I had something that I was going to talk about today. And it’s my own damn fault for not creating a draft when the inspiration hit me, because now something else has hit me. Hard. The trees have started to bloom, and my nose must look like the sexiest lady tree around because they’re all frantically trying to copulate with it. So here’s what I think I was going to talk about, which might not make sense when processed through a brain that feels packed with gauze.
We short story and novel writers produce stories that are meant to be read, which in most cases (unless we’re writing children’s books or score a sweet audiobook deal) means someone sitting down and quietly reading the story to him or herself. And thus we can easily get in a trap where we never stop and consider how our words sound when spoken. Have you ever tried reading a segment of a work-in-process out loud and realized that the words are all wrong and you trip over them in the effort? Yes you have, and you damn well know it.
I’m not going to sit here and say that absolutely every piece of every work needs to be read out loud to find errors, but it’s often a great way to discover sentences that don’t flow quite as well as you hoped. Let’s face it, part of the reason that almost everyone is their own worst editor is that we all know what we meant to say. And when reading something to yourself, it can be easy to transpose a poorly written sentence into the right one without noticing. When reading out loud, you’re going to start stumbling over these sentences, and realizing that there’s a problem.
Also, there are two times when reading something out loud is key: dialogue and it’s close cousin first person. This can be especially important if you’re trying to get the voice right on a character or narrator. Read it out loud, even enlist other people if need be. Adopt the voice of the character as you hear it in your head, over emphasize it even. It’s silly, but it gets the job done. If you or someone else can’t read the line in the character’s voice, something is wrong and needs to be fixed.