As I read through the book the first time, I became quite aware of the flow of the story and how the plot lines wove together. I ended up with two notebooks next to the computer. One with detailed notes about the manuscript I was working on, and another with brief notes reminding me to check on the same problems in my own work. After a second slower read through, I realized I was learning more about good writing in general.
Some of the things I caught that I need to go back and check for in my own are:
- Repeated words. Sometimes it is so easy to use the same word over and over again without even realizing it. After all, a dance is a dance. But with careful rewriting the same section can be written to use the words fewer times and will actually be more interesting to read. There are also an author's 'pet' words. As I read over mine this afternoon, I realized I use the words 'really' and 'finally' way too often. I have some work to do there.
- Show don't tell. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of just telling the story. In some ways it is more natural since that is how we often tell others about the things that happen in our lives.
- Dialogue. Written dialogue doesn't sound like spoken dialogue. When we talk to others we often throw in words like, 'uh', 'oh', 'um', but when those are used in a story, they slow down the flow of the conversation.
- Include all the important information. Often when I tell a story, I forget to put all the necessary facts in. I know all the background and forget that the reader doesn't. Sometimes I reread what I've written, I realize there are big holes that will leave the reader confused.