We’ve all heard it before, from writing teachers and well-published authors and in books about writing: Read your work aloud to really discover what you’ve written and whether or not it’s “working.” There are lots of other reasons for giving voice to your words.
- Reading your work aloud is the only way for you to really hear your writer’s voice. Reading aloud lets you know how your writer’s mind works. It tells you when you’re writing with authenticity and when you’re telling the truth.
- If you’re writing in a timed, focused writing during a writing practice, you may not even know what’s on the page until you read it aloud. (Oh, the surprises!)
- Reading aloud allows you to discover the depth of emotion the piece holds for you.
- Reading aloud serves other purposes, too. You hear the repetition in word usage as well as sentence structure. You pick up clichés and obstacles that might get in the way of the reader–sentences too long or convoluted, clumsy structure, misplaced or mismatched pronouns or tenses. It’s easy for the eye to glide over such things, not so easy for the spoken voice.
- When you read aloud you get to hear the rhythm of your writing and the music of your language. You also can tell if your dialogue sounds real, i.e. spoken, or whether it sounds stilted and written.
- Reading aloud is a way of honoring your writing. When you read your work aloud, give it its due. Use your breathing and say the words out. Savor the vowels, bite the consonants. I’m not suggesting you give a dramatic interpretation of your writing, just speak the words so you can hear your voice. Read your work as if you’re standing, even if you’re sitting down.
Reading sections, scenes, even chapters seems reasonable and not even too difficult, if you’re in a writing group where reading aloud is part of the structure. And once, just for fun, I posed in front of a mirror and watched myself read. I don’t recommend this; I got terribly self-conscious and started giggling at paragraph two.
But let’s say you have read your work aloud as you’ve written it, through the various stages of revision and completion of sections. Do you need to read it again? The Whole Thing? In a post from a recent SheWrites newsletter, Niki Tulk shared what she discovered when she read what she thought was her finished novel aloud to her husband. Read what she has to say about her experience of reading “the whole thing” aloud.
And here’s a three-minute reading from my novel that was recorded on the “First Friday, Year 3” audio anthology. Even listening to it again after all these years, I can hear where I would make changes were I to revise it again.
Do you read your work aloud? At Open Mics or at home, privately? Do you have a writing group where you can read what you’ve written to others? How you read your work and its effect on you is different the moment you have an audience. Even an audience of one (your cat doesn’t count).