White-washing the Grime

Welcome to the verbal tour of my preschool house (yes, I promise this will be relevant to the written word).  As we enter the kitchen, you will note that the walls are freshly painted and the old-style cupboards lend it a quaint air.

No…wait…don’t!  Awww, shoot.

Tell me you didn’t just open that cupboard.  Tell me you didn’t notice the fingerprints of previous owners.  Tell me…

Yep, we did contact paper the shelves.  I know, the inside of the doors themselves could use a white-wash to make them fresh and clean.  Fine.

Ever feel this way about your writing?

You have a perfect manuscript with perfect characters and a perfect plot.  Everyone loves it on a beta read.  You dream of it making the endcaps.  It’s awesome!  Except…

You can’t quiet put your finger on what bothers you.  It feels a bit dull.  Bland.  Smudged.  Used.

Sometimes when we spend so much time rewriting our plot and characters, we lose a bit of the magic we first felt when we wrote our rough drafts.  We’ve read our manuscripts so often that our brains no longer read the words.  They simply regurgitate the idea we know we’ve written.  We’ve given into the impulse to cut and paste and tweak and add, even as we’ve promised ourselves this is the final read-through.  It’s just so darned easy to do on a keyboard. 

This is the time we need to grab our metaphorical paint brushes.  This is when we print out a paper copy of our manuscripts onto crisp white paper and give it an honest read.

I know, this costs money and kills trees.  But I promise you, when you read your completed manuscript this way, it just feels different.  Some of that old magic seeps in through your fingertips.  Your eyes appreciate the clean lines of black print on white paper instead of computer screen shades of gray.  It’s not as easy to tweak a word or two and after a few pages, you see your manuscript in a whole  new light.

It finally feels like a book.

 What tips do you use to trick your brain into thinking it is reading a book instead of editing your manuscript?  How do you white-wash the grime so it feels as if you are reading your book for the first time?


16 responses to “White-washing the Grime

  1. I liked the comparisons between writing and painting…nice visual images.

    And now I am clearly seeing what I don’t like about my current WIP.

    With my first five novels, I did a lot of printing out so I could read somewhere other than the computer. I had so many printed out pages, though, that once the books were published, I had stacks and stacks of them.

    One day we held a bonfire…it took a long time for them to burn, and the whole time, I felt guilty about the burning part. The environment and all.

    Maybe I could just print a few pages….

    • LOL! I print a lot of pages, but I then use the paper as goose paper.

      Good on other side–always forget what the E stands for, though!

      In any case, I’m glad you found your newest niggle with your current WIP. It’s always fun when that happens. Have fun editing and thanks for stoppin in again.

  2. I love this post! Great tie-in. I firmly believe in printing it out and going over it. It does help tremendously. I hope your trip went well. I can’t remember if you’ve seen the changes I made on my blog. Talk to you before too long.

    • Lisa,

      I haven’t visited another blog in well over a week. Gone for the youth gathering. Home in time to pick up my nephews, welcome a new little niece and get some much needed painting, cleaning and swing set building done for my preschool.
      I’m still trying to catch up on comments from my own blog and have never felt so behind in my life.

      I hope to finish painting tomorrow, so can let things dry for a day or two when DH is out of town over Thursday and Friday. My goal is to catch up on everyone’s blogs then. I can’t wait to see the changes.


  3. I was just tweeting with Jemi Fraser about this the other day.

    I print mine out for the big edits, into book form (5.5 x 8.5, double sided/correct margins, etc. (For fun, I’ve also designed a front and back cover for it.)

    Then I take it to the office supply store and have it spiral bound for a few dollars. That way, it REALLY seems like a book, and I can read it in bed, or stash it in my purse and take it anywhere.

    I ran it off for my beta readers like this, too, and they seemed to like it.

    • Layinda, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I did that once when I wrote an anniversary devotional. It helped me to really see how the book would look.

      I’ve never tried it with just a manuscript, but may have to do so in the future. Great tip.

  4. Read that sucker aloud AND record yourself! You’ll find tons just reading it. Then go back about two weeks later and listen to the recording and you’ll find tons MORE. This was where I got some of the most important true polishing done.

    • Victoria, that sounds like an amazing way to really hear your manuscript and get a feel for how it reads. I’ll have to try that sometime. Thankfully, the book I’m working on now is a kid’s book, so it’s not so long that I’ll lose my voice!

      Thanks for the great advice.

  5. It’s hard to do. I sometimes have to put it aside for a bit in order for my brain to clear out a bit. Or work on something else – that sometimes helps too.

    • Jemi,

      I have to consciously tell myself that I am not reading to edit. Getting away from the computer screen helps. Although I have been known to crease the page with my finger nail and dog ear it if I find a typo or something. It’s hard to just read for enjoyment’s sake when you’re worried about how it will look to others.

      Working on something else helps and is great advice.

  6. I think reading on paper can sometimes trick you, like Laurel said. Editing with pen on paper sometimes really opens up my thought process…if that makes any sense at all! Ha!

    • Barbara,

      I definitely edit this way between computer edits. It does lend a different perspective to the story as a whole. Thanks for sharing.


  7. “Sometimes when we spend so much time rewriting our plot and characters, we lose a bit of the magic we first felt when we wrote our rough drafts. We’ve read our manuscripts so often that our brains no longer read the words.”
    This is so true Cat- there is an invisible line and when you cross it the revising & rewriting kills the magic your story had at the beginning. And all words start to sound the same after rereading it fot the 100th time 🙂
    Which is why a paper copy of the manuscripts can really be beneficial!

    • Lua,

      I’m on the line with one of my manuscripts. It’s not fun to read something you use to be in love with only to find out you’ve tinkered so much you’d rather pluck your arm pit hairs out with a tweezers than read it again.


      I might have to go back to the beginning on that one…

  8. This is great advice — I also do the “print out and read straight through exercise,” usually after letting the manuscript sit for a long time (sometimes, as in my current wip, a really long time). It works — I see things I managed to ignore during the first drafts. Yep, I’m on the 6th draft, and it’s a complete rewrite. And so it goes…

    • Patricia,

      Six sounds small! I’ve had some that have gone through a gazillion rewrites. Maybe I didn’t let them sit long enough?

      Best luck with the lucky number six. Hopefully your tinkering is making it much stronger this time around.

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