Tricks of the Trade: Fooling Yourself

I’m working on a manuscript right now that is getting to the point where I’m losing my objectivity. You know the types—the ones you’ve revised so much that you can recite it word for word in your sleep. I know it needs more work, yet I’m starting to feel stagnant with taking it further. I hate it when this happens. It’s like riding a bike up a hill and you’re almost to the top, but quickly running out of steam. If…I…could…just…pump…my…legs…five…more…times.

What’s a writer to do when this happens? Here is where I dig deep and pull out my “bag o’ tricks” and trick myself into seeing things differently. I know it goes against common sense. If I know I’m trying to fool myself, how can I fool myself? Who knows? Who cares? All that matters is that this works–at least for me. Once I’ve dummied out my story and had it critiqued by my writer’s group until they’re sick of it, I resort to the following.

Pull out the highlighters. I go through my manuscript and highlight the adjectives and adverbs. Once I’m finished, I go back and figure out how I can eliminate them by using stronger nouns and verbs. This not only reduces word count, but it also strengthens the writing.

Pull out the tape recorder. There’s nothing quite listening to your tape-recorded story. The language “glitches” stand out like Mt. Everest. Problems with the flow and your page turns go under the microscope when you listen to them on tape. I’ll find myself saying, “How did I NOT catch that before?” I end up making corrections as I’m recording and when I listen to it play back.

Change locations. Reading my story in another location helps too. Outside works very well, if the weather cooperates. But even moving into another room, or standing while reading the story aloud helps (walking while reading a rhyming story is essential). Reading the story somewhere new somehow helps me to experience my work in a fresh way.

What do all of these things accomplish? They force you to see things in a different light, which gives you the opportunity to improve your work for the ka-zillionth time and move it one more step closer to being ready for publication. All tedious, but all worth it!

Happy writing!

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