9 Things I’m Still Learning from the “Big Read” Experience

“Read me and weep”

I’ve done it again—I finished a draft of my WIP (work-in-progress), printed it out, and did the Big Read. I noticed the following similarities and differences from the time I reached this point with a previous manuscript.

  • It’s still like to see the book printed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper.

It feels more real when the manuscript is printed out, versus seeing it on the computer screen. No, the pages aren’t bound into a paperback, and there isn’t a pretty, shiny cover. But it has weight and height and depth and flipping through the pages is kinda nice.

  • Doing the Big Read still isn’t easy.

I’ve read posts online that say you should read through the printed version in one or two sittings before making edits. I can’t seem to do that. My inner editor won’t let me. (She’s so mean sometimes.)

It took about six days to mark the whole thing up with my hand-dandy blue pen. I’ll make no bones about it, going through the Big Read was a bit of a slog, like last time. I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to look at the manuscript with a critical eye, which is less than a confidence booster. I know that that the outcome makes my work better, so I’m not sure why it feels like a slog-fest. Do you have any tips to share on how to get past that feeling?

Blue-pen edits are friendlier than red-pen ones.
  • I caught more things than I did last time. I need to work on:
    • Setting development
      • I need to add a few lines at the beginning of each chapter, and interspersed throughout, to ground the reader more—let them step into the world, see it, feel it, touch it, taste it, etc. This is probably where I can use the most improvement with my writing.
    • Minimizing use of crutch words, like…
      • so
      • that
      • just
      • realized
      • felt

Check out this video: 29 Words to Cut from Your Novel by Vivien Reis

    • Stripping out adverbs
    • Decreasing alternatives for “said” as dialogue tags
      • I thought it was good to avoid over-using the word “said.” However, I recently read over and over again that too many “said” alternatives is considered amateurish. It’s also very distracting for the reader. I’ve taken out subpar phrases like, “she cajoled,” and put back the word “said.”
    • Addressing plot holes
      • There are a couple of loose threads that need to be fixed. I made placeholder notes on my print-out to indicate where I should fill things in when I’m ready to start typing again.
    • Developing the non-physical attraction between the hero and heroine
      • I need to add more moments between the hero and heroine of my romance novel, where they are learning from each other and/or helping one another. This will show how their relationship is growing on a deeper level.
  • When it’s time to begin incorporating the edits onto my computer, I need to take it one step at at time.

This is where I need somebody like Drew Brees to hype me up with pre-game motivational chants. But Drew isn’t returning my calls, so I have to fend for myself. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I conjure up the phrase “Bird by Bird,” and how simple and perfect it is.

I need to take things one step at a time, one page at a time, one chapter at at time, until it’s done.

What have you learned after printing out your WIP and doing the Big Read?



Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

2 thoughts on “9 Things I’m Still Learning from the “Big Read” Experience

  1. Congratulations on printing and doing a big read! I don’t have specific advice since I’ve never written a book-length work. But I do know that every time I printed my master’s thesis (the longest document I have written), I knew it would be covered with ink but that it was improving every time. That usually allowed me to stop the self-critical voice. Do you have some “beta readers” lined up to give you some feedback?

    Liked by 1 person

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