Saturday, 10 September 2011

Why Talking to Yourself is Sometimes Ok

So I'll be honest. I talk to myself. A lot. Too much really. Like, sometimes two way conversations. Sometimes three ways. Wait that sounds wrong.

But yeah, I do it quite a bit. Usually it is when I look at myself in the mirror. I'll say something like "Hey sexy, how you-" No wait no! I never do that. It's probably more something like "You know, you're really awesom-" WAIT! No. Not that. Never that.

I think the worse thing I've ever done in terms of talking to myself was when I'd just finished listening to a podcast where one of my favourite authors (Patrick Rothfuss, in case you haven't realised by the like 1000 mentions of him so far on this blog). The interviewer asked all sorts of interesting questions, and I started to wonder how I would respond to those questions. Eventually I started to wonder out loud. Obviously I needed some questions specific to my book, so I also decided to take upon myself the role of the interviewer as well as the interviewee.

Fortunately, no one was home. And I think I learnt quite a bit about how good/bad/mostly bad I am at answering questions about my book. So I wouldn't say I regret the experience. What I do regret is telling everyone about it in this blog. I could always use the backspace key, but that just seems a little counter-productive to me. Instead, I will try a braver tactic. I will try and convince you that talking to yourself is (sometimes!) ok.

"Surely that isn't possible oh supreme Overlord Ian?!" Well, perhaps you are right Mr. Voice. Perhaps I have simply had too much tequila (my parents bought me some when they were in Mexico!) and it's made me go even more loopy. But I don't think that is the case.

So this is the part where I do that annoying thing. It's that annoying thing where I pretend to know lots and lots about writing even though I am still very much leaning. But bare with it if you will.

Revision in a book is key. Some people assume writers just write down their books, from beginning to end, and that's that. But they are wrong. I'm sure there are a few writers out there who are practised enough that they need go over their writing only the one time to be sure it's good. But for those of us still learning, or who just can't do instantly perfect writing like those lucky few, revision is something that should be considered as important as the initial writing itself. This will probably be the first of a few blog posts on the importance of this, and believe me the next few are going to be AMAZING! They might even have examples of my own writing and everything! Wowza!

But today I'm going to focus on a really simple piece of advice for those looking back at their own work and trying to make it better. You've probably guessed it by now, but if not, here goes. Are you ready? It's coming! Oh yeah it is baby! OOO!

Read out loud.

"Read out loud oh God of Everything Ian? Really? Surely that is what little children do! I have been taught/brainwashed that reading out loud is silly and primitive. My amazing adult brain can read without the use of vocal chords now!" Well get unbrainwashed then Mr. Voice. Reading out loud is an amazing way of seeing how good your writing is.

When people read in there head, they have a natural tendency to sometimes skim past some words. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has read a book where the characters have odd names, only to find that when I try and say these names out loud I have no idea what to say! Another thing people sometimes do when reading out loud is switch off. Sometimes, if you are a bit tired of have other things on your mind, your eyes will keep moving, but your brain will be off doing something else. Knitting maybe. I bet all of us have at some point found ourselves suddenly realising we have no idea what just happened in the last 2 pages.

When you are writing a book, and have read the same chapters over and over and over again, this can happen quite often. That isn't to say your writing isn't bad, it's just because the tension of not knowing what is going to happen has been removed. Watching a film for the first time is (usually!) the best time. The second time is interesting too, as you pick up on extra things you didn't see before, or if you didn't 'get' the film the first time you might understand it better. The third time could be similar. Same with the fourth, but obviously reduced. This reduction keeps on going. I have watched Lord of the Rings a lot of times. Whilst I still they're great movies now, I don't really find myself caring about watching them again. In fact, when I lost my dvd's of the trilogy (extended version of course) I didn't even bother buying a new set. Now it's been 2 or more years since I have seen those films. Still not that bothered either.

Where was I? "Reading out loud!" Ah yes, I remember. So reading out loud removes these issues. You can't really think about other things whilst you read out loud. It makes you more focused, and whilst it is slower, this can be a good thing for revising. It makes you concentrate on every word, and words that don't quite work stand out so much more than when you read in your head. You can hear the flow of each sentence clearly, the rise and fall of your voice as you read, and if you find yourself stuttering over a few words, or a sentence ends long before you expected, then it is probably best to change it. I wish I could show you some examples in my own work, but I can't really remember what specific changes were because of me reading out loud and which were just me reading in my head. Suffice to say, I've read sections in my head and thought them amazing, then read them out loud and realised the work that needs doing.

I did something I've never done before the other day. I read all of my book I've written so far in one go. That's about 150 pages, so not loooads, but a fair bit. It seemed longer because I read it all out loud as well. From a health and safety point of view, I wouldn't recommend this. By the end of it I was forcing honey down my throat to make it stop hurting. I hate to think what might happen if I try read my book when it is finished, and a 600+ page monster! I'll have to eat a bee's nest. But from a writers point of view, I think it is a great thing to do. It helped me rectify a few continuity issues I didn't realise were there, as well as let me see the things I repeat too much in my writing. And the fact that it was out loud meant I got to add a level of polish to my book that hadn't been there before. Didn't feel I had to make any major changes though, which is always good news :)

So I leave you with that. Not some amazing new revelation really, just some solid advice. If you are the sort of person who isn't very comfortably reading aloud, just do it when no one is in, or when you are in your room, and if it helps, try imagine you are recording the audiobook or something. If your imagination is good enough you should start to forget that it's your voice coming out of your mouth, and just start listening.

Thanks for reading. I've been Ian Fisher, God of Gods, Keeper of all Knowledge, King of the Universe and the Multiverse, and Loser of The Game,



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