The Magic of the Read-aloud Pass–and the Following One

read_aloudYou’ve probably read this before, but let me chime in. Reading your work aloud is incredible. Writing that I would’ve sworn was as good as I could make it went through far more minor surgery than I would have ever thought possible.

In one novel, I found an entire paragraph with unintended rhymes. It was easy to overlook because some of them didn’t come at sentence breaks, but rather at commas. I didn’t find any unnecessary thats, but I did find a few that needed to be put back in. It just didn’t flow right without them.

I also found repeated words, typos, weak verbs, and excess commas. A few restatements that were unnecessary. I was appalled. I’m good at catching this sort of thing. But reading aloud is a sure way to find those details your eye glazes right over.

And there’s nothing like it for ensuring your writing is actually in your voice. I highly recommend beta readers and getting online critique, and I’ve learned a great deal from that process. But there is such a thing as too much feedback. On my first novel, Hans and Greta, I had seven beta readers, plus a story editor. The story editor was the one who warned me my voice was getting erased. *sigh* I used an older version of my novel to put some choice bits back in, but reading it aloud is proving invaluable to making sure that I sound like, well, me.

And this isn’t just for novels. Read your short stories, essays, and blog posts aloud, too. Anything that’s going into the wide world can benefit from this attention. If nothing else, it makes me more certain that it is my best work.

Also, as an interesting scientific sidebar, www.readaloudtechnology.com has an interesting brain scan of people reading aloud. Apparently, it’s one of the greatest stimulators of brain activity, along with exercise. So you’re safeguarding your brain from decay as well. Who would have thought it? (Today’s image also comes from that site.)

And I’ll add something I haven’t read anywhere else. Do another silent pass on top of the read-aloud one. I didn’t notice it as much with my short stories, but my novels ended up with too many short sentences. It was my natural speaking voice, but it differed in places from my writing voice. I ended up replacing some of my sentence breaks with commas and em dashes for better flow. Ultimately, my work (and yours) will mostly be read silently, and it needs to have a satisfying flow there, too.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I read this post aloud. I replaced a weak verb, eliminated a that and a restatement, and found several words that repeated too often. 🙂

Avid writer and reader, especially of fantasy. Learning about social networking and always interested in honing my writing skills. Contact me at cathleentownsend.com.

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8 comments on “The Magic of the Read-aloud Pass–and the Following One
  1. You definitely hit the benefits of reading aloud on the head. I especially like to do that with my short stories because the length can mean small things get lost. After all, when I know every paragraph, my eyes can skip over whole sentences without noticing, but they can’t when I read the work aloud. With a book, I don’t remember each line as clearly, so I’m not as worried about that.

    I’ve also found just changing the font is a huge game-changer. If I’m too used to reading something in Times New Roman, seeing it in Calibri or Goudy can make a huge difference, making certain word shapes jump differently. The first time I did that made me see a manuscript I’d read too many times to count in a whole new fashion.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great tips, Cathleen! Sharing on Twitter & Pinterest. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I should do this more often! I typically don’t read my work aloud unless I’m in a writing workshop or something. But I should get in the habit of reading my work aloud to myself; lately I’ve found a lot of dumb typos in my writing. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Stephanie, Bette, and Brigid. 🙂

    I’ve noticed that changing fonts can be helpful, too. I usually switch to a sans serif font, since my default is Times New Roman.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Cathleen. I’m a big fan of and active participant in the read-aloud program. Interesting how you noted that one’s voice comes through with reading aloud more than any other review strategy. (Guess what I just read out loud?)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I see a lot of people recommend doing that. I havent done it before, but i’ll give it a try on a forthcoming project.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the attagirl, Sharon. And Lion, give it a try. I put it off for the longest time, but when I published Dragon Hoard, I tried it for the first time. It’s incredibly slow and frustrating, but it’s time well spent. 🙂

    Like

  8. I’ve seen this recommendation oodles of time but keep forgetting to DO it. o_O

    Like

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