Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading Aloud to Edit -- and How Bad Banana Taffy and Fluff Writing Can Save Us

So, I got the draft done! So happy! Now, back to the editing board again.

This time I'm going through it with a fine toothed voice. I mean, I'm reading the whole draft aloud, from hard copy, in front of a live studio audience. 

This is an undertaking. It needs to be done. I have found errors on every single page, missing words, words that aren't quite right, punctuation errors, things that just sound wonky. And this is after months and months of working on the draft in silence and on the screen.

Part of the problems arise from the fact I've worked on the draft in so many different stages. I cut and pasted from earlier drafts, and some things just don't make sense any more. They are irrelevant or inconsistent or just foreign to the current draft. Some of the problems arise from the fact I was being interrupted by my cute little ones while I wrote, someone needing a drink or a ride somewhere or a piece of candy.  Errors. Oversights. Glaring mistakes.

I honestly think if I hadn't gone through it reading it aloud I would not have seen a lot of these problems. This is a good exercise.

There's another little perk, though, besides catching the problems with the draft. Reading it aloud to the live studio (or SUV road trip captives!) audience gives me a sense of what's working in the draft. When the listeners react, either with laughs or groans, with questions, with gasps in the character's behalf, then I get a sense of what a real reader's reaction might be when the text eventually lies before them. Sweet.

Speaking of road trips, I like to keep movie size boxes of candy in the glove compartment of my Suburban, in the case of an emergency candy fit halfway between hither and yon.  Or if a bunch of kids are stuck in the car waiting ... waiting ... waiting, and needing candy.  Candy calms the savage beast, be it child or mom.

Here are a few favorite car candies:

I like the Hot Tamales in there because it's kind of hard for a kid to eat a whole box of those in one sitting, what with all the cinnamon flavoring. They last a while, most of the time. Jelly bean based things work well. Or hard candy. Candy buttons are great because it's just dried frosting and it will last forever in there. Plus the kids for some reason think it's the coolest candy ever. Around here, anything like taffy or chocolate is a mistake in the glove compartment. We went for a drive last week and needed the AC. Seriously. Mid-January. Please! Mid-January should be hot chocolate, not air conditioning.

Last summer, we were on a ridiculously long drive with stupid wrong turns and missed exits and doubling back and fifty potty breaks and I'd about had it. Then, at the back of the glove compartment I found this orphaned banana flavored Laffy Taffy, crusty on the edges, still chewy in the middle. I'm sure it had melted and re-solidified scores of times. I generally skip banana flavored candy (which is probably why it remained beneath the registration and insurance info), but at the time, nothing could have been more welcome. Sugar! It saved my sanity.

That's why I love it. You know, spun-sugar type writing can be just what we need when we're going through an annoying or tough journey. Even a bad old dried up banana flavored taffy type piece of writing can be just what our souls need. Bring on the empty calories. We need it from time to time.

Now, off to finish reading it aloud to my audience. Maybe I should ply them with a bulk canister of licorice.


  1. So did I know you'd started a new blog, or am I really as absent minded as I think? Either way, such fun to finally read your stuff again~especially when it is paired with candy. My love.

  2. I think I quoted you somewhere in here. It might have been about your love of harvest vegetables. Ha ha. The corn syrup kind. I love those too. xoxoxo And maybe some other places. If not, I meant to!


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