You’ve probably heard the advice, “Read your writing out loud.” And you probably know why it’s so important, but just in case you don’t—our eyes tend to gloss over mistakes. When you’re reading on paper or on the computer screen, your brain makes assumptions. We think about what should be there, not necessarily what is there.
Reading aloud adds a whole new dimension to the writing experience. Our ears catch mistakes that the eyes missed. Most importantly, we hear when something is off. Whether it’s a wordy sentence, a bad cliche, or off-beat dialogue—we’re more likely to notice it with our ears than our eyes.
But if you’re like me, reading my own stories only works to an extent. Because I know what’s supposed to be there, I might go ahead and verbalize it in that fantasy way.
The obvious solution? Have someone else read it out loud, preferably someone who hasn’t read it beforehand. That way you get the bonus of fresh eyes along with the auditory advantages mentioned above.
So, I very sweetly asked my husband if he would read THE RIVER’S EDGE aloud to me. He very sweetly said yes! Which is generous of him, because it’s no easy feat. It takes a lot of vocal power to read 75,000 words (not that he has to read all of them in one sitting, but you know what I mean). I’m amazed by audiobook performers—I would be exhausted after every recording! Anyone who’s had a child beg you to read a story over and over and over again will have an inkling of the energy required.
Yesterday my husband started his gig as audiobook artist. We discovered he can read about 3500 words before he gets too tired. Even before that, his voice starts to drone! But that’s fine—I’m still reaping the benefits.
While he reads, I sit next to him and close my eyes, trying to soak in every word’s impact. If I hear a problem, I jot down a reminder on a Post-It note so I can fix it later. Occasionally he’ll stop and comment on something, but mostly he keeps reading and getting into the story.
I am a big fan of audiobooks, as most of you know, and sometimes I dream about a story of mine becoming an audiobook. This may be the closest I ever get to that dream, and believe me—it’s an incredible feeling to hear your novel from the mouth of someone else.
The best part: I’m finding mistakes I hadn’t noticed before and thinking of ways to improve the narrative. Plus it’s a rare opportunity for my husband and I to connect via writing. He’s not a big fiction reader, so for him to read my book and like it . . . well, that makes me smile.
I challenge you to find someone—a family member, friend, critique partner, therapist, whoever!—who will read your writing to you. If you can’t bribe anyone (or you’re too shy to ask), the next best thing is to record yourself reading it, then go back and listen to it later. But like I mentioned before, you won’t have the benefit of fresh eyes if you’re the one reading. Still, it’s worth the effort. Your story will thank you.