|Photo credit: Marc - who just moved on Flickr|
With my first few WIPs, I actually read my work out loud as I was writing the first draft…to family members. It became this sort of thing with my family where I would read the draft (often a chapter at a time) up until the point where I’d stopped writing and they would look at me and say and? And I would shrug and say, I don’t know. That’s where I’m at. Which was usually followed by get back to work.
While I now cringe at the thought of reading the first draft to anyone, I’ve since learned that reading subsequent drafts out loud is especially helpful after you've done a couple of rounds of revision and your eyes start to glaze over when you try to read your WIP again.
You see, most of us know that if you read something a certain amount of times and you become familiar with the text, your brain starts to skip over things. It stops noticing typos and awkward sentences and words that you’ve used way too many times and when “it is” should be “it was” or he accidentally becomes she.
When you read your work out loud, however, you start to notice those things again. You’ll stumble over a sentence and squint at it and realize just how awkward it sounds, or you’ll be reading a sentence about your male protagonist and say, “then she went” and realize—quite suddenly—that your mistake just changed the gender of your main character. And while your brain may forget that you’ve said a certain word too many times, your ears will notice when you say gaze again and again and again.
The best part? You don’t need to read aloud to anyone in particular.
You can read to your dog, your fish, your one-eyed gerbil Alfredo, or your child’s collection of stuffed animals. Bonus points if you can drag/bribe/coerce someone into listening to your story as you read it out loud, because then you can gage their reaction during various parts of your WIP (did he fall asleep during your action scene? Laugh at something that wasn’t supposed to be funny? etc.), but if not, it’s ok because the exercise is really for you, anyway.
Reading your work out loud allows you to pick up on inconsistencies, breaks in flow and all those little errors that your brain decided to ignore while you last read it. As long as you don’t mind looking slightly crazy while reading to an empty room (or not), I highly recommend trying it out.
Have you ever read your WIP out loud? If so, was it helpful? If not, why not?