I’m sure you can write from different points of view. Can you read your work from different points of view? Can you put yourself in a place where your work is a stranger, and you’re seeing it through a specific person’s eyes?
And I need to say upfront that when I use the word “read” below, I actually mean a combination of reading, writing, and editing, all put together.
First, I read it as me, as a woman. I imagine my lonelier moments, particularly when I was sick and lonely in my twenties, because I always hope my characters can be friends to those who are having a rough time of things.
Then I try to read it as someone who has zero attention span. This is also easy for me, as I have the shortest attention span in the universe. Okay, not the shortest. But it’s pretty bad. And anytime my attention wanders or I start skimming, I cut and edit and re-write.
Somewhere in there, I try to read it as a copyeditor. I think copyeditors are the coolest, so I invariably end up reading half of the Chicago Manual just for fun, just to double check nit-picky things. Even though I tend not to use the serial comma that it suggests.
I read as both my target readers and my fringe readers. Pseudonym gets mostly middle-aged women, but also quite a few in their twenties, with a sprinkling of men. I think of what they want to get out of my story, and I read to see if I’m giving them that. For my NaNo novel, I’m imagining teenagers to college-aged reading it.
And then I imagine someone who reads my first sentence and hates my voice. Passionately. In fact, even before they get to the first sentence, they are prejudiced against me. They don’t want to like my story. In fact, they can’t wait to hate it and point out all of its flaws. They approach my story with reluctance; my world-building with skepticism.
For them, it’s personal. They don’t like me. If I’m writing in first person, they hate first person on principle. In fact, for them, it’s a pet peeve.
That’s when I make sure hooks are planted, questions are unanswered, and suspense is willing the reader forward. I trim every sentence. I try to make it so that reader can’t help but keep reading.
When my imaginary readers fail me, I beg for real readers, LOL.
Lately, I’ve also been visualizing my story as a graphic novel. I don’t know why. But when I do that, it’s very clear when the pacing falls flat, when I’m thinking aloud too much.
So how do you read your story? Which “skins” do you put on when reading your story? Whose eyes do you read with? How do you edit? How do you decide what goes and what stays?