Editing Hacks: How To Read Your Work With Fresh Eyes

While being able to pick up typos and Google the answer to any grammatical question is a modern godsend for writers, the one technological advance I’d like to have is the ability to see my work with fresh eyes.

Short of a future app that makes it possible, or a clichéd amnesic related accident, I’ll never be able to unread something that I’ve read (what feels like) a million times. This greatly limits my ability to edit without mercy. But where there is a will, there is a way, and here are some hacks that at least try to fake fresh eyes.

Change The Font

Simple yet effective, changing the font for your manuscript mixes it up in your brain. Different colors can’t hurt either, just don’t spend all day switching between Helvetica and Comic Sans and forget to actually do some editing. A totally different font to the one the original words were written in should be enough to help your eyes see your work in a fresh new way.

Print On Paper

This old-school tip not only gives your eyes a rest from staring at a screen all day but seeing your words on paper also carries the added bonus of making it easier to spot typos.

Have A Program Read It Out Loud

The future is here, at least in terms of apps that will read your work to you. Google text-to-speech and find a program that will read your words out loud, or into your headphones if you want to be discreet. It’s an excellent way to pick up issues of word flow or awkward paragraphs you might not necessarily find when relying on just your eyes.

Borrow Someone Else’s Eyes

No, we still aren’t there with technology yet, but you can give your manuscript to someone else to read. A different set of eyes is often the best way to find problem prose, and that doesn’t just include typos. Another set of eyes is another brain processing your work, one who thinks differently to you and reads differently to you. It’s another opinion on what isn’t working, how twisty the plot twists are, and the first impression of the characters—all of which is invaluable information for your next round of edits.

Read It Differently

Add your manuscript to your Kindle, iPad or phone. Sit outside if the weather is nice, or go to a cafe and order yourself some writer fuel and read while surrounded by the world. Anything that is different to the environment you’re usually in when writing will give your senses a shake-up and help you to see your manuscript in a different light.

Leave It Alone

Obviously, the best way to get fresh eyes is to have some time away from your work. That way your brain gets the chance to forget the majority of what is written. How long you leave your manuscript alone is a personal preference. Some writers insist that placing it in a drawer for a year is the best way to truly see your work with fresh eyes. If you can’t do that, leave it for a month, a week, or even one day if you’re really up against a deadline. Basically, any time away gives you fresh eyes—or at least it will until technology catches up.

— K.M. Allan

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51 thoughts on “Editing Hacks: How To Read Your Work With Fresh Eyes

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  1. I only ever edit on paper with red pen, highlighters and ‘post its’ – with the MS hole punched and in a leaver arch binder. I’ll do runs for context and flow, runs for mistakes, adding deleting and correcting. Then I transfer all the alterations to the screen ticking them off on the print copy to make sure I don’t miss any, then print off – different font and start again. This time reading the pages out of order (so the brain won’t be telling me ‘this will happen next, then this’). Then a conventional run through for flow. Again transfer corrections to the screen. Finally I’ll turn the spellcheck on – I cannot stand those red and green lines while I’m writing.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow, love your editing process, especially the part about reading out of order so the brain doesn’t know what’s next. What a great tip! I also get out the red pen and highlighter when going through my printed out pages. Will definitely give reading out of order a try the next round of edits, thanks!

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  2. All great tips! I have the hardest time reading my own work with fresh eyes, so it’s good to know a few extra hacks for when I need them (never would have thought to change the font!). Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used the print method a lot in grad school, especially with my thesis. But for some reason I don’t do it much with my fiction. I usually only print a story if I am handing it off to someone else. I wonder why. It is a very good method for editing. Great comments! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know first hand about reading something that is not there. I have utilized reading software (NaturalReader) but even with it, if you are tired, you can miss something. I made the mistake of putting out my first book without having it professionally edited. I’ll never do that again. I have had a red face more than once when I went back and read a blog or comment and found stupid errors. Thanks for sharing. BTW if you don’t use Grammary, I would recommend it. It is a great initial line of defense for a red face.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another good subject, K.M., especially for writers of my ilk. I edit my previous day’s work before moving ahead with the new day’s struggles. That’s simply how I operate. I can’t rush through an initial draft before going back for numbers 2, 3, and so on. It’s a slow process, but when finished, my draft is usually close to final. HOWEVER, working the way I do leaves one open to easily not being able to see the big, dead “tree” standing amongst the living “forest.” Time away can reveal that rotted tree which must come down. Or, another set of eyes. It’s amazing what can be overlooked while being read time and time again. Good post! 🙂
    –Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, Michael. I’m also an edit the next day writer, which makes the initial process slower. Time away definitely shows the issues. The trouble is taking that time, or a decent amount of time away, without feeling like you’re losing writing/editing time/progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I usually read it out loud – and I even do some accents while reading which is stupid as hell but I can’t help – and that straight away gives me a heads up on flow problems. I never print, just don’t have the money for a printer and for the ink and paper it begs, but even when I did print back in the day, it didn’t help much, doesn’t work for me. I do like to leave it alone for a while, and when I get back to it it already does get me fresh insight. But still, I’m bound to eff up a little every time ahahahh.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    Some easy ways to look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. I know for a fact that when I upload my chapters to my beta blog and read through them there, I see things I didn’t see in the doc file. Maybe some of these ideas will help you revise before sending your work off to your editor.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my gosh! This is such good advice. I never thought about changing the font…that’s an interesting idea. I’m definitely going to try it.
    Am I the only one who spends a good five minutes before writing a story picking out the right font? XD I feel like I can’t write the right story in the wrong font. Then again, you can’t exactly write supernatural horror in Comic Sans. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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