It’s a suggestion often made flippantly – read your work out loud before you publish. Before you send that email. Just blabber it out in the middle of your cubicle minefield, enjoying the looks of colleagues who’ve wondered if you’ve finally snapped. Really, do it.
You’ll notice awkward sentences and transitions immediately. You’ll stumble over repeat words you never noticed actually writing the thing. You’ll pick up punctuation mistakes like litter in the woods, stuff you didn’t see stuck in your mind when actually writing the piece.
This morning, I read approximately 20,000 words (over a number of hours) of the third book in the Wild Nines trilogy out loud. Parts of that found painful stretches where I thought I was being clever with the wording, or simply missed a typo. Yeah, it was brutal being confronted with my own writing out loud, which somehow adds to the annoyance of finding mistakes, but it’s far better to run into that with only the silent judgment of a pair of cats rather than the world at large.
But the best part was re-discovering the joy of the writing in the first place. Reading through action-packed paragraphs, talking through some solid repartee. These are the things that you might catch a glimpse of when you’re writing the thing, but that often slip by when you’re doing the editing and hunting for mistakes. Reading every word out loud, you can’t escape from the bad, or the good.
So take the time, find a space that’s comfortable and where you won’t annoy too many people, and try speaking your own word. You’ll be surprised at how well it works.
Just keep some water handy – doing this for any length of time turns the throat into a desert.