Polishing the Gem

Jewel 5by Gayle Bartos-Pool

Part FourContinuity


This is a very tough area to polish. Think of a road map to a destination. You know where you want your characters to go. You pick several roads. Some are clear-sailing, some bumpy, some are really rough going, but you think they will eventually get your characters to their goal. But what if one of those streets is a dead end? Or what if you end up on a street that circles back in another direction, but it doesn’t and won’t get your characters to where they were supposed to be going?

This is what a continuity editor does. He looks to see if there are holes in the plot, missing descriptions that might clarify a point you are trying to make, or if you just can’t get there from here.

This is what your beta readers just might point out, if you have a few, or what a continuity editor will discover, if you have the means to hire one. But if either of those possibilities is not available, you will have to do the work yourself. Is it hard? You bet. Is it impossible? Heck no.

There are actually a few ways to look at your work through different eyes… at least sort of different eyes or maybe ears. What do I mean? If your computer has a WORD program that has a Text to Speech feature, use it. Have the little voice read your manuscript back to you. The voice feature isn’t bad at all and it can even give inflection if you have a question mark or exclamation point. Have it read slow enough so that you can follow along like the member of an audience. It’s the actor reciting lines. You just listen. If that mechanical voice says something that you don’t understand, stop the program and go back over what you had written. Remember: that little voice reads only what’s on the page. It adds or takes away nothing. If the voice says something you don’t understand, and you wrote it, you better go back and rewrite it until you understand what the voice is saying to you.

It’s best to do this read-through a few days or even weeks after you finish your last draft. You want to distance yourself from the project and come at it as if it were all new to you. You might know the plot, but having the mechanical voice read it out loud after some days away from the project does make it seem fresher.

As the voice is reading you will be listening to the plot and character development from a different perspective. It’s really like fresh eyes, or in this case, ears, reviewing your work. Try to “stay in the moment” as the story is unfolding and listen for incongruities. Again, if it doesn’t make sense to you, the writer, it won’t make sense to the reader either.

If you don’t have a Text to Speech feature on your computer, ask a friend to read the book out loud to you. They can enjoy your book while you listen for things that don’t work. Your friend might even point out a few things that don’t quite hold together, too.

If you don’t have Text to Speech or a willing reader or a continuity editor, run off a copy of your book and sit down in another room and go through the book yourself. You can check for spelling and punctuation errors, change one word for another word, discover holes in the plot, and even rewrite portions because you thought of a better plot twist while re-reading your story. I usually go through my novels four separate times finding errors as well as picking a better word here and there. I have discovered goofy mistakes and few big errors that I fixed before the book saw the light of day.

No matter who you hire or the people you know who are willing to help you out with your editing, the ultimate responsibility is yours. Your name is on the book, not the copy editor or line editor, or college professor who said he would read your book or Aunt Mabel who loves to read and who said she would go over your manuscript for you. It’s your baby. Do the very best editing you can do. Go over it one more time after you think you’re finished, and then send it out to the world.

And even if an error slips past you, remember this: Only God is perfect. Do your best.


Parts Five & Six – Finding the Right Word & Picky Picky will be coming up in a few weeks.

Author: gbpool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (writing as G.B. Pool) writes three detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media Justice, Hedge Bet & Damning Evidence), The Johnny Casino Casebook Series, and the Chance McCoy detective series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Enchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier, The Santa Claus Singer, and three delightful holiday storied, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, and Every Castle Needs a Dragon. Also published: CAVERNS, Only in Hollywood, and Closer. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” (The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook and So You Want to be a Writer are available.) “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

21 thoughts on “Polishing the Gem”

  1. Thank you again, Gayle, for your exceptionally excellent advice that gives us a new perspective on writing. Hearing one’s words is surprisingly different to reading them, and often a wake-up call.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I started using Text to Speech years ago and it does work to catch parts that don’t make sense. The writer might understand the general idea, but a reader might not put the pieces together. That’s why I wait a week or so before I go through a piece and listen to it. That distance makes it a tad fresher.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Paul. I have actually found that these pointers work, especially the Text to Speech. A writer always needs other eyes or ears to see what is on the page, not what we think is on the page.


  3. I just recently had some of my books republished in audio. It’s really fun to hear them! And I hope not to find any glaring problems with them. Fortunately, they’ve all gone through the editorial process with good editors, and I like their print versions. Great post, Gayle!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All my novels and short story books are available on Kindle so people can listen to that little mechanical voice read them out loud. It isn’t the same as a professional voice actor reading them which would be wonderful, but it does get a book read while ironing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a valuable point you make, Gayle. Reviewing your finished manuscript in a different format such as printing the pages and text to speech will bring fresh eyes (or ears) to what you’ve written. Can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve caught that way. All excellent advice, particularly about perfection.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Jackie. The blog posts I have done over the past several years are in my latest book, So You Want To Be A Writer. I expanded on a few of them and have a few short stories in the back as examples because I actually practice what I teach…


    1. It is great to have beta readers, editors, or just friends who care to go over your work. It’s hard spotting those errors that we so often overlook. But self-editing a few times can eliminate some errors as well. Keep on trying.


  5. I’m deep in the throes of editing right now. What works for me is printing a copy and reading it out loud. I catch a lot of errors, repetition, and inconsistencies. Text to speech is a great tool, but I actually like my own voice better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will actually read the longer works out loud myself, Maggie. But I do have to wait about a week or do something to separate me from the work for a while so it sounds fresh even if I wrote it. But hearing is believing.

      Liked by 1 person

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