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Friday, August 14, 2009

Five on Friday: All Ears

Do you remember when your grade school teachers read stories to the class?

If you're like me, those days are long past. Even so, I can recall Mrs. Hesse, my beloved Kindergarten teacher, reading The Little House, Make Way for Ducklings or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I loved listening to her voice. She put such feeling into her readings.

Some time ago, I heard a recommendation to read a story aloud as part of the editing process. I tried it on a day when Gwynly and the Fashion Queen were at school and was quickly convinced of the value in this exercise.

By the time I've read my words on the page a few times, I begin to see what I think is there. When I read aloud, my ears catch things my eyes may have missed.

This week I set out to polish the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, Violets & Violins, until they shone so brightly I needed sunglasses. I made multiple editing passes looking for anything and everything I could find that would take my story from good to great, or as my super supportive critique partner says, "from great to stellar."

One of the steps I took was to conduct an audible edit. Gwynly started back to school this week and our daughter is at work much of the time, so our two cats and I had the house to ourselves. For me, this task works best with a hard copy, so I printed the first three chapters. I donned my reading glasses, draped myself over my favorite armchair and began.

Five Things I Notice when I Read Text Aloud

1) Repetition - Repeated words jump out at me. Some I noticed were prepositions and the words hand and looked.

2) Overuse of Names - If my characters call one another by name more than once or twice in a scene, I become aware of that when I keep repeating their names. I also notice when I use proper names to refer to a character when a pronoun would do.

3) Missing Words - While my eye fills these in, I notice what's not there when I'm saying each word I see.

4) Wrong Words - I had a character with drooped shoulders, or so I thought. When I read the scene aloud, I realized what was actually on the page was dropped shoulders. I'd read that same sentence dozens of times, but my eyes kept correcting it whereas my mouth read what was really there.

5) Overly Long Sentences - If I have to take a breath before reaching the end punctuation mark, I know a sentence needs some work. I look for a place to break it into two or more.

When I first began the practice of reading my manuscripts aloud, I felt funny. It's not like I'm in love with the sound of my own voice, although there are days my daughter would disagree. In time, though, I got over some of my self-consciousness.

I remind myself that one day when I sell a book, I might be invited to read portions of my story in front of groups. It helps if I look upon this is practice.

• • • • •

Do you ever read your work aloud? If so, what kinds of things do you notice?

If you haven't tried audible editing, does the idea appeal to you or freak you out, and why?

Do you know someone who likes to read aloud and would do so while you follow on screen or printed page?



Jessica said...

I don't read my work out loud unless something sounds off, then I do to see what it is. :-) I've heard so many people say this is helpful though!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessica, I was skeptical about the value of an audible edit at first, but I got brave and tried it one day to see why some are sold on the technique. My cats were sure I was reading just for their benefit, so I had an audience. Of course, when they nodded off before I reached the end of the first page, I worried that my writing wasn't wowie enough. Then I reminded myself how picky cats can be. LOL.