Read it backwards. Deep Revision: Part 5.
To be a good editor of your own work, you have to learn how to look at your story as though you weren’t the one who wrote it. This, as you know, is an almost impossible trick.
The problem is that when you re-read your story, you know the context of every sentence. You know how the story starts, where it goes, and how it ends. You know what your sentences are supposed to mean, obviously, because you wrote them that way. So how can you make yourself un-know this?
The challenge is to separate the scene in your mind from what you’ve actually got on the page. There’s the scene, pre-language, and then there is the scene you have attempted to write. Your blind spot lives between these two scenes.
Don’t be lazy – attend to that blind spot! Here’s how.
Read your story out loud. Read it backwards. Start with the last sentence of your story and then move through the pages until you get to your first sentence. Go slow, one sentence at a time. Keep a notebook near you, and have a highlighter to mark the ones that need your attention.
You want every single sentence in your story to glitter with an intelligence of its own. To do this, you must feel each sentence out of context. Get to know each sentence intimately as an individual. Don’t consider context or plot for now. This is how you can see your sentences for what they are – and how you can recognize when they need to be sharpened.
It’s an easy trick – and when you take the time to do this, it’s unpredictable and revealing.
Go to it! And let me know what you discover about your writing in the comments below.
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