Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writing Out Loud

Objectivity isn't easy when you're dealing with your own creation. We try, of course. We know it's necessary for the truly effective editing, revising, rewriting phase. We put the freshly shiny manuscript aside and let it perk, we ignore it, we try to fall in love with a new story before approaching it again. But the words on the paper are still ours. Even though the "set it aside for some distance" strategy works (and I highly recommend it) we're still so close to our words. Deep down, we still gloss over them.

They are very hard to see clearly.

It turns out what really helps bring them into focus is to HEAR them. A lot of people suggest reading your work out loud, I know. But for years I took this advice in, processed it, considered it, acknowledged its validity and then consistently ignored it. I mean, it's embarrassing, talking to yourself. Even completely alone, I found it uncomfortable to read out loud. I got the theory, but to actually do it seemed silly, goofy, possibly slightly insane.

Then I signed up to do a public reading. (eep) After my initial panic attack subsided, I started to practice. I read and re-read. I recorded. I read to the mirror, to my family, to anyone I could get to sit still for me. Nothing like the fear of looking stupid in public to motivate me, let me tell you.

And despite the fact that I survived this public reading thing, (and even actually enjoyed it) the big revelation in the process was how much crud I discovered hiding in my manuscript. I found goofs I'd never seen. I found typos. I could hear the rhythm of the story and even when I didn't find an error, I found a thing or two I'd have liked to word differently.

I'll be damned.

I hate it when that happens. I mean, if I'd taken the stupid advice years ago....well, you get it. Reading out loud works. It works really well. I highly recommend it, but then, so did everyone else long before I came around. Will I read everything I write aloud from now on? I doubt I'm that devoted, but I might give it a try.

I'll definitely be talking to myself more than usual. Edit, edit, edit, read!


  1. I always feel like a nincompoop reading out loud, but I try to imagine it like I'm reading out loud to my daughter (and I've spent YEARS doing that, so...). It helped get over the discomfort, and I found a lot of clumsy wordings, difficult sentence structures, and other problems in my own writing. The only difference is I can fix them in my draft before I have to show them to anyone else. :)

  2. Agreed, Laura. I'm just going to have to suck it up and get over the weird feeling...that or read in a closet. Either way, there's just nothing like it for spotting things you'd change. Definitely better to find them in draft stage than post published!

  3. Yeesh, I had a similar experience once, where I read out loud something I thought was brilliant, and suddenly I could HEAR all the places that didn't sound natural, that needed an edit. I grudgingly admit I don't read things out loud to myself still, but this post had made me think about doing it again.


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