While being able to pick up typos and Google the answer to any grammatical question is a modern godsend for writers, the one technological advance I’d like to have is the ability to see my work with fresh eyes.
Short of a future app that makes it possible, or a clichéd amnesic related accident, I’ll never be able to unread something that I’ve read (what feels like) a million times. This greatly limits my ability to edit without mercy. But where there is a will, there is a way, and here are some hacks that at least try to fake fresh eyes.
Change The Font
Simple yet effective, changing the font for your manuscript mixes it up in your brain. Different colors can’t hurt either, just don’t spend all day switching between Helvetica and Comic Sans and forget to actually do some editing. A totally different font to the one the original words were written in should be enough to help your eyes see your work in a fresh new way.
Print On Paper
This old-school tip not only gives your eyes a rest from staring at a screen all day but seeing your words on paper also carries the added bonus of making it easier to spot typos.
Have A Program Read It Out Loud
The future is here, at least in terms of apps that will read your work to you. Google text-to-speech and find a program that will read your words out loud, or into your headphones if you want to be discreet. It’s an excellent way to pick up issues of word flow or awkward paragraphs you might not necessarily find when relying on just your eyes.
Borrow Someone Else’s Eyes
No, we still aren’t there with technology yet, but you can give your manuscript to someone else to read. A different set of eyes is often the best way to find problem prose, and that doesn’t just include typos. Another set of eyes is another brain processing your work, one who thinks differently to you and reads differently to you. It’s another opinion on what isn’t working, how twisty the plot twists are, and the first impression of the characters—all of which is invaluable information for your next round of edits.
Read It Differently
Add your manuscript to your Kindle, iPad or phone. Sit outside if the weather is nice, or go to a cafe and order yourself some writer fuel and read while surrounded by the world. Anything that is different to the environment you’re usually in when writing will give your senses a shake-up and help you to see your manuscript in a different light.
Leave It Alone
Obviously, the best way to get fresh eyes is to have some time away from your work. That way your brain gets the chance to forget the majority of what is written. How long you leave your manuscript alone is a personal preference. Some writers insist that placing it in a drawer for a year is the best way to truly see your work with fresh eyes. If you can’t do that, leave it for a month, a week, or even one day if you’re really up against a deadline. Basically, any time away gives you fresh eyes—or at least it will until technology catches up.
— K.M. Allan