My Three Addictions (6)

Further about my addiction to writing: I’m not systematic or disciplined in my writing. When I’m deep into a story, I may spend as much as fourteen hours a day writing. Other days, I don’t write at all. I let my muse—my inner voice—dictate my writing schedule.

The revision system that works best for me is to read the text first on the screen of the computer, then in printed form. For reasons I’ve never been able to divine, the two methods point up different problems. I let the text “cool” between revisions so I can come back to it with fresh perspective.

I cut everything that doesn’t do the job. That can mean a sentence, paragraph, or even a chapter. Whenever possible, I tell the story through action or dialogue, sometimes both at the same time. I have tried many different points of view (POV). The one(s) I choose for a given story or novel depends on the nature of the story. The POV I have used least often is the so-called “God’s-eye” POV, where the reader hears the story from perspective of an unseen observer who has access to the internal thinking of all the characters.

When I am satisfied with the text, I read it aloud, first from the computer screen, then from the printed page. Or sometimes I record myself reading and listen to the way the text sounds. Or occasionally, when I can find someone willing to spend the time, I have someone else read the text to me.

Hearing the words read aloud offers a unique insight into the how well the text works. It helps me find clumsy wording, unnecessarily formal structures, repeated use of vocabulary, awkward paragraphing, long sentences. I hear nuances and implications I would otherwise miss.

Most of all, reading aloud brings out the poetry—or lack of it—in the phrasing. It underlines the emotional sense of the words. It highlights the subtle shifts in feeling as the story progresses.

And it lets me hear the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, the tension, passion, and peacefulness of the words. Once again, it is the sound that matters. It is what the reader is hearing in his inner ear.

So all three of my addictions—music, languages, and writing—reside in sound. That is where my soul is. And if I become completely deaf, I’ll still hear with my inner ear.

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