Monday, June 18, 2018

Reading Loud and Proud

If you’re trying to get the right rhythm for your writing and make it seem completely natural for the reader, one of the best things you can do is to read it out loud. This might seem a daunting and time-consuming prospect at first, but it really can work wonders by helping you see where you’re getting it right and pinpointing any weak spots.

A key benefit is helping you identify overlong sentences, which can drain the reader’s energy and make reading seem like a chore. We often don’t realise we’re elaborating at too much length when we’re concerned with getting all our ideas down, but if you read the material out loud and find yourself running out of breath, it’s a sure sign that you need to break that sentence up somehow.

A simple benefit of reading out loud is that it will reveal where your syntax may be clunky and need smoothing out. It may not be immediately obvious when reading it in black and white, but if you end up tripping over the words when reading it out, you’ll know that area is slightly weaker and can make notes for where revisions are due.

In addition, brevity is something you should always be aiming for in your work, as a rule of thumb. Less is more – just give the audience what they want to know. If you’re reading a certain section and it becomes tiresome and repetitive to do so, you’ll know some trimming is in order.

Let’s look at some of the various approaches to reading your work out loud…

·        Simply read a few paragraphs to yourself to get a feel for the flow.

·        Record your reading, perhaps on your phone or using a speech recording device online. Some options include Online Voice Recorder, which allows you to record your voice as an MP3, and you can also edit the files. Vocaroo and Clyp are simple tools that record and play back your voice instantly, and all of the above are free to use. While some find it an odd experience to listen to their own voice, hopefully you can move past that to focus on how the material is coming across. The good thing about this approach is that you can pause and listen to key sections several times, making notes on how certain sentences could be improved.

·       Use a speech reader that comes with your computer. May be the way to go if you can’t get over the cringe factor!

·       An excellent tip is to read your work to an audience. It doesn’t have to be a large group, which can definitely be intimidating for many people. A close friend or family member, who you can trust to be honest in their appraisal of your performance, is ideal. A key benefit of all this is that it prepares you for public readings in front of a larger audience.

·       Another option for reaching an audience without actually being “in front of” people is to set up a YouTube channel. Read snippets from your books or even exclusive flash fiction pieces. Ask for feedback via comments.

I haven’t actually done too much of this myself yet, but I hear it works wonders for many people. What about you? Do you read your work out loud, how do you go about that, and has it helped you refine your work?

The next #IWSGPit is Thursday, July 19, 2018! 
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time 

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On July 19, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.


Writers may send out 1 Twitter pitch every hour per manuscript.

Publishers/Agents will favorite/heart pitches they are interested in. Publishers can either Tweet basic submission guidelines or direct writers to their submission guidelines. (Writers, please do not favorite/heart pitches.)

No images allowed in pitches.

Pitches must include GENRE/AGE and the hashtag #IWSGPit.

#C - children’s
#MG - middle grade
#YA - young adult
#NA - new adult
#A - adult
#AD - adventure
#CF - Christian fiction
#CO - contemporary
#F - fantasy
#H - horror
#HI - historical
#LF - literary fiction
#MCT - mystery/crime/thriller
#ME - memoir
#NF - non-fiction
#PB - picture book
#PN - paranormal
#R - romance
#SF - sci-fi
#WF - women's fiction


nashvillecats2 said...

Never thought of recording what I have written.... makes alot of sense.
Thanks for sharing your idea.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Recording it is a good idea. Read once, play back multiple times to find the sluggish spots. Especially in dialogue.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Even just reading it to your cat helps. LOL

Christine Rains said...

Great tips, Nick! Sometimes I do read dialogue out loud. I wonder if the cat thinks I'm talking to him instead!

Juneta key said...

I like to use one of those text to speech apps free online or with another app to read it back to me so I can hear how it sounds. I believe Word has a new feature that does it now too. Windows also does it but the free online apps are not bad but you have to copy and paste to use them.

Great tips.

Computer Tutor said...

One of my favorite free readers in MSWord (2016)--their native tool. It's better than several I tried out on a fee basis.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - yes I totally agree ... it makes sense to see if your book reads easily and engages. I try and do that with my posts ... but a book I've not tried. Interesting what Jacqui says ... I guess one could talk to the fly on the wall too - cheers Hilary

Heather M. Gardner said...

Great ideas! I like to read my story out loud. It really helps!


Tyrean Martinson said...

These are great tips, Nick! Thanks for sharing them.

Pat Hatt said...

I do it a lot more for the kids books than novels.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips, Nick. For my job as a contract writer, I read aloud all of my articles once to listen for errors I might not catch.

Roland Clarke said...

I like the idea of reading out loud - I used to do that some years ago. But I now struggle (due to my disability) so it will have to be Word - if it agrees.

Nick Wilford said...

Yvonne - Thanks! It would be really useful for poetry, too.

Alex - It can be hard to make dialogue convincing when it's only written down.

Diane - At least that's a non-judgemental audience (kind of!)

Christine - Seems we have a lot of bemused cats out there!

Juneta - I haven't used those yet. It would definitely be clearer than me reading it.

Jacqui - Thanks for the tip. I need to use it more.

Hilary - It is time consuming to do a whole book, but it's good to try out key sections.

Heather, Tyrean - Thanks!

Pat - That makes sense because we read to kids so much. It's got to sound fun and punchy.

Natalie - So easy to miss errors if we're scanning over them in print.

Roland - That's why voice readers are good. I hope Word plays nicely!

dolorah said...

I don't always have a crit partner, so I've found reading aloud really does identify a lot of errors.

Mark said...

Reading aloud definitely helps. Although it can make your voice sore after a few chapters:)

Bryan J. Fagan said...

I've heard people doing this and every time I do most of the comments are positive. Writers tend to have really good results from this. I've never tried it but maybe I should start.

EliasM said...

Great topic. Nothing improved my writing as quickly as reading aloud.

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Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I don't read a lot of my work out loud to myself, but when I can't get a sentence or paragraph just right, I do read it to myself. It really does help.