speech-to-text feature in Google Docs, so you can check that out, too).

Oh, and I have to share this. Last night my husband came in from outside (I was working on a photo board for my daughter’s grad party tomorrow) and said I had to see something. And bring a camera. This is what I saw.

zoey top of trailer 1

And where was she?

zoey top of trailer 2

We moved our current house onto the property twenty years ago, and while we were remodeling, we lived in a trailer house. Needless to say, the trailer is still on the property being used as storage right now. Don’t know how she got up there, but she did get down on her own. I suspect she used a tree.

Have a great weekend!