The Way To See It


I’ve read a ton of middle grade books throughout my childhood and career – many of them more than once. But my own stories are ones I’ve read dozens of times.

My first attempt at writing and editing a story many years ago stayed on the computer screen. Endless hours of refining words shining back on me. I’d often change the font or text size to make it appear different. I knew there had to be a better way.


By the time I began my second story I’d come across some advice to print your story out and see it in a different light. It was sure comfortable stretched out on the couch with pen in hand and making notes on each page. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t that much different.


Next I discovered reading a story out loud had its benefits. Doing so brought rough passages to my ears that I hadn’t noticed on the printed page. k13361278I have also used Natural Reader (a program for your computer) or often bribe the nearest warm body to read it out loud for me – very helpful.



That brings me back to the printed page. When I sit down and read published books (two this week!), they look a lot different than my manuscripts. I did an average of the last five published books I’ve read and found they average about 10 words per line. They are also arranged on facing pages. So… I adjusted the text and printed two pages on one sheet. (I did this in a PDF format but many other ways exist to create the same result). Now I could see it. A real book.

2 page

Like magic, reading in this new format was totally different. I saw the words, paragraphs, and pages in a different light.

Give it a try and maybe your own words will look as different as mine did.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
This entry was posted in Editing, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Way To See It

  1. Great tips, Greg, and that Natural Reader is a fun option (I had to try almost all the voices). I always print out my manuscripts after I consider them pretty much done and then polish them a few more times. The shrunken manuscript works well, too (invented by Darcy Pattison). In a tiny font size, print out your whole book (single spaced with small margins) onto about 30 pages, so that you can spread them out on the floor and see the entire book at once. Using different colored highlighters, you can keep track of dialogue, action, etc. and with one glance discover which pages are weaker or stronger than others. Works well for pacing. I like your double page idea, too.

    • Thanks, Marcia. I will sometimes do something similar by reducing the page size in Word to 25%. You can’t see the words but it’s easy to spot layout problems with large paragraphs.

  2. Wow. Great tips in this and even in the comment from Marcia. Thanks for the post.

  3. keats0810 says:

    I had the same problem as you before. Even printed, it still looked like a computer screen. But as I started reading more e-books, I came upon Amazon’s send to kindle program and it helped wonders. After every edit, I can send a new copy to my kindle and still make notations using their program. I guess if you aren’t much of an e-reader it may not work, though.

  4. diegosdragon says:

    These are all great techniques. I am always in revision mode, but I also have a killer critique group. They are merciless and have made the Diego’s Dragon books far better reads. I feel fortunate to have found them. Happy New Year to all!

  5. Interesting ideas. With picture books we make mock-up dummies to see how our story look, are the breaks just right etc. And, we think visually. Much different process.

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