My office window has one metre and a rickety old fence between it and a public access side lane. On beautiful spring days like yesterday, when my window is wide open, I often worry that people walking the lane might come to the conclusion I’m mad.
Because I’m talking to myself. A lot.
Yes, it’s full-on editing time for me and my YA South American Road-trip manuscript. This is about the fourth edit I’ve given it, which means I’m reading it out aloud to myself. And occasionally then telling myself, aloud, what I need to do to fix a spot. Okay, the second bit sounds crazy. But the first is true-blue proven editing gold.
I read aloud for three main reasons:
Dialogue, because no one wants to talk like a robot
There is nothing like reading your dialogue aloud to make you realise you’ve made your character speak like douche. I’ve been known to read a conversation to myself, groan, ask myself what was I thinking, and then delete every second word. (You can see why the passersby might think I’m strange.) Reading aloud helps you make your dialogue more believable.
A key thing I pick up in dialogue is where I can contract words. If your character is a robot, it’s probably fine if they say:
‘You are evil. I am going to tell the Professor.’
But if they’re a teenager studying at the School of Kick-Ass, then I bet they’re more likely to say:
‘You’re evil. I’m telling the Professor.’
And maybe drop a few swear words in too, depending on their age.
I also pick up where I’m using names too often. How many of us actually use a person’s name when we’re talking to them? Especially if there’re only two people in the conversation. Take this example:
‘Where do you think this tunnel leads, Jesse?’
‘Good question Pam.’
It sounds naff. Remove the names and it’s immediately less wooden, more realistic, and has a heap more energy. I don’t put names in so often anymore (I’ve figured out I was doing it!), but reading aloud helps me find them every time I have.
If nothing else, I ALWAYS read aloud my dialogue.
Spot the awkward/repeating/plain bad, because we all know this happens
Yeah. I might write something totally awesome one day, and then continue the scene the next day and find the PERFECT WORD to describe what’s happening. Give myself a fist-pump. What a great word!
Often it’s only when I read everything aloud later that I figure out I used that PERFECT WORD in the previous paragraph. Not so perfect after all…
When I read in my head, I read faster, I presume more.
Reading aloud, I read more thoroughly. And find these icky mistakes before some poor publisher might spy them and decide to give up on me and my manuscript.
Consistent voice, because voice sells your story
My current MS is in first-person Point of View, so (lucky me) I pretty much have an entire manuscript that needs to be treated like dialogue. Because a person is relating the story in their own words.
Reading aloud, I get into the swing of how my narrator tells their story, and I can ensure their unique voice shows through the entire MS.
Give it a go!
I’m not saying this is an easy way to edit. My current WIP is too long for a YA, I admit, so I’ve got 81,000 words to read aloud. I’ve been reading aloud to myself for hours and hours, over many days. But great things are rarely easy. The results I get from this make it all worthwhile.
Not crazy, just focused… I think…
Do you read your work aloud? Does it work for you? Anyone think you’re losing it when they hear you?