Writing Tip: Read The Words Out Loud

writing tip, read out loud, words, writers

One thing I learned from attending my writer’s group is that reading out loud can really help you in the process of editing your work. Here’s how:

It helps you cut out the dead parts of your manuscript:

I used to read a chapter a week at my writer’s group and I found that when I practised reading the chapter out loud, I’d often come across plenty of ‘dead words’ or overly-lengthy parts which really didn’t need add anything to the story and could easily be cut out.

Reading to an audience is also helpful because you can gauge their response to your story – are they starting to cough and shuffle restlessly in their seats at a certain point? Maybe it’s time to shorten or cut that bit out because if your audience is getting bored at this point, chances are they’re going to be skipping through that section in your book.

It also helps you notice the small mistakes in your manuscripts:

Reading aloud help you notice the little imperfections that you may not otherwise catch if you’re just reading silently to yourself. Author and humorist David Sedaris swears by this, saying, “I used to hate it when a book came out or a story was published and I would be like ‘damn, how did I not catch that?’ But you pretty much always catch it when you’re reading out loud.”

Reading out loud helps you figure out the right pace and cadence of words:

When you’re writing or reading silently, you don’t often catch the right cadence of words to allow your sentences to flow smoothly. Sometimes a sentence that looks right on the page just doesn’t sound right when you read it out loud. That’s when you know it’s time to change it. Reading your work out loud also helps to work out whether you’re pacing your novel just right or if you need to go back and rework it – i.e. things are moving along too fast or too slow.

You notice sentences or paragraphs that are way too long:

When I read out loud, I automatically notice spots in my writing where I really ought to break down sentences or paragraphs that are too long. I’m reading and reading and I realise, ‘Oh my God, this sentence is way too long and I’m probably going to keel over if I don’t get a breath in right now.’ That’s when I realise this sentence is probably way too long and should be broken down into two, maybe three sentences.

It helps you find your voice and improve your dialogue:

Dialogue work can often be difficult to get right on the page. It helps to read out loud a piece of dialogue between your characters to see if the words sound natural. Reading aloud also helps you find your voice, that true sense of writing style that is innately yours and no one else’s.

So remember, if you’re having trouble with your novel – when in doubt, read the words out loud!

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