Writing Advice: First Read-Throughs

by eatonhamilton

Make your first read an out loud read to yourself.  You’ll hear things you won’t in a silent go-through.

But what comes next?

Read to someone else.

The first time a new writer shares a piece, whether she’s handed over pages or a link or read her work aloud, her ears flare red and her heart thumps.  Every mistake (mistakes she was probably unaware of just seconds earlier)–a laboured image, an accidentally repeated word–feels as painful as a twisted arm.  Now her friend/lover/editor/agent knows what she suspected all along–she is bad, so bad that she should get aversion therapy, shocks every time she tries to slip envelopes into a post box or tries to hit “send” on Submittable.

What once was finished has grown fangs, turned and bitten her.

I used to drive my ex around the twist.  “What do you want from me?” she’d plead when I finished reading a new piece, and I was puzzled, too; what did I want?  Something, urgently, but what?  It was only over time that I discovered that I didn’t really need her reaction.  What I needed was just to hear myself reading the piece with someone else’s attuned (long-suffering) ear in the room, because this second set of ears became, by its alchemy of distancing, critiquing ears for me.  Then I could go back and rework.

And rework.  And rework.

Before critiquing and edits.