You’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. 🙂