Silence is Not Golden When It Comes to Your Writing

Do you read your writing aloud during one of the editing stages? You should. Really, you should. This past week, I read aloud my novel-in-progress from beginning to end. This was after I’d completed three edit rounds. So, you’d think listening to my book would not be painful, right? (Cue maniacal laughter.)

Granted my three edits were not in depth and the third was definitely rushed because I had a “deadline”. My alpha reader is a very busy woman. I knew she would have a brief lull after she finished writing her fourth novel and I wanted to take advantage of that, so after the third edit I sent my WIP off to her knowing it wasn’t perfect, but thinking it was presentable.

Immediately after that, I started another edit by reading aloud. Holy clunkeroos! I don’t know how I manage to convolute sentences the way I do. I also don’t understand how I can silently read those same sentences several times and not see they’re pretzels.

Halfway through the fourth edit, I apologized to my alpha for sending the file too soon. Lucky for me, she hadn’t started reading yet, so I read, read, read from morning to night for two more days and finished in time to send her a cleaner draft. I’m sure she’ll still have plenty of changes to suggest, but at least she won’t have had to puzzle out many sentences.

Anyway, if you don’t already, try reading your work aloud. You’ll be surprised what you hear that you didn’t see.

24 thoughts on “Silence is Not Golden When It Comes to Your Writing

      1. Ah, good call with the hot tea. I believe honey is also good for a sore throat. I got that a lot my first few weeks teaching English in Korea, because I wasn’t used to speaking for 8 hours straight a day. My solution was much the same as yours – rest and drink tea. And what do you mean, 84,000 isn’t a long book? That’s incredibly long, especially if you’re reading every word aloud! Consider me impressed.

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  1. That is very interesting. I’ll bet there is a lot of truth in that bit of wisdom. Occasionally, though, I love to read complex pretzels. When someone is a truly fluid writer, they can write things better than can be said aloud. I’ve seen it in Henry James, in Virginia Wolf. Sometimes it’s just hideous when writers are showing off, but other times it’s like Mozart. Don’t you think so?

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    1. I agree, Robin. Don’t misunderstand my pretzel comment. I don’t consider a lovely, long, well-punctuated sentence a pretzel. I’m talking about sentences with, for instance, the clauses in the wrong order, which not only complicates the reading, but also the comprehension. Sentences like those don’t create music. 🙂

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  2. I not only read aloud but I make my kindle read it to me too. Yeah, you can find some interesting things when you read it out loud. It is laughable. I got my ms back from the copy editor and did a mental headsmack, how did all that get past me AND another editor. It funny how our brains autocorrect without us knowing it.

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    1. Our brains do indeed, Dana. I’m notorious for introducing more errors when I edit, so on my last edit every time I make a change I read each word of the sentence slowly to make sure I’m not glossing over a typo.

      You must have some deluxe electronic voice on your Kindle. I can’t stand the erratic tempo and intonation on mine. And the “guy” pronounces Jalal’s name about six different ways. 🙂

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      1. No, I’m pretty sure my kindle has the same voice as yours. 🙂 And yes, the erratic tempo is a little annoying, but I do find that it still helps. Although it does not replace reading it aloud to myself.

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  3. Hi, Linda. I know exactly what you mean by this point of yours. I have noticed this, too. I find it hard to read the whole thing aloud, but if I find an area where I am unsure, I use this device. It’s amazing how much we can find wrong when we do this.
    Thanks for your peptalk today on my blog. I really appreciate it. Good luck to both of us indeed! Don’t forget. When you finish that thing, let’s get together. I would love to pick you brain…
    Have a great week.

    -Jimmy

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    1. You’re welcome, Jimmy. 🙂 I hope someday we’ll both have so many fans we won’t need peptalks, but for now we writers have to keep each other going.

      Pick my brain? Does that mean you have a question or you’re channeling Hannibal Lecter?

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  4. Reading aloud turns my stories from dark explorations into a game of Honky-Tonk meadow bingo! Darn my southern accent! Imagine, if you can, Darla reads H.P. Lovecraft!

    Still, it’s great advice, Linda and something I should remember to do even when editing blog posts and comments! 😉 Anyway – I see your in good company now that summer is over and the blog-sphere is picking back up – So off I go. You know how nervous I get in crowds! 😀

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    1. Do not disappear on me again, K. 😉 Remember the good old days when everyone commented on everyone’s blog? Long gone, it seems.

      Ha ha, you should have heard me narrate one of my hillbilly stories. Only, I couldn’t slow down, so it was like a hillbilly on speed. 😀

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      1. Seems like another lifetime doesn’t it? I missed those old days that you’re talking about and I still hang on to them where I can. But it hasn’t been easy to maintain. This is something I discussed at length when there was talk of my book possibly being published. A fairly simple plan was drawn up and a new pen name was created for the authorship credits. My electronic marketing will be handle in a non-blogging way – well by me anyway. The end result is I get to be me – here – all the time. Lucky you, huh? 😉 Anyway, I won’t be gone in the sense of “she’s missing and I wonder if she is still alive”, but my commentary will probably be a little more brief – at least for a short while.

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  5. I haven’t read all of my current novel-in-progress aloud, just the dialogue pieces. It’s a great help in recognizing verbal clunkers, even without a Southern accent. I generally have an audience when I read aloud – the dog and/or the cat, who both think every word I utter is gold. 🙂

    Having the Kindle read it aloud sounds like a great idea. (Maybe I should get a Kindle? I just use the Kindle app on my Macbook Air.)

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    1. I like to read every word, Natasha, but then I’m a bit OCD about these things. I actually read most of mine my barely above a whisper this time because my husband was in the next room. I don’t want him to read (or hear) my writing.

      As long as you don’t have any foreign names in your work, the Kindle voice might do all right. It butchers middle eastern names. 🙂 I wonder if the more expensive versions have a more realistic voice.

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  6. That’s what I like about my writing group. We read parts of our story out loud to each other. It is amazing what you discover when you readit out loud and what other people pick up.

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