Reading Aloud

Until I had kids, I didn’t do any reading out loud. Now I do it every day. Mostly, the books we read are stories I’ve pre-selected for quality, and they work well when read to an audience, but occasionally, we come across one that I haven’t pre-screened, and invariably, if it’s not a well-written book, it’s even more of a chore to read aloud than it is to read to oneself.

I read one book over the holidays to myself that I fell in love with, and because it was about a boy my son’s age, I decided it would work well to read aloud to the kids too. Soon as I finished it myself, I set about reading it to them, and I was shocked to find that the book I’d been reading so happily in silence was utter torture to read to an audience. All sorts of problems I hadn’t noticed on the page before leapt out at me, forcing me to edit as I was reading in an effort to make the story sound better than it was. We ultimately gave up on the book before finishing it.

This has led me to the realization that before I consider any piece of work fully revised, I have to read it aloud to myself. If it doesn’t read well, the editing is not done. I can catch things when reading aloud that I might not notice reading silently–too-long stretches of narrative or dialogue, for instance, or awkwardly worded passages. Also, now that I’m working on several projects for kids, I will be using my kids as my first audience. This applies an additional filter. Not only must the book read well aloud, but it must contain a story that is appropriate and compelling to the two people who are by far my most important audience.

Do you read your work aloud when editing? If not, try it and see if it makes you a better writer.

3 comments

  1. Judy

    my critique group in OK taught me that trick. it’s painful to have your work read aloud–but eye opening! amazing how many problems are exposed! excellent tip!

  2. Thank you, Wendy!

    And Judy, I agree, it can be a painful thing to hear one’s work read aloud. Also can be surprisingly nice when you like what you hear. 🙂 I think it’s much harder to hear someone else read it.

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