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Read What You Write

Do you ever read what you write? Maybe not on the first draft or even the first revision. But do you ever read what you write when you think it's perfect? If you haven’t you should try it.

I will take a moment here to admit to the log in my own eye while pointing out the mote in yours. The reality is that I didn’t do this until recently, at the great urging of two of my writing partners. (Something else you should have if you don’t already!) When I started to read out loud, I found two things. One, was that the way I was saying the lines out loud did not match the way that they were written on the page. Small filler words disappeared when I spoke and had to be deleted. Verbal ticks that I assumed I had worked in by comma, hyphen, and such, were not on the page and had to be added. I used contractions in places that I didn't write them.

I noticed that sentences, which were grammatically correct, were a pile of marbles in the mouth. They just didn’t work. Too long, too convoluted, too much information and too… rambling? They may have been right, but they were wrong. I couldn’t imagine a person reading my book out loud, like an audiobook, being able to read them correctly. It couldn’t happen, so they needed to be rewritten. I found typographical errors. “Form vs from,” is one I am known to trip over, not notice in a re-read, but I find every time in a speak through.

When to start reading out loud?

I will always read pieces out loud now from the moment I think the piece is perfect and ready to go. But I think there is an argument to read them out loud from the time you are starting to do a line edit. To clarify, a manuscript edit is when you are still working to be sure the story is what you want. Plot, character, setting beats and big brush strokes are all there. Does the story make sense. Most people merge these two items into one, but I mean after you are fairly sure your story is right, but you will be looking for how are individual sentences put together. That first line edit might be the right time to start.

In addition to reading out loud, if you have someone who will suffer it, read to someone. Why is it any different? You become an orator. You are making it into a performance art where you are trying to convince someone that this is a good story. You will read the most perfect way you can, which will be different yet again than what you might read to yourself.

Go forth and read what you right.

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