Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reading like a Writer: Nook Style

Some of my newest minions may not know this about me, but I can't stop talking up my Nook.

It's no secret that I love being able to scroll to change pages, read for hours without my hands cramping, to sideload library books, and—most importantly—my manuscript. (On an unrelated note, I vacillated like a mofo on whether to use an Oxford comma there, or leave it out. I think it adds a much needed dramatic pause, so I kept it in. Viva la comma d'Oxford!)

Though I'm a big advocate of printing out my manuscript, or reading it aloud, I think transferring it to another device, like an e-reader, does the same job. Just by shifting the format of the words I've been staring at for months (years?), editing suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting. I don't know about y'all, but after a while, I stop *seeing* the words. It's more like I'm aware of them. They don't have the impact they should. And if my words have no impact on me, how am I supposed to tell if they'll have an impact on anyone else?

So here's where the e-reader comes in. When I read my manuscript on an e-reader, it feels more like a real book. (Same goes for printing, but I know ink and paper are of the essence for some folk) So when I read, I'm—hopefully—being pulled into the world I've created with my words. Usually, glaring style issues I've unwittingly been ignoring make themselves apparent: too much repetition of sentence structure, weak transitions from one sentence to another, and even pacing problems.

Mostly what I've noticed is that I can let myself enjoy the words, the way they sound, the images they conjure, much more when it feels much more like a real story. I mean, who hasn't been reading a great book, when suddenly, you're thrown out of the story by a strange turn of phrase, or repetitive sentence structure? It's those little things that can help make or break your novel when it comes to finding an agent, or later, an editor. These are craft issues, which I took fairly seriously before, but only because I was still learning. Now, even though I feel more comfortable with my style, I put even more emphasis on the way the words come together.

Anyone can "tell" a story. I want my readers to smell the mildew in the Louisiana air, sense the chill of witch magic, and feel along with my characters.

How do you get yourself out of the editing rut? Read aloud? Print? Write everything on Post-its? I'd love to hear it!


JEM said...

You're in my brain! I actually did this for the partner-in-crime the other day, since he's got a Kindle (I'm a nook girl myself). But before I gave it to him, I found myself reading through the story myself on the Kindle, and it was a bizarre experience. For me, it was the act of putting it in a real book format and seeing it in the same space that I'm used to seeing published works. It made me take my work much more seriously, and I was able to put a more critical eye to it. I also recommended to one of my critique group members who didn't have an ereader to format her manuscript in book layout by changing the margins. I think it achieves the same effect of resetting the expectations of the words we're looking at. If nothing else, you can figure out when your paragraphs are too long.

Krispy said...

Firstly, congrats on making it through 48HourDark. :)

Secondly, yes, I agree with you! I think it's the change in format that helps when you're reading something for the hundredth time. Even just changing the font and spacing a little. It's that visual shift that I think pushes the brain to alertness.

I do like reading things on paper though because then I can mark mistakes or changes right away.

Jenna Cooper said...

I'd love a nook! I can definitely see the benefits of it, and I never even thought about editing on it until you mentioned it.

Julie Musil said...

I don't own an e-reader, but this would be the main reason I'd buy one. Both of my critique partners view their own manuscripts on their Kindles, and they say it helps them so much.

j. littlejohn said...

Have you used the Kindle? Do you have a preference still to the Nook?

Tere Kirkland said...

JEM, I think you're right that the format makes a huge difference, breaking up the hypnotic rows of words you've been staring at for so long. Definitely makes the eye more critical, just by breaking out of a rut.

Jenna, I love the nook for so many reasons, but this one was definitely an unexpected plus!

Julie, it really does help me "see" the words again, take them more seriously, I guess. Lately my ms is the only thing I've been reading on my nook, since I have so many ARCs still from ALA, so I think I use it at least three times a week even when I'm not reading.

JL, I have only used my coworker's Kindle to skim through a book, but for reading, I think I like my nook. I love scrolling to change pages.

For ms critting, however, the nook highlight function is not as helpful since it doesn't allow you to add notes. But I'm usually taking notes on paper, since I get the ideas out faster and I can get back into the writing more quickly, so I'm not sure if a Kindle would really be much better for me in that regard.

Tere Kirkland said...

Krispy, crap, I totally skipped you there. Don't hate me! ;)

I do prefer paper for that last big revision for the same reason you do. It's just easier to make notes right where you want to make the changes and work from that hard copy to change the ms. And it's easier to see the big picture. A hard copy to revise on is the way to go, or it would be if it didn't use so much paper and ink.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I use my iPod Touch as an eReader, but it doesn't work for reading my ms. I read out loud off the computer screen during edits/revisions, and once in awhile, print it off to read out loud. I also change font which helps me catch issues (including typo). :D

Alexandra Shostak said...

I definitely read aloud to get out of the editing rut, though sometimes I have to admit the sound of my own voice is very off-putting and doesn't always help.

(I usually end up going with the Oxford comma, by the way. For whatever reason, if I don't use it then the last two things in the list look like they GO together more than they should.)