Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Improve Your Writing By Reading Your Work Out Loud

I’m always surprised at how many writers, both novice and experienced, confess that they never read their work out loud. They say it’s embarrassing or a waste of time or that they don’t like the sound of their own voice. But whether you’re working on an essay, a short story or book-length work, this can be one of the most helpful methods of self-editing. It doesn’t cost a thing and is a highly instructive exercise.

Reading your writing out loud can uncover the smallest errors on up to major plot point issues. It can also improve your rhythm and pacing and make you aware of wordiness and over-writing. And if you stumble or skip over a passage while you’re reading, chances are it needs rewriting or perhaps cutting out altogether. You may even discover things about your characters that will help you flesh them out in revision. Try using different voices for different characters. Imitate what you’ve heard on a great audio book. Have fun with it!

You can also try recording your voice and listening back or reading out loud to someone else. Or have someone else read your work to you (but make sure they’re a decent reader!).

Here’s a list of just some of the things you’ll be attuned to when you read your work out loud:

~ using the same word(s) in close proximity
~ stilted or unnecessary dialog
~ boring or dead descriptions
~ incorrect use of words (“illicit” when you meant “elicit,” or “inherit” when you meant “inherent”)
~ awkward language
~ calling a character the wrong name
~ plot holes
~ dropped characters
~ places where you don’t provide info
~ places where you provide too much info
~ overuse of the same style of sentence
~ discovery of your “pet” words and phrases
~ inconsistent or “head-hopping” points of view
~ scenes that tend to take place in the same type of surroundings (e.g., restaurants, coffee houses, etc.)
~ characters talking in similar styles

and more.

If you find that you’re making edits on your hard copy (or on the computer) while you’re reading out loud, you’ll know that it’s working.

Give it a shot!

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