The Rhythm of Writing

Hearing your Edits

Orange colored pencil and voice recorder laying on top of printed page for editing

All writers I know love music.  Certain rhythms and sounds speak to each of us.  When we write, we are appealing to those senses in our readers. For our writing to be strong and compelling, we must pay attention to these rhythms, making sure our writing carries our readers in the direction they need to go at the right time.

The best way, in fact the only way, I know to do this is reading my writing out loud.  This is a multi-phased and multi-benefit editing process. 

I follow these steps:

  1. Print out the piece for editing. (I like to set my margins wide for this process.)
  2. Sit out one colored pencil.  Clear your work space of all distractions.  Turn your phone ringer off.
  3. Prepare voice recorder.  (You can search free voice recorder apps on your phone or computer.  I use a separate voice recorder with digital time stamps.)
  4. Read the piece into the recorder. (Note: The colored pencil allows me to make a slash mark wherever something doesn’t sound right.  I only pause to make this mark; I do not stop reading.)
  5. Play the recording, reading along with my marked piece.  Mark anything that does not sound right, but still do not make any edits.
  6. Play the recording again, reading along.  This time I stop and make editing marks and remarks as I go. (The wide margins I created in my printed document give me plenty of room.)
  7. Make the edits. Print the edited piece.
  8. Start the process over. 
    • This may not happen for a day or two.
    • I use two different colors: one for the slashes, the other for the edits (as shown).

This process sounds daunting, but I find it essential.  The benefits include:

  • hearing the rhythm of the piece (paragraph, essay, chapter, etc.)
  • identifying redundancy
  • eliminating filler
  • finding glitches and hiccups in flow
  • identifying portions that need moved
  • making the writing, and thus the reading, clear and concise.

Going further…

Try the steps above with a short piece of your writing.  Don’t get bogged down in the thought of reading aloud; no one will likely be around to hear you.  Think about what surprised you and what you learned from this process the first time through.  How will this help you be a better writer? 

Further still…

Did this process work for you?  If not, how would you or have you tweaked that process for your own writing?  I would enjoy hearing about your process!  Please leave a comment.

Happy writing… ~T

At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing.  Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here.  Thank you!

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