After last week’s post on editing one’s work off screen–on paper–my friend Tracie asked if I ever read my work aloud. The answer is a qualified yes.
The plus side of reading out loud is the ability to catch awkward phrasing or dialogue and to find missing or repetitive words. Stumbling over a sentence or clause is a sign that revision is needed. That there’s probably a simpler way to set down that particular thought. I like to imagine myself reading my fiction for an audio book and asking if I’d be satisfied listening to what’s coming out of my mouth. More times than not I make adjustments.
The downside of out loud editing, at least for me, is that I have a hard time sustaining the benefits. Sitting at my computer last fall, I read aloud a draft of my latest book, Capitol Punishment, from start to finish. I read for so long that when Pam got home from work she asked if I’d come down with a cold. I wasn’t sure what she meant until I realized my voice had gone hoarse. My mind had gone a little hoarse too. Despite my efforts, when the galleys arrived a few weeks later I was dismayed to find a number of small errors–mostly unwelcome adjectives and adverbs, along with a couple of dialogue miscues–that my vocal editing should have caught. Instead, after a few pages of continuous reading, the verbal equivalent of eyes glazing over had set in. I got caught up in the activity while losing sight of the goal.
In the end, I think reading aloud works best for me in short bursts. I often lip read my 400 to 500 word articles as I edit them on paper. With my fiction, I may write a paragraph, go back and read it out loud, then close my mouth and carry on quietly. It’s the most successful way I’ve found so far to use my voice to find my voice. I’m curious what other writers’ experiences have been.