At this moment, nearing midnight, I’m stuck on a certain paragraph in chapter twenty-nine. It’s Act Three. The tension needs to be high. But I can’t skip my protagonist’s inner processes, either. She has to think, feel and plan. Is the paragraph too slow? I like the section before it and the section after it, but this transition is a clunker. What if I move the middle line to the end? How much can I cut and still make sense? Should I just skip it and move on? No. I’m revising. I’m not letting myself off the hook. There could be some error of logic, some failure to follow my character’s heart and mind, that will affect the validity of the subsequent part that I— so far—like. (How many times have I cut something I loved because it no longer worked after I fixed what came before it?)
I tried rearranging the lines. Not much better. Maybe I can cut the whole paragraph. Replace it with one tight sentence once I grasp what the scene needs as a transition.
I could say more about this battle with the paragraph, but I have to get back to it. That’s what’s happening tonight in my life as a writer.
I had no idea how revealing this would be. A lot of authors say they read their works in progress aloud to find typos and missing words, and it does bring those up, but the real discovery for me was the emotional content. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t I know? I felt it while I was writing, but after a few revisions, I started to doubt the book, to wonder if it was sufficiently compelling even though my critique partners said it was. When I read the dialogue aloud, I discovered the full intensity of the conflicts.
Another revelation was the excess detail in a number of scenes. When I’m revising silently, I tend to debate whether or not a line needs cutting. Does it give depth and flavor, or does it slow things down? When I was reading aloud, there was no question. I did this as if I were the voice actor for an audiobook, and if I couldn’t bring energy into certain material, if I couldn’t act it, it was interrupting the scene, not adding to it. I cut about 900 words that didn’t seem excessive when I did my “cut revision.” From now on, the “audio revision” goes into my writing process toolbox.