Day 9: Polish

Finally, you can sink down to the line-level. Tinker with words to your heart’s delight. Polish those puppies. Do you love this stage? I do. It might be my favorite part of writing.

Early in the regimen, you read an article by Lev Grossman, in which he talked about ways to create the critical distance necessary to see your work with a cold and calculating eye. I’ll add one suggestion to his mix, and ask that you try it out today: Read your work out loud.

When you read your work inside your head—especially once you know it well—you don’t always read the words as they actually appear on the page. You give yourself credit for what you meant to say, instead of what you actually did say. Your brain fudges it for you, and most of the time you won’t even realize it’s doing it.

But if you read your words out loud, you’re more likely to see and say what is actually on the page. Also, you’ll be more attuned to clunkiness and awkwardness in your writing. And with a little luck, this exercise will give you enough critical distance that you’ll realize something about your manuscript you hadn’t seen before. Oh, man! I forgot to mention that Dave is a dog!

Read: Your manuscript, aloud. Make those little changes you’ve been dying to make. Be a dachshund, man. As you change those little parts, though, be mindful of how it affects the whole. Sniff those lines, but levitate periodically to see the whole thing. So I guess what I’m saying is: Be a hawkshund. Be the best fucking hawkshund you can be.


How did this exercise go?

What surprised you?

In the process of reading aloud, did you realize anything about your manuscript that you hadn’t seen before?