I've been driving a lot lately. The school I work at is nearly 20 miles away- and then I've been providing homebound instruction after that. More driving!
Thank goodness for books on MP3 player. (Your local library might have a few Playaways. Check. Them. Out.)
But I digress.
You know how you're always told to read your manuscript aloud when editing? Well, listening to other books has been eye-opening as well. Here's what has stood out to me:
Passive verbs are boring. Really. A bunch of passive verbs* sounds boring. The language is vanilla, but it often goes hand in hand with similarly constructed sentences. They all have "he/she/they - is/was/were" pattern. It's mind-numbing to listen to sentence after sentence like that. After a while, I'd end up fixing the sentences.
Aloud. To an empty car: "'The water sparkled.' Okay? Not 'The water was sparkling.'"
Aren't I glad no one was watching me.
Don't spend too much time describing your character's internal state. In one story, the author would occasionally give a physical description that showed what the character felt. And then he'd tell us what the character felt. And tell us again. Of course, this much-described emotion occurred during tense parts of the novel. So instead of finding out what happened next, I had to listen through several more sentences about the character's inner state.
I confess that such mistakes led to excessive eye rolling, an occasional pound on the steering wheel, and loud pleas to the author to just tell me what happened next, already.
Repeated words. I don't always notice if I read the same word in a paragraph.** But I sure notice when I hear it again and again. This also applies if only one word is used in a specific situation. Someone might always be referred to as foreboding, or mysterious, for instance. Time for a thesaurus, folks. If I know the word the author is going to use before I hear it, that word is waaaaaaayyy overused.
I've loved listening to books while I drive. If you're curious, I never stopped listening because of the above mistakes. I think it was partially because the plots were interesting, and partly because I was a captive audience.
None of the mistakes are new to me (or you, I imagine). However, it's one thing to tell or be told about those mistakes. It's different when you experience them. I don't want anyone who reads my story to have a similar reaction.
I'd love to know whether you read your manuscripts aloud and if that helps you. What do you notice? And if you do listen to books, are there any aspects of the writing that rub you the wrong way?
* any form of "to be": is, are, was, were, etc.
** My fellow Slushies would point out that I don't notice if I write the same word repeatedly.