Read it Aloud? The Whole Thing?

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.

tammy reads

  • 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.

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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.

judy readingAnd 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.

Excerpt from “All That Isn’t Singing”

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).

10 thoughts on “Read it Aloud? The Whole Thing?

  1. Dear Judy,

    Fine post. I had the good fortune to read from my novel at your second read-and-critique group during the conference last weekend (about the couple watching the movie, then at the coffee shop). Found the process and the feedback most helpful. As such, I can affirm what you’ve written here, with vigor. I’m looking for a writing group in the OC area. If you know of any solid/serious ones, I would very much appreciate the info. Either way, peace and all good things for you in writing and in life.

    Sincerely and gratefully,
    Diane Solis

    • Hi Diane, Thanks for posting/commenting. It was so good to meet you at the SoCal Conference last weekend. Glad you had a good experience. A pleasure to hear you read aloud from your novel.
      Writing groups in OC? Do you know Barbara DeMarco Barrett? She the go-to writer I know in OC. She may know of some groups. http://www.barbarademarcobarrett.com/

    • Thanks for you comment, Vikki. Sometimes I do feel a little embarrassed reading aloud, especially when the windows are open and the neighbors can hear (or so I imagine), but it really is critical. Hope your husband enjoyed your story.

    • I know, right. And when those sentences just keep going on and on and you run out of breath before you reach even a comma. Thanks for your comment, Linda, as always.

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