READING ALOUD ... THE REAL ACID TEST
When my two girls were smaller, Nelli and I used to entertain them during long journeys in the car by playing tapes of Harry Potter read by Stephen Fry. It is only now that I have begun to appreciate what a trial that must have been for J.K. Rowling. Reading your work aloud betrays all its worst aspects: the duplicate adjectives and phrases; the clumsy dialogue; and any over-wrought verbosity. Being read aloud is the real acid test for any piece of writing.
The problem is that reading your work aloud is a very tedious and time-consuming activity. I always start off determined to read all my edits aloud but about ten pages in I get fed-up and begin to silently scan-read. That’s why going to a writers’ group is so useful. You get the chance to read some of your stuff aloud and the self-criticism that results is, I think, even more valuable that the criticism you get from your fellow attendees.
I haven’t had much to read at Renegades for the last few weeks, but I decided that this week I’d make an effort and chose a scene I’d written a few months ago which is – probably – going to feature in the final Demi-Monde book, ‘The Demi-Monde: Fall’. I chose it because it had originally been intended for inclusion in Summer but because of pace and plot changes it got bumped, but as I’d edited it a couple of time I was fairly confident that it was of an okay standard.
I think since the editing of the first DM book ‘Winter’ my style has changed. Much of this is due to the influence of Nick, my first editor at Quercus, and his mania for pace. It’s a mania I’ve caught and now when I write I want the story to move along briskly. Pace is everything and I rely much more on the readers’ imagination to fill in any descriptive blanks I might leave. Not so much ‘show not tell’ rather ‘suggest not tell’. And this change in style was really emphasised when I read the piece out at the Renegades.
It seemed so slow and ponderous, giving way too much information and detail none of which moved either the plot or the action along. I couldn’t even forgive it on the grounds that I’d written this twaddle to achieve that old standby ‘character development’.
SO … I’m going to re-edit and take it to the next Renegades and have another go. And I’ll keep taking it back until I’ve got it right!
The last thing I want is ever having to listen to Stephen Fry reading crap with my name on it (I wish!).