When I began my novel, I didn’t have a clue as to the depth and breadth of this thing called EDITING. I wasn’t one of those who resented other people editing “my baby,” because I’d re-written it too many times to be that sentimental about it. I was just grateful that my editor was kind, even when suggesting changes.
My publisher suggests to everyone that they read aloud their work as part of the editing process. I thought it was a good idea, but couldn’t imagine reading my whole book again – and aloud. I’m a fast reader – reading aloud slows me down!
But after it was pointed out that I had way too many repeated words (smiled, grinned, laughed, etc.), I decided to give it a try.
It took about 3 days, in hitches, to read it aloud, and I couldn’t BELIEVE how much it helped. Here are some areas that made the most difference to me:
- Repeated words. When you read aloud, it shows you just how boring repeated words can be. You can imagine that I immediately looked up synonyms for “smile” and “laugh.”
- Unnecessary words. Along those same lines, when saying it aloud, you realize that you don’t need to describe when the conversation lets you know what the character is emoting.
- Out-of-place sections. Oh. My. Goodness. My last read-through showed me that the VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH, taking place in April, was repeated verbatim in a section taking place in JUNE. Oy. I had to change the entire first scene of the book on my last read-through. Neither I nor my editor caught that the first time. When I got to it in “June,” I thought – wait a minute, I’ve seen that before . . .
- Poor word choices. Sometimes we write things as dialogue that a human would never say. Sometimes we write things as description that will make a reader laugh when it is at a particularly poignant scene. For instance – Sarah’s shoulders slumped slightly. Alliteration is fun, but not when the character is sad! When I read that one aloud, I literally laughed out loud.
There are many other advantages to reading your manuscript aloud. It’s taught me that I not only need to do this at the end, but as I go. Punctuation, paragraph length, spelling – all those things can be caught on a read-aloud.
So my advice? Slow down and read aloud. You’ll be glad you did.