August 15, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Seven

Posted in Saturation, self-evaluation tagged , at 2:53 pm by Rebecca Hein

In cello practice, when I play through a piece to determine how close to performance level it is, I can usually get all the way through without the distractions that trouble me when reading through my writing.

What’s the difference? In music, I practice and play through a piece dozens or sometimes hundreds of times to prepare for a performance. In writing, I seldom read a piece that many times.

However, there’s no doubt that the more I do read one of my chapters or a larger section of my book, the less I’m bothered by details. When I do detect a minor error, I mark it and resume my read-through.

In this way I hone my writer’s listening skills, and because I’m “hearing” the bumps and rough spots, I’m also attuned to the details, so the saturation of reading the same piece many times is quite productive.


August 8, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Six

Posted in self-evaluation tagged , at 11:07 am by Rebecca Hein

To listen to your writing, you have to put yourself in a different frame of mind than when you’re editing it. In editing, we’re on the watch for errors in punctuation, style, and usage, whereas in listening we simply let our words flow past us.

This takes practice, but just imagine that you’re listening to a piece of music. Once you’re in the midst of your stream of words, your musical instincts—trained or not—will start working, and then you’ll detect your bumps and rough spots without even knowing how you’re doing it.

To cultivate this ability, it’s not necessary to know how it works. Just get started and see what happens.

August 1, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Five

Posted in self-evaluation tagged at 3:59 pm by Rebecca Hein

As we have seen, Ron Kenner’s excellent advice is to “listen for places [in our writing] that call out for more detail.” Or for smoother phrasing, more elegant wording, or clearer ideas.

You can learn to listen to your writing even if you don’t play a musical instrument, and thus are unaccustomed to listening to your own work. The first step is to understand that we all have musical instincts—the ability to hear sour notes, bumpy rhythms, or irregular pacing. This holds true regardless of whether we’re listening to music or to words.

July 25, 2012

Evaluating Our Own Work, Part Four

Posted in self-evaluation tagged , at 3:35 pm by Rebecca Hein

The most important advice I ever received about evaluating my own work was from Ron Kenner. He’d just finished editing what I thought was the final version of my book, A Case of Brilliance.

He said, “It feels thin.”

After struggling with my revisions for a few weeks, I called him and asked, “How can I tell where to fill it out without tearing it all down and starting over?”

“Just read it through and listen for the places that call out for more detail,” he replied.

It wasn’t quite that easy, but close. I did indeed find that I could listen to my writing the way I listened to my cello playing, and could tell where more work was needed.

July 18, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Three

Posted in self-evaluation tagged , at 6:42 pm by Rebecca Hein

Small problems like punctuation, style, and usage are not the only distractions in reading through our own work. Certainly they buzz around me like a cloud of gnats when I only want to focus on larger questions of structure and the content of my narrative.

The big question is, How does this flow, and am I on the right track yet? Probably I succeed in figuring this out eventually, yet I can’t seem to brush aside that cloud of gnats. Consequently my mind wants to scatter in fifty different directions when all I want to do is evaluate my latest piece of writing.

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